US Catholic Faith in Real Life

New comprehensive immigration reform bill introduced in U.S. House

By Father Tom Joyce, CMF | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Rep. Luis Gutierrez introduced the Comprehensive Immigration Reform for America’s Security and Prosperity Act of 2009 – its acronym CIR-ASAP. It has many Democratic co-sponsors, but was quickly dismissed by Republicans and some “blue dog” or conservative Democrats as DOA.

This bill is the most favorable toward immigrants in decades. Along with “a path to citizenship”-- denounced by anti-immigrant activists as “amnesty”-- it provides for speedy and generous reunification of families. Even in the legalization process the “touchback” which required applicants to return to their country of origin to get a visa is dropped. Some of the issues raised recently by ICE’s collaboration with local police and prison agencies and its treatment of detainees are addressed favorably – e.g., the 287(g) program would be curtailed. This allowed the like of Sheriff Joe Arpaio to lead his “crime sweeps” in Phoenix. Still the bill would provide for stepped up enforcement through training programs for border guards and ICE personnel. News reports are a little vague on the works program and future temporary visas, so much so Rep Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Gutierrez’ past ally in promoting immigration measures, expressed his “disappointment”. (See New York Times and Catholic News Service articles.)

The House is not likely to take up the measure any time soon. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will wait on the Senate to act first. In the upper chamber the action will be in the Immigration Subcommittee chaired by Charles Schumer (D-NY). The Senate is not expected to be as generous as the House, any more than it is expected to be on health, climate control and a jobs program. But Schumer has a new GOP ally on immigration – Lindsay Graham (R-SC). Most Republicans are set in a straight oppositionist mode – even John McCain (R-AZ) who cosponsored the disastrous 2007 bill with Ted Kennedy has abandon the issue. Graham is being denounced by the hard right as a traitor. The Senate will take up its version of a bill early in the new year.

Can venial sins ever amount  to a mortal sin? Yes, says immigration judge.

Back in 5th grade someone asked Sr. Fabiola if a lot of venial sins could equal one mortal sin. No, she replied firmly and went over to the backboard. She drew a large oval and said, “This is a soul.” It was interesting to know that your soul looked like your belly. Sister then began to chalk in the interior of the oval/soul. She said that one mortal sin blackens the whole of your soul – really whitens since it was on a blackboard -- and that’s why we call it “deadly”. Sister then drew a second oval/soul and proceeded to make little black/white marks on it. “You see” she said infallibly “ they only mark up a spot of your soul”. But it didn’t take high math to figure out that if you got enough of these little spots the whole would be blackened/whitened like a mortal sin.

Well, an immigration judge in Texas agreed with us kids and not with Sr. Fabiola, and sentenced a young man to deportation because of two drug misdemeanors. The man, Jose Angel Carachuri-Rosendo, is a legal resident, but came to the U.S. at age 4. He was busted for possessing two ounces of marijuana and a single tablet of an anti-anxiety drug, Xamax. Possession of either by itself is a misdemeanor. There was no evidence of possession with intent to sell or distribute. But a Texas judge decreed that this was “an aggravated felony”. So an immigration judge, on that judgment,  ordered Jose Angel deported. With the help of immigration and civil-rights organizations, he brought his case to the not-so-friendly 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. It upheld the deportation order. Now he is appealing to the Supreme Court. The Justice Department is supporting the appeal, if only to find out if and when misdemeanors add up to “aggravated felony” and so a deportable offense. (See Los Angeles Times article.)

Maybe the justices should consider  Sr. Fabiola's wisdom – venial sins never add up to a mortal sin.

Good news update: Spousal abuse victim granted asylum

A few blogs ago I wrote of the case of Rody Alvarado , a Guatemalan who fled domestic violence and entered the U.S. illegally. She fought 14 years in immigration court to tay in the country. The Washington Post reports that an immigration judge in a one-page decision allowed Rody to stay. The Post also reported that the Obama Administration is “crafting regulations” that would allow entry to victims of domestic violence.