You surely have chosen one of the most divisive issues of this country to support.
Despite the fact that a Zogby poll found most Christians and Jews disagree with the leaders about the problem of illegal immigration, you have decided to not only push for immigration reform, but to press your dioceses to support it by organizing a postcard campaign, pressuring Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform.
I understand your position - to an extent. The Catholic Church has a long history in the United States with immigrants. Many parishes were the anchor in immigrant neighborhoods. German, Italian, and Polish Masses were commonly heard in the Eastern portion of the country. For decades, these hard-working immigrants became the backbone of their communities as they wove their Catholic faith with their fresh love for their new country. They assimilated. Their children and grandchildren ended up moving to the suburbs and Catholic high schools and universities began to dot the landscape of cities throughout the nation.
Assimilate is the key word.
President Roosevelt had this to say about immigration (emphasis mine):
"Let us say to the immigrant not that we hope he will learn English, but that he has got to learn it. Let the immigrant who does not learn it go back. He has got to consider the interest of the United States or he should not stay here. He must be made to see that his opportunities in this country depend upon his knowing English and observing American standards. The employer cannot be permitted to regard him only as an industrial asset.
"We must in every way possible encourage the immigrant to rise, help him up, give him a chance to help himself. If we try to carry him he may well prove not well worth carrying. We must in turn insist upon his showing the same standard of fealty to this country and to join with us in raising the level of our common American citizenship."and
"In the first place we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here does in good faith become an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with every one else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed or birthplace or origin. But this is predicated upon the man’s becoming in very fact an American and nothing but an American.
"If he tries to keep segregated with men of his own origin and separated from the rest of America, then he isn't doing his part as an American.
"We have room for but one flag, the American flag, and this excludes the red flag which symbolizes all wars against liberty and civilization just as much as it excludes any foreign flag of a nation to which we are hostile. We have room for but one language here and that is the English language, for we intend to see that the crucible turns our people out as Americans, and American nationality, and not as dwellers in a polyglot boarding house; and we have room for but one soul [sic] loyalty, and that is loyalty to the American people."
Source: SnopesA copy of this letter, obtained from the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress, can be viewed here.
This past Sunday, at Mass, our pastor delivered a homily that presented the postcard campaign and encouraged everyone to fill one out next week so it can be sent to Congress. The pastor's reasoning called up the Church's commitment to social justice and how everyone has the right to find work within their own country. He then emphasized the Church's desire to see families kept together.
I felt myself grow angry as he continued. I heard the man behind me whispering to his wife. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. For the first time in my life, I watched as a man and his wife left church in the middle of a homily. That's how angry people are regarding this issue.
Is it a wise choice to deliberately withhold ourselves from the blessing of the Holy Eucharist - over a political issue? Even if this issue does have a human rights component, it is not appropriate to first, insist that everyone in the Church jump on the bandwagon with the liberal mindset and second, drive home the point during a homily.
Before I returned to the Catholic Church in 2008, I noticed the trend of its leaders to embrace "immigration reform." Do you know what most people hear when they hear that phrase? They hear the word "amnesty." Do you know who these people are - these faithful Catholics sitting in the pews? They are the great-grandsons and great-granddaughters of those German, Italian, Polish, and Irish immigrants. Those very same immigrants who, when entering the United States at Ellis Island 1) Did it legally 2) Did not experience any "extra" help from the government to start their new life in the U.S. and 3) Worked hard and joyfully embraced their citizenship in their new country.
You are talking to people who understand it is no one else's responsibility to help them succeed but their own. People who understand the importance and power of hard work. No one - not the government, nor their former country, gave their ancestors anything. My great-grandfather from Italy came here with a few dollars in his pocket. Same with his 19 year old Italian bride. They both were migrant workers until he saved enough to start his own produce company, which still operates today.
That was the kind of spirit that built this country and built the many Catholic parishes across this nation.
Now we have a different type of immigrant. One who isn't as interested in becoming a U.S. citizen. One whose allegiance is not to this country but to the one they left. This larger group of illegal immigrants are primarily from the South, with Mexico and Guatemala being more common. They've been organized by powerful corporations that want to exploit them for cheap labor. They have well-connected lobbyists and advocacy groups representing them. They "demand" much from U.S. citizens but yet refuse to learn our language and quite often, call Americans derogatory names while thrusting an attitude of entitlement in their faces.
This is what you, the USCCB, is supporting. This is what you are pressuring your fellow Catholic brothers and sisters to embrace.
We have now reached 10% unemployment. Loyal citizens of our country are without jobs and many are losing hope. These are the same citizens who often fill the pews on Sundays. Why would they be more concerned about an illegal immigrant - one who most likely has taken a job away from a legal citizen - gaining amnesty?
It is not right and it is definitely not right for the USCCB to expect its parishioners to support this.
I understand the USCCB's desire to promote justice and family integrity. However, we do have laws in this country and they have not been obeyed. Should there not be laws pertaining to the citizenship of this great country? Is it realistic to expect us to welcome every immigrant, no matter what the capability is of our society to receive them? If that is the case, most of the world would love to live in the United States but the United States cannot accommodate the whole world.
Then there is the issue of national identity. Perhaps it's not so surprising that a group who has struggled with its own Catholic identity would so eagerly pursue an issue that refuses to consider seriously whether such a thing as national identity should guide our laws and policies.
I will not be filling out a postcard. I resent being asked during a time when my mind, heart, and soul were to be focused on God. I ended up praying during the homily, asking God for grace. I was able to see the point of view of the USCCB, and understand they are committed to defending the defenseless and seeking justice for those who are exploited. But those of us who are the great-grandchildren of legal immigrants understand this: Our country is great because of its people, and its laws. Take away either, and we will no longer be the country that attracts so many who desire to live within it. Ignoring our laws will not improve this situation. Being realistic, will.