Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Archbishop Chaput Meets Laity on Immigration

Archbishop Chaput held a town meeting on immigration yesterday evening. A report appeared in the Rocky Mountain News, an article in need of correction.

I'll list a quotation from that article in italics, then my take:
from a packed audience of mostly Anglo, middle-class parishioners

Did she do a demographic poll? Most people there were seniors or near-seniors, generally a wealthy group, but I never heard anything about the economic breakdown of the crowd. I'm more of a Celt than an Anglo, and I quite doubt many in the audience would self-identify as Anglo. Yes, there weren't many, if any, migrant workers in the audience, but that line is pure filler.

This part of the report is vague:

"Wherever I go, I see English and Spanish (signs) - why not Polish?" asked a woman who said she emigrated from Poland decades ago. As she spoke, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 400 people at St. Thomas More Parish in Centennial erupted in applause and cheers.
"I've always said it was good for people to learn English," Chaput said.

To clarify, the Polish woman was priding herself on assimilating and learning English, not lobbying for more Polish signs.

In an interview before Monday's lively, English-only meeting got under way

Eh, some Hispanic lady quoted a Spanish proverb about truth coming from the mouth of God. Does that vitiate the meeting's English-only quality?

There was also much less self-aggrandizing preening going on about ethnicity, diversity, tolerance, and one's immigrant ancestors than this article lets on. One or two Hispanic speakers mentioned bigotry directed against them, and the eighty-three-year-old lady mentioned in this article did mention how unwelcome and even unsafe she felt in her own neighborhood as it turned Hispanophone.

Now for my take: First, the Archbishop was very intellectually modest. He acknowledged that bishops weren't specialists in immigration. If anything, he seemed to pass off to the laity all the real work on finding a soution, though arguably this is the right thing to do. He reminded people of the mercy and justice due to the poor, and sounded caution about what some impending proposals could do to families, like those residents who are half-legal and half-illegal. He favored a good work visa program that requires workers to head back home for a few weeks a year, with the hope they'll maintain family connections. As it is now, illegals don't go home for fear they can't get back in.

He disavowed open-borders, and payed more than lip service to the necessity of a secure border.

Likewise, the archbishop pushed for reform. Like most people, he knows there's something broken about the current immigration system. Also like most people, he's not sure what the best solution is. He's no Tancredo(thankfully, in my opinion), but he's not a Cardinal Mahoney either. He actually criticized as imprudent the cardinal's hyperbolic reaction to a proposed law prosecuting those assisting illegals. If you'll recall, Cardinal Mahoney said he'd instruct his priests to disobey that law, even though its writers didn't intend for it to target religious charities assisting likely illegals.

The Archbishop responded to one working-class man's complaint about the Bishops' Conference Immigration Talking Points by acknowledging that some of these points are exaggerated rhetorical flourishes, well-meaning but sometimes misleading. He mentioned he thinks these kinds of political activism can diminish the bishops' overall credibility, but then he said the rest of the bishops don't agree with him on this matter.

I do think the archbishop made one naive statement about the Mexican government discouraging emigration, when it reportedly does the exact opposite. But there were much less fireworks than I expected. The meeting was a fortuitous forum for the airing of grievances and a decent refresher on Catholics' obligations to both stranger and countrymen.

I have a very-low quality digital audio recording of this meeting. If anyone's interested I might be able to provide a copy.

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