I heard Father Art Gramaje's sermon about illegal immigration a couple of weeks ago at Mass.
I didn't like it any better when I read the rehash in the Sept. 16 "Talk of the Town."
If good intentions pave the road to hell, Father Art has built a superhighway.
I am sure the good Father wants only for us to treat everyone with respect and dignity, and I agree with that. I do not advocate harshly treating or denigrating those who enter the United States illegally. But all immigrants, regardless of whether they come here legally must realize they are subject to our laws. For those here illegally, that means deportation.
Father Art noted that our city sign, "Prescott: Everybody's Hometown," might need to add the phrase, "Unless You Do Not Have a Proper Green Card or Visa." But one could use Father Art's arguments to encourage the citizens of Prescott to change their attitudes toward, say, pedophiles. I think it's a given that we really don't want Prescott to be the hometown of pedophiles (or rapists, robbers, murderers, shoplifters or other crooks).
Father Art implies that calling people who enter the United States illegally "illegal aliens" is akin to calling those of Irish or Italian descent "Micks" or "Wops." This argument is at best specious or worse incoherent. The first references a person's immigration status (which they can rectify) and the other his ancestry that he cannot alter. Ethnic slurs are dehumanizing, but a person's legal status is not.
Again, calling a pedophile who commits his crime of choice a child molester describes both his predilection and his crime, and doesn't take away his humanity, even though that crime may take away his "inherent dignity" for those who see the damage these predators do.
Father Art says we shouldn't let our local government enact "vigilante legislation" to fill the gaps the federal government's lack of action has left.
Historically speaking, the terms "vigilante" and "legislation" are mutually exclusive, but that escapes the well-intentioned Father. Any legislation is subject to judicial review so if it impinged on civil rights it wouldn't withstand a judicial test.
He says we should take "the higher road" in solving problems, which implies that those who disagree with him are taking the low road.
Father Art also suggests that we come up with "creative ways" of solving the illegal immigrant problem.
How about this: The root cause of most illegal immigration is a corrupt elitist Mexico government that puts "the bite" on both its citizens and visitors. Mexican citizens can't get an adequate education or gainful employment. The government is nonresponsive to its people for one reason only; it can export its poor to the United States. As hard as the journey is for illegal aliens to get here, it is easier than changing their own government.
I hate to be cynical, but it also appears that the Catholic Church, my church, does nothing to alleviate this problem because it is easier and cheaper for the church to have the poor come to the U.S. than for the Catholic Church to confront the corruption in Mexico.
If we seal our borders and deport illegals who come to our attention, it will force the good people of Mexico to demand a new free honest government. It is the only long-term solution, barring the U.S. conquering Mexico and making it our 51st through 60th states.
As a retired police officer, I see how naïve Father Art is when he mentions how the illegal immigrant community fears the police and will not call authorities when they are crime victims. Their fear is often the same as the blackmail victim's fear in not calling the police. They don't want the police to know about their illegal status. Just as often they have other reasons. The suspect may be a gang member or a drug dealer (who is also in the United States illegally) and has threatened retaliation.
Father Art is a good man and well intentioned, but his suggestions would make this community two communities that speak two different languages and resent that they occupy two different social strata. He could help by encouraging all immigrants to learn and speak English.
Buz Williams is a retired sergeant with the Long Beach (Calif.) Police Department who lives in Prescott. During his 29-year career he worked seven years in the Gang Detective unit and the Gang Enforcement Section and came in contact with gang members who were both native-born and in the U.S. illegally.