I frankly haven't formed opinions on the various proposals currently before Congress...and wouldn't express them here even if I had.
But this week, I have found myself scratching my head at statements made by people with strong views on immigration policy.
- For example, there were statements made on Monday by Ira Mehlman, media director at the Federation for American Immigration Reform, as he participated in a discussion on the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
Cardinal Mahoney and these religious leaders are essentially asking us to give charity with other people's resources. They are saying to people: We're sorry. We think there are people on the other side of the border who have a case that is more compelling, and we're going to ask you to sacrifice your job, or part of your wages, or your children's education.Agree with the stance taken by the Roman Catholic Church on this matter or not, they're not engaged in some nefarious plan to spend "somebody else's resources."
There is no religious or ethical system that permits you to give charity with other people's resources. If the church wants to give charity with its own resources, that's one thing.
But when they start telling other people within the community, you know, "We're sorry; you're no longer going to be to work as a contractor in the city because there are 20 people waiting in the parking lot at Home Depot who are prepared to do that job for half the price."
Then they're giving charity with somebody else's resources. That's not moral, and that's not ethical.
The Church is simply participating in a societal debate, just as Mr. Mehlman is.
And, just like Mr. Mehlman, Roman Catholic citizens pay taxes. They don't intend to spend other people's money. They're talking about how Washington spends their money.
They're saying, just like the advocates of other causes--be it tax relief for investors, NASA missions to Mars, the war on Iraq, or whatever, "This is what we think the policy should be; this is how we think federal dollars should be spent."
They have as much right to do that without having some childish or nefarious motives ascribed to them as anyone else.
I'm no fan of Church engagement in politics. If the Church is lobbying Congress on this issue, it's possible that it's violating 501c3 laws. That would be wholly different from speaking out on a public issue out of pastoral or prophetic concern.
Be that as it may, when people oppose a stance taken by a Church body, they're under still obliged to make sense. Mr. Mehlman didn't make sense on Monday.
- But I find the arguments of those favoring amnesty and a fast-track to citizenship strange, too. The argument seems to be: People need to milk the American cash cow; so, let's make them citizens.
The United States has never been simply an economic entity. To define America economically is to insult those who have lost their lives in the cause of American nationhood. Doing so ignores the ideas and ideals which have fashioned our country.
Historically, when Americans have talked about freedom, they've meant a lot more than the freedom to work a job or pile up cash. They've meant the freedom to speak, to worship, to vote, to live in peace with one's neighbor, to choose one's own job path.
The term, The American Dream, wasn't coined to describe the lust for money. The American Dream is about enjoying freedom within a community of mutual respect.
Sadly, Americans who have lived here their whole lives have come to identify the American Dream in crass economic terms. So, it should come as no surprise when citizenship is economically defined, as is happening in the immigration debate.
Nor should it surprise us that students who see America as nothing but a cash cow should show contempt for this country by hoisting the US flag upside down. We all need to pay attention to our History before we lose sight of what this country is really about!
[For more on The American Dream, see here, here, here, and here.]