I am going to allow myself to present another side to the story that appears in today's Parish World about the people who come across the southern border of the United States from Mexico.
I would like to comment on the statement of Bishop Sheehan stating that these people are "branded" as criminals. True enough, and, I say it is a brand that they take upon themselves. To use some church language, they are "ipso facto" criminals because they have crossed an international border without permission. Any Guatemalan who has been caught crossing the Mexican border at or around Chiapas can tell you what happens once he/she is discovered to be on Mexican soil. I guarantee that it won't be pretty.
I have colleagues (more than two) who were caught (more than once) visiting a maquiladora plant in Tijuana without the proper documentation. They spent a week in jail and the company had to pay a $5,000 fine for each of them. And, I might add, these individuals were not performing any work that a Mexican national would do. I was in charge of the human resources department of the company in those days and I readily admitted that these people were "ipso facto" criminals for the acts that they had committed. They spent their time in jail, the company paid the fine and that was the end of the story.
My point here is that Mexico whines about the "maltreatment" that undocumented Mexican nationals receive in the United States, but there is no willingness on the part of Mexican authorities to be kind and gentle to illegal aliens on their side of the border.
As Bishop Sheehan points out, officially we try to care for the people who come here illegally even though by law we have the right to send them back to their home country. In fact, our government does not enforce the immigration laws that are already on the books with regards to illegal aliens. The results of this spineless attitude are disastrous for our economy, both local and national. Is it any wonder then that there is also a "mean spiritedness" that exists in the hearts of the local populations? The frustration is not only aimed at the "ipso facto criminal immigrant" but at the similarly "ipso facto criminal government" that aids and abets the flood of illegal immigration by giving the problem the "blind-eye" treatment.
OK, enough of politics. Bishop Sheehan now turns his and our attention to the fact that the majority of Mexican nationals who come across the border are Catholic. Wow! That's a stretch. Yes, bishop, they are indeed "ipso facto" Catholic because they are baptized. They are baptized because their parents were afraid that if they died as infants they would not go to heaven. Since that wonderful day when the fatted calf was spitted and the village danced all night neither they nor their parents have stepped foot into the church. Oh, I take it back. Maybe they did on December 12. Bishop, we don't owe these cultural, "ipso facto" Catholics any more protection and sanctuary than we owe them safe harbor in our country.
For two years now I have been living in a parish of six thousand (6,000) families that is at least eighty percent Latin. I can safely say that about fifteen percent of the economic support for the operation of the parish comes from that eighty percent. Yes, bishop, that's what you get from cultural Catholics who think that everything is owed to them just because they are baptized and that they are having fun in your patio, getting all kinds of exceptions to the pastoral rules, celebrating their $5,000 quinceañera fiestas, driving their $40,000 pick-ups and SUV's and complaining when they are not afforded mirror events sponsored by the parish in the Spanish language.
Finally, the good bishop says that this is a land of immigrants. He is absolutely correct. I myself am the son of immigrants. French is my mother tongue. My forebears came to this country legally. They learned the language. They practiced their Catholic religion every day of their lives. When it came time to vote, they passed the English speaking, reading and writing test before they could get a voter's I.D. They contributed to the church and they volunteered for civil and church affairs. They didn't ask for anything, they worked for it within the legal and customary parameters.
I want you all to know that what I have written here is per force an oversimplification of the illegal immigration problem, not only in the United States by all across the world. I also want you to know that if you think of this problem long enough you will start to see the humorous side of it all. The punch line is perhaps the same that can be found in the Old Testament belief that no human activity can ever be totally eradicated from the face of the earth nor from before the face of God. There will always be a faithful and dauntless remnant.
So hey, that's my story and I'm sticking to it. I'm going to die smiling, so don't you dare cry at my funeral.
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