Churches Should Cease Pro-Immigration Push


This was originally published on June 17 by The Blaze, and is reprinted with that site’s kind permission. John Zmirak will be on the Laura Ingraham Show on June 24 to talk about it with Ms. Ingraham.

Steve Weatherbe recently reported in the global Catholic news portal Aleteia that America’s Catholic bishops are upping the pressure on Congress to offer an amnesty deal for illegal immigrants before the fall elections — which they and everyone else expect will yield a more conservative Congress.

Evangelical leaders who have hopped on the immigration bandwagon are also trying to move their more skeptical co-religionists into line with the Catholics and Democrats on this issue. It might seem ironic that social conservatives are trying to rush into law a major reform on a profoundly important national issue, lest the voters speak their minds and elect a more conservative Congress.

Is immigration an issue where Christians are morally obliged to part ways with their longtime conservative allies, because the obligations of the Gospel demand that we set aside national selfishness, and possibly even covert racist sentiments?

That is how some religious writers are casting the question. Prominent among them is Virginia Republican Party Executive Director, Shaun Kenney, ally of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was recently crushed by Dave Brat in that state’s Republican primary, largely because of Cantor’s support for passing an amnesty deal with the support of congressional Democrats.

In the buildup to that primary, Kenney penned an astonishing article in which he demonized opponents of amnesty as “know-nothings,” “nativists” and “clowns.” Citing none of the rational opponents of amnesty, but instead a collection of anonymous xenophobic rants, Kenney portrayed Brat supporters as hateful and dangerous heirs to the Ku Klux Klan, and called for Republicans to “drive them out” of the party.

Kenney’s piece is itself one of the more hateful, violent instances of political rhetoric I have seen in many years. With supporters like Kenney backing him, no wonder Virginia’s Republican voters decided instead to drive out Cantor instead.

Do a little more digging on Mr. Kenney, and you see exactly why he regards American patriotism as suspect: He is a politicized Catholic supremacist, who suggests that his co-religionists (I am one of them) ought to abandon any concern for the well-being of our fellow-Americans, and cast our political loyalty with our church, instead of our country.

We must work for a “Catholic restoration,” and shed “worldly ideologies” such as American democratic capitalism. We should “stop being… conservative[s],” and form our political views according to whatever statements, at whatever level of authority, come out of the Vatican. When the Vatican changes its policy on an issue, we must change our minds too — like loyal Communists following the Moscow party line. (How fitting that the site where Kenney published his Catholic supremacist screed has also tried to rehabilitate Karl Marx.)

Now, I have spent almost 40 years defending the Church’s authoritative teachings on moral issues — beginning at age 11, collecting signatures for New York City’s right-to-life candidate for mayor. But as a well-informed Catholic, I know that the Church makes no idolatrous claims that the pope is a gateway into the mind of God, bubbling up like an 8-Ball with the answers to every policy question that comes along.

Our recent popes have largely been prudent and holy men, whose advice on the technical implementation of Christian ethics has often been wise. But the Church admits that popes are merely human, and that 99.99999999999 percent of statements by popes are completely fallible, subject to correction and even respectful disagreement.

For instance, consider assertions by several popes that any lending at interest is a sin against nature, akin to sodomy. (Now the Vatican runs its very own bank.) Or statements by popes endorsing slavery and the persecution of Protestants — two practices the Church now teaches are intrinsically, always and everywhere evil.

More recently, Pope Paul VI wrote in an encyclical (Populorum Progressio) that Third World poverty could be solved by raising taxes in the rich countries, and sending billions in foreign aid to foreign governments. Forty years of waste and corruption have shown that such government-to-government foreign aid was typically useless or even disastrous, much of it ending up in the Swiss bank accounts of vicious dictators.

So pardon me if I don’t expect the Vatican to write America’s immigration laws, or draw up its federal budget. That’s not part of its job description.

The Church depends on laymen to make the tough, prudential decisions about how to apply Christian principles to practical situations — indeed, Pope Leo XIII and Pope John Paul II each denied that their papal office gave them any special insight into how such principles ought to be put into practice. They were good and humble men, and did not crave the magical status of oracles that some ideologues try to attribute to them.

When the pope speaks about moral principles, we Catholics have to listen – and non-Catholics ought to as well, since these are highly educated, deeply prayerful men. But no pope, and no pastor, has a monopoly on rational thought. Christians can and should differ on how to resolve America’s immigration problems.

If the reader is interested, I have tried to defend the conservative position, drawing on Christian principles and the demands of the common good for my fellow American citizens. But I could be wrong. I’m not infallible — and on issues this specific, nobody is.

My good friend Jason Jones thinks that an amnesty plan could work — provided that it was accompanied by rock-solid guarantees of renewed border security. I fear that the Democrats and the cheap labor lobby will always find ways to wriggle out of enforcing any real border control, which means that conservatives will have surrendered on the deeply symbolic issue of illegal immigration and gotten nothing in return — except an amnesty that invites another wave of illegal influxes.

I also worry about accepting millions more future Democratic voters, whose allegiance will tend (like Boston’s Irish) to follow which ever politician promises the most generous government programs.

Whatever your position, it is clear that immigration reform is utterly unlike abortion, slavery, genocide, or other profound moral issues where Christians were solemnly called to defend the dictates of a transcendent moral order. It’s an issue we can argue about, as patriotic citizens of good will, without demonizing each other or trying to “drive out” people who differ with us. I’m astonished that the Republican Party of the Commonwealth of Virginia is led by someone who doesn’t accept that fact.

John Zmirak is co-author of the upcoming book, “The Race to Save Our Century.” His columns are archived at

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  1. I find myself, once again, turning to the pastoral letter of the Swiss bishops, introducing Pastor Æternus (1870), defining papal infallibility to their flocks.

    “The Pope is not infallible as a man, or a theologian, or a priest, or a bishop, or a temporal prince, or a judge, or a legislator, or in his political views, or even in his government of the Church” and “he is tied up and limited by that doctrine, divinely revealed, which affirms that alongside religious society there is civil society, that alongside the Ecclesiastical Hierarchy there is the power of temporal Magistrates, invested in their own domain with a full sovereignty, and to whom we owe in conscience obedience and respect in all things morally permitted, and belonging to the domain of civil society.”

    Widely condemned in Ultramontane circles, the Pastoral received the approbation of Pio Nono.

  2. Is that Kenney’s shtick? I guess I assumed he was another Capitol Hill careerist jonesing for a gig at Haley Barbour’s lobbying firm.

    Kenny aside, perhaps one of this crew might instruct us as to why it is necessary that corporal works of mercy consist of building colonies of foreigners within the United States and other occidental countries rather than financing schools, agricultural extension, and refugee relief abroad.

  3. You won’t see the church leadership bringing these poor folks in to live with them.

    Or any of the leftist politicians who’ll benefit from their (inevitable) votes.

  4. If we are going to continue with state supported welfare programs including Obamaphones and Obamacare and school lunches and WIC too many programs for me to name at both the state and national level (because I don’t know all the names); if we continue to have state and federal mandated minimum wage and compulsory tax payer funded education; if we continue to insist that all government documents be available in English, Spanish, Farsi, Chinese, Arabic, Swahili, et al: yes–send all the illegal immigrants home. No amnesty. None. Close the borders.
    Now, if we get rid of the welfare and Obamacare and minimum wage, only publish government documents in English, I think there is room for pretty much every one, excluding the terrorists and drug dealers.

  5. And, the Chamber of Commerce wings of both parties want lower wages.

    Milton Friedman said, “You can have a welfare state or open borders, but not both.”

    Much of churches’ teachings relative to Charity are equally as salutary for your soul as forcing somebody else to do push-ups is beneficial for your physique.

    Was it Margaret Thatcher who said, “Pretty soon you run out of other people’s money.”?

  6. A mom in Rockland County NY in 2005 called and ordered deck cleaning. The company sent a Central American to clean her deck. He spontaneously decided to molest and kill her and drift afterwards and call her friends and taunt them on her phone…Go here:

    Central America by UN figures has a murder rate of 31.1 per 100,000….incredibly high. East Asia has a murder rate of 1 per 100,000. The US is 4.8 per 100,000. If immigration is about saving people from themselves, take the Central Americans minus their single men…take their married families into the US. If immigration is about making the US safer and perhaps smarter, take those from East Asia instead especially if they got on line for it years ago through paperwork rather than paying a trafficker. Chile alone has a lower murder rate than the US out of all South America. Give us your tired from Chile…no single men from Honduras and El Salvador…the two worst murder rate countries on earth…earth…earth.

  7. I’d be impressed if US bishops convened for prayer and demonstration in the Mexican desert on behalf of their brother bishops of Mexico!

  8. The complexity of immigration issues should give folks pause. Assumptions, valid for a particular model or group, fall apart when expanded. Indeed, anyone who talks about immigration as a system needs to learn a great deal.

    19 years in immigration work and I’d never heard the Milton Friedman quote before. Thank you for that. I like “you can have a welfare state or open borders, but not both” very much.

    State policy must be pragmatic to be effective. When oriented to solving particular, narrowly defined problems, it can brillient and salutary. Omnibus bills are the exact opposite. The Comprehensive Immigration Reform model must fail because it isn’t oriented to a particular purpose.

    The H1b worker visa needs a major overhaul but we can tweak the H2b worker program. The Diversity Lottery Program has long outlived its misguided (in my view) purpose. The President’s authority to declare nationals of particular countries under Temporary Protected Status should be eliminated, though TPS should continue… Etc., Etc., Etc.

    Good policy has a moral dimmension but it is ruled by it is oriented to solving particular problems. American immigration policy tends to be ruled by vested interests masquerading and hijacking good intention.

  9. The H1b worker visa needs a major overhaul but we can tweak the H2b worker program. The Diversity Lottery Program has long outlived its misguided (in my view) purpose. The President’s authority to declare nationals of particular countries under Temporary Protected Status should be eliminated, though TPS should continue…

    All these rococo decision rules need to go. Give applicants an English proficiency test, tell those who pass to stand in a queue, adjust their place in the queue when they get married or sire children, and admit about 600,000 settlers per year. Fix the quantum of temporary residents at a % of the native population, deduct from that mean annual admissions of diplomatic personnel and their dependents, deduct from the difference mean annual refugee admissions, add to that difference the mean number who depart each year, and auction off the residuum quantity to schools seeking to recruit foreign students and teachers. You can set up an exchange for secondary-market trading among schools of these student-and-teacher visas. Allow settlers and temporary residents to work in this country on equal terms with citizens. Import not one guest worker.

  10. The lying sacs of excrement won’t tell you the history of the complex issue.

    The open borders lobby (OBL – that’s right this threat is as bad as Osama bin Laden) wants you to believe “immigration reform” (a.k.a. amnesty) will not encourage more law-breaking.

    OBL doesn’t want you to know history. History tells us that this invasion will only get worse.

    Between 1986 and 2000, the over-sized children in congress enacted seven illegal alien amnesties that made 5.7 million illegal invaders “legal.”

    In 2006, after 20 years, we had 11 million additional illegal invaders. If we don’t do it differently now, we will have 25 million more illegal invaders in America by 2016.

    None – not one—of those amnesties resulted in a drop in illegal immigrants. Today there are four times as many illegals as in 1986. Go figure! I challenge OBL and the adolescents in congress to prove me wrong.

    So, let’s start sending adults to congress.

    – The 1986 Immigration and Reform Control Act blanket amnesty for an estimated 2.7 million illegal aliens

    •1994: The “Section 245(i)” temporary rolling amnesty for 578,000 illegal aliens

    •1997: Extension of the Section 245(i) amnesty’

    •1997: The Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act for nearly one million illegal aliens from Central America

    •1998: The Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act amnesty for 125,000 illegal aliens from Haiti

    •2000: Extension of amnesty for some 400,000 illegal aliens who claimed eligibility under the 1986 act

    •2000: The Legal Immigration Family Equity Act, which included a restoration of the rolling Section 245(i) amnesty for 900,000 illegal aliens]

    OBL does not care about the average American. OBL cares about lower salaries and fewer benefits. OBL is making more money while your wages are falling, hospitals are closing, taxes are rising, schools are falling apart, and our quality of life is being trashed.

  11. Not to mention that USCCB gets millions upon millions $$ every year for ‘Refugee Relief Services’ and (so called)Catholic Charities. I think that very easily falls smack dab in conflict of interest category. They have now become paid agents of the government. Meanwhile our churches and schools are emptying and closing. I think if the shepherds had tended the flock we wouldn’t be seeing the collapse of the Catholic Church. The bishops should stay out of politics. They should especially stay away from political issues that are matters of ‘prudential judgement’ such as immigration, capital punishment, war, taxes etc. The issues that they have full competence to preach on, the ‘non-negotiables’ like abortion, euthanasia, contraception, same sex marriage and the widespread disintegration of morality, they ignore. Too touchy. Many Catholics today think amnesty for illegals is doctrine and contraception is a matter of conscience. They have no Catholic formation.

  12. P.S. Now I know why I don’t listen to Laura Ingraham anymore! I can’t find her!! She used to be on 77ABC talk radio here in NYC. I went to her website and you can’t listen live without being a member and her station here in NYC is FM and full of static. So much for this interview with John Zmirak, the author of this article……

  13. I have always found it odd that the United States should remain one of the few countries in the world that confers automatic citizenship on every individual born within its borders (jus soli).
    The jus soli is a feudal principle, to determine rival claims of superiors to a serf. In Europe, it was abolished almost everywhere, in the 19th century, largely under the influence of jurists, like Savigny, Mommsen, Kirchmann and Ihring in Germany and Portalis and Trochet in France. They insisted that individuals belong to a family, a tribe, a people, not to a territory. Virtually every country in Europe adopted blood citizenship laws (jus sanguinis). Most Asian countries have known no other.
    It was everywhere felt that citizenship should be based on nationality, defined by descent and blood, neither revocable nor attainable at will. From this understanding of the nation, the legal definition of minorities as permanent aliens logically follows; there are many examples in the ancient world: the Helotes among the Lacedaemonians, the Periecians among the Cretans and the Penestes among the Thessalians.

  14. Christine-
    you might have luck with “tune in radio.” I think it was originally designed for smart phones, but they’re really nice on the computer, too.

  15. I don’t understood the bishop’s deluded stance. Christine says there’s a conflict of interest $$$. Maybe that’s right. But maybe they just don’t “get” life in the real world.
    In the Book of Ruth, Moabite Ruth wanted to assimilate, wanted to join the children of Israel and accept the Torah. The immigrants in my area are not like that; do not assimilate, do not speak English. The church schedules separate Masses for them so that assimilation does not happen.

  16. The USCCB speaks out more about the “broken immigration system” then they do about abortion or the other garbage that the Obumbler regime supports.

    Archbishop Wenski of Miami has been a long and loud supporter of Haitian immigration.

    My wife is an immigrant/resident alien. Her father has US citizenship, but because she was adopted, US citizenship did not automatically confer upon her. That law has been changed.

    The USCCB thinks American taxpayers have pockets stuffed with cash. When they start on immigration I shut them out as they don’t know what they are talking about and I will NEVER support a scheme to import people who will vote Democrat lock step for generations to come.

  17. Anzlyne, there is a similar situation in my area as to assimilation.
    As well, the lack of volunteerism, contributions, and other upkeep support to the parish reveal almost no assimilation; separate Mass, no registering, heavy use of facilities and utilities for activities that do not include the general population, and separate bulletin, missal, and music instruments. Great parish disconnect seems to occur due to the generous offer of a place for worship in ‘multi’-fashion, which is a sadness.

  18. I don’t know how much of it is people moving without telling the parish– they have well over a thousand households registered for our Spanish Mass offering parish, two or three times as many as the others in the area– but during the recent “send letters to registered member’s houses until they at least send a prepaid envelope back with “I’ll pray” checked” drive the other parishes had 40-60% response rate, and that parish had something like 5%.

  19. Yes. A great sad disconnect. There is no practical “follow-through” with the bishop’s open door.
    Yes hospitality is very important, and we accept needy travelers, treating them as we would like to be treated. We accept them thinking there will be mutual respect. What do we do when they not only knock on the door, but begin to knock it down using overwhelming numbers of children as a battering ram.

  20. I am not saying disappearance of our nations border are a conscious effort of individual immigrants. I think each one is person just doing what he/she sees as their personal best interest. When so many people are convinced that is the best for themselves/their family, this kind of a surge is going to happen. And the messaging of the bishops has contributed to this mass action.

  21. In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, there are three parishes that serve the Latino community, which is not nearly as big here as it is in other dioceses. The city parish that serves the Latino community has its biggest attendance for the Spanish language Mass. They tend to contribute the least. I have seen well dressed families throw in a dollar. That isn’t enough.

  22. When will someone address the miserable conditions in Mexico and Central America which cause the mass exodus north?

  23. “When will someone address the miserable conditions in Mexico and Central America which cause the mass exodus north?”

    But that would not fit the narrative of the Selfish American Enlightenment Individualist opposed to the poor and marginalized of the world.

  24. The Catholic Church has sent missionaries into Central and South America, where they have been murdered. Some illegals have committed terrible crimes of murder here in America. Obama has no right to inflict jeopardy of life on any American.
    Let them stay home and be missionaries in their own country, building schools and hospitals.

  25. Yes William … And in the poverty and crime ridden areas of once prosperous Midwestern American cities too. I

  26. “[T]he lack of volunteerism, contributions, and other upkeep support to the parish reveal almost no assimilation; separate Mass, no registering, heavy use of facilities and utilities for activities that do not include the general population…”–Pat
    My parish has had the same experience with its Spanish-only speaking portion. Although we haven’t yet arrived at “separate bulletin, missal, and music instruments,” we already have the “[g]reat parish disconnect” that Pat laments. Effectively, we have two parishes that share buildings and a priest. No bishop has been able to bridge that. No bishop that I know of has tried encouraging assimilation of the stranger, either.
    In my opinion, the first step bishops should take to aid the bringing together of the American and Spanish mother-tongue cultures in the parishes is insisting that for each foreign-language mass a parish offers, another more conveniently scheduled mass must be offered in English and another in Latin. Latin, lest bishops forget, is the universal language of the Western Church. And then, at least some of the grandmothers of both communities might attend mass together.

  27. Effectively, we have two parishes that share buildings and a priest. No bishop has been able to bridge that. No bishop that I know of has tried encouraging assimilation of the stranger, either.

    That’s especially depressing because….well, I never thought of it, but my parish has two (three, really, but I don’t think there’s a Samoan language Mass) non-English language masses offered, and they do that, and we do have folks who mostly speak the other language show up at the English one all the time.

    Growing up I was in a “mission” church where the priest was shared with…five, six other parishes, all of them Spanish language only and much bigger. Our squeaky (theologically questionable) wheels still set the theology frequently because my parish far and above the biggest funding source, to the extent of being more funds than the rest put together.
    I know agriculture doesn’t pay well, but it also doesn’t pay that badly, and unless the other parishes were literally entirely made up of illegals….

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