3:22 PM

The Buzz on Immigration Reform

Posted by Prosy Delacruz

Cardinal Roger Mahony with an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

“ You choose to exercise leadership with passion because a set of issues moves you, issues that perhaps have influenced you for a long time. These issues might have roots that were planted before you were born, in your family or in your culture; they may reflect questions that live within you and for which you’ve decided to devote a piece of your life, perhaps even the totality of your lifetime. Keeping a sacred heart is about maintaining innocence, curiosity, and compassion as you pursue what is meaningful to you. ” Ronald Heifetz and Marty Linsky, 2002

As Catholics, most of our formative years were steeped in guidance by priests and nuns. I would think that this spiritual guidance has solidified a ‘ social conscience ‘ within us all in order to stand up to our faith and be our brother’s keeper.

The Catholic nuns made it possible for conservatives to see the value of health care reform during the crucial hours of the bill's passage in the House of Congress and later on, with the Senate. Therefore, is it possible to challenge Catholic priests and bishops to champion immigration reform?

As socially-responsible leaders in our communities, could our Catholic priests push us forward into a life of truth, justice and freedom --just like how Catholic nuns did it for health care reform?

59,000 nuns from 60 Catholic orders defied their bishops and priests, and issued what they called ‘the real pro-life stance.’Washington Post quoted Sister Simone Campbell, a spokeswoman for the group, as saying "We as sisters focus on the needs of people…when people are suffering, we respond.“

Health care reform bill was passed on March 21, 2010. I remember it as the first day of spring, and recalled Congressman John Lewis’ message in a companion book to the Road to Freedom Exhibit: “ Central to our philosophic concept of Beloved Community was an affirmation of faith in humanity – the willingness to believe that man has the moral capacity to care for his fellow man. …Our protests were love in action. We were attempting to redeem not only our attackers, but also the very soul of America. “

If we view those protesters calling for a federal response to immigration reform , would that change our views on who qualifies as citizens?

For a century now, America has been embroiled in a national debate as to who are the real citizens in its shores. Immigrants from Asia, Europe, Latin America, and Africa have come to this nation to search , not just for economic opportunities, but for social and spiritual opportunities as well.

In the beginning, freedom to worship was a national issue. By the 1920s, more than 2 million Jews had settled in America.

Then, the right to vote also became a topic for debate. It was resolved unjustly and classified African Americans as 3/5 of a citizen. Women were not recognized as citizens, until much later.

All these yearnings to be free got resolved within the shores of our beloved “spacious, blue skies of America. “But now, these spacious blue skies of America have been narrowed by strident minority voices, calling for the “carding“ of folks in Arizona.

Congressional candidate Karen Bass shared her observations that immigration reform is a cyclical issue, one that occurred 30 years ago. She vividly remembers what was done in South Africa, when folks had to carry their ID cards.

I recently met a friend who shared the experiences of a South African who was jailed after going to a party. Because he was in a hurry to get there, he forgot to bring his ID. Unable to produce an ID, he was jailed! His mistake has become a state’s record of unjust incarceration!

Imagine if the scales of justice were instead justly applied to companies who hold the smugglers’ monies, used as ransom for millions of undocumented workers kept in safe houses.

By some stroke of serendipity, Arizona Republic validated this to be, for on May 29, 2010, Western Union paid $94 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard, alleging Western Union held monies for those in illegally constituted safe houses. It ended in Feb. 2010, without Western Union admitting guilt, but there was not enough media attention -- until the furor over Arizona’s SB 1070, requiring IDs for those ‘ reasonably suspected ‘ to be illegals, where the police stop, detain and arrest anyone in Arizona.

‘Reasonable suspicion ‘ has occupied the courts in the United States, as issues of litigation. The best definition I could find from Lexis-Nexis is from Robert Sabido: “ To have sufficient grounds for temporary detentions, the police must have a reasonable suspicion that "the person detained may be involved in criminal activity." Police must consider the "totality of the circumstances" -- all existing factors -- to determine whether reasonable suspicion exists. “

Even though this definition is reasonable, common sense suggests that a person responds emotionally, and while in the heat of a pursuit or arresting someone, a police officer is not expected to remember that he needs to look at factors objectively -- the so-called totality of circumstances. He reacts based on what he perceives, but also from his pre-formed beliefs and accumulated experiences.

When an officer is unfamiliar with cultural behaviors of ethnic groups, like Asians ,for example, who have a cultural belief that respect means not looking directly at someone’s eyes -- he can prejudge that person as guilty and therefore, must be arrested. You will seldom encounter an officer pausing to self-critique, wondering if an arrest has to be made -- as that pause, may seriously endanger his own life. It is time lost, which could have been used in going after serious criminals who are community predators.

This is why LA Police Chief Charlie Beck went on record against this law; he made it known to Newsweek that “ This is not a law that makes it easy, but harder for us to do our jobs. “ He referred to Arizona’s SB 1070 as a hindrance to public safety.

Even Cardinal Roger Mahony joined thousands of Los Angelenos in a May 1, 2010 rally in Los Angeles. Lisa Miller of Newsweek quoted his blog “ S.B. 1070 is the country’s most retrogressive, mean-spirited, and useless anti-immigrant, [with] totally flawed reasoning: that immigrants come to our country to rob, plunder, and consume public resources."

Mahony said that “The recent anti-immigrant law passed in Arizona galvanized everyone on May Day to unite all of our efforts to respect the dignity and rights of all immigrants, and to work for legislative reform which would better secure our borders, unite separated families, supply temporary workers as needed and through a just system, and to call from the shadows the millions of people here who need a path forward which would lead to a secure legal status now and citizenship in the future.”

On May 27, 2010, Newsweek's Charles Dickey’s reported through his column: “In a peer-reviewed paper appearing in the June 2010 issue of Social Science Quarterly, Wadsworth argues not only that 'cities with the largest increases in immigration between 1990 and 2000 experienced the largest decreases in homicide and robbery,'which we knew, but that after considering all the other explanations, rising immigration was partially responsible.”

If immigrants actually make a city safer and contribute in a decrease of crime rates, as supported by FBI’s crime statistics, why then criminalize those recruited to come here to America by scrupulous smugglers, or by the predatory employers of poultry farms in the South, or by agribusinesses needing workers to harvest produce, jobs that Americans prefer not to have? Why not allow them a pathway to qualify for a green card, after integration into citizenship classes, including years as productive members of US, vouched for by other Americans, just like Canada does?

Arizona Republic reported that 100,000 folks endured 94F for a five-mile march from the Steele Indian School to the state capitol on May 29, 2010. “We must stand together for justice, opportunity and peace. What we need in the United States is not scapegoating immigrants. We must stand together for justice, opportunity and peace," said U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, D-Arizona on the Capitol grounds.

So, how about it, dear Catholic priests and bishops, would you care to champion a rational vision for immigration reform? For truly the First Americans are only the Native Americans, all of us are descendants of immigrants from all over the world, who came here to America in search of The Dream!

As Martin Luther King once said, “We are heirs to a legacy of dignity! We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience!”

It is in our hands to broaden the fabric of America to include those who are here and to make this a better nation that we can be proud of. We can no longer crowd the expansive, blue skies of America with our intolerant and hateful attitudes toward others. It is in our hands to keep the big blue skies of America free for us, who are here. It is just, humane, and it keeps our hearts sacred!


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