May 27, 2016


Hordes of illegal aliens are not stampeding into the U.S.

From the political commercials we have been bombarded with during the primary election campaigns, you would think that hordes of illegal aliens are stampeding into the United States. That simply is not true.

We understand that immigration and refugee services are partly political matters. But they are also moral matters since they involve the way we treat our fellow human beings, and the Church has a lot to say about that.

The commercials tried to scare voters into thinking that the illegal immigrant problem has gotten out of control. But the facts are otherwise, something that those who want to build walls don’t want to acknowledge.

Fact: According to the Pew Research Center, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the United States peaked in 2007 at 12.2 million and leveled off after that to 11.3 million in 2014, the most recent figure.

Fact: The Mexican unauthorized immigrant population has declined from its peak in 2007 of 6.9 million to 5.6 million in 2014. Beginning in 2008, more unauthorized Mexicans have been leaving the United States than have been coming here.

Fact: Those trying to enter our southern border are usually not Mexicans, but refugees from the Central American countries from which they had to flee for their lives.

Unfortunately, that’s not the message coming from some of the politicians in the Republican Party.

We have to wonder why some in that party have become so dead set against making it possible for more Hispanics to enter this country legally. Right now, it’s nearly impossible because quotas fill up quickly, and the usual wait is 10 years. Would you wait that long if the welfare of your family was threatened?

Another fact from the Pew Research Center: In a survey, 72 percent of Americans (80 percent of Democrats, 76 percent of Independents, and 56 percent of Republicans), said that undocumented immigrants currently living in the United States should be allowed to stay in this country legally if they meet certain requirements.

Last year, Pew asked a follow-up question: Should there be a “national law enforcement effort to deport” all immigrants here illegally? Only 17 percent of the public favored such an effort, including 27 percent of Republicans.

With numbers like this, why do some members of the Republican Party take the position they do? Sometimes a politician will say that the illegal aliens are taking jobs from Americans, but you seldom hear that argument any more since people realize now that they are usually filling jobs that American citizens refuse to take. Besides, unauthorized immigrants make up only 5.1 percent of the U.S. labor force.

The Catholic Church is pro-immigrant, especially toward refugees who can’t return to their homes because of a justified fear for their lives, and because it wants to reunite immigrant families which are split between different countries. Pope Francis has frequently spoken out in favor of efforts to help the millions of refugees who have fled ISIS.

He spoke most eloquently by his actions when, at the end of his April visit to the Greek island of Lesbos where refugees were being helped, he brought back to Rome three Syrian refugee families—all Muslims whose villages had been bombed by ISIS.

In our archdiocese, Catholic Charities’ Refugee and Immigrant Services resettles refugees. Statistics for 2014 showed that the Archdiocese of Indianapolis brought 587 refugees here. Of them, 506 were from Burma (Myanmar). There were only a few from the Middle East, and none from Syria. The family from there that was recently in the news arrived in December 2015.

After the refugees arrive, the office teaches them how to live in this country; many have never experienced the conveniences we tend to take for granted. They need help in getting Social Security cards so they can apply for work, and, of course, they need help in learning or improving their English.

Refugees who come to the United States are all vetted by both the United Nations and the United States. The process takes three to five years. During that time, they live in tents in UN refugee camps that are little more than prisons.

We have nothing to fear from immigrants and refugees. We must welcome them.

—John F. Fink

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