Illegals Aren't Criminals, Cardinal McCarrick Says
Apr 27, 2006
The head of the Washington, D.C., Archdiocese on Monday criticized immigration reform legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives because it would hinder the Catholic Church's ability to help the needy, he said.
(CNSNews.com, Apr 12, 2006) - "The difficulty was that it made all these people who are illegal, criminals," Cardinal Theodore McCarrick told Cybercast News Service at a protest on the National Mall in Washington. "There's a big difference between being illegal and being criminal."
The Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act (H.R. 4437) would categorize illegal residency in the U.S. as a felony. Democrats inserted the "felony" language in an effort to undermine the bill, said the bill's sponsor, House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr. Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) said he and other Republicans wanted to make "unlawful presence" a misdemeanor, not a felony.
The House bill also would punish employers who hire undocumented workers. McCarrick said that particular provision would threaten religious workers who offer help to the needy.
"In that bill they said that you couldn't help people who weren't authorized to be in the country," he said. "If an old lady needs some medicine and comes to you, you'd have to say, 'Show me your papers first.'" See Video.
McCarrick added that "some say it doesn't read that way, but as far as we read it, it would be too dangerous for us to tell our people [to] continue to do everything you're doing."
Sensenbrenner recently complained that critics of his bill are spreading misconceptions about it. He called it "fear-mongering" and "absolutely false" to say that "clergy and good Samaritans will be thrown in jail." Targeting alien smuggling gangs is the intent -- and the effect -- of the House bill, Sensenbrenner says.
Ira Mehlman, a spokesman for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, also called McCarrick's characterization "nonsense."
"The provision of the law that he (McCarrick) is referring to is intended to go after those groups who, under the guise of religious organizations, are actively engaged in aiding and abetting people who are in the country illegally," Mehlman said.
"It does not affect people who feed somebody at a soup kitchen," he added. "It doesn't affect the priest who administers communion."
McCarrick said the Catholic Church supports immigration reform that would pave the way for illegal immigrants to obtain legal status in the U.S. The current system, he said, "has all kinds of holes in it; it's not fair."
McCarrick was one of many religious leaders at the protest. Representatives from numerous Christian denominations, as well as Jewish and Islamic leaders, attended.
The National Park Service does not provide estimates of the exact size of large protests, but event organizers expected "more than 100,000" people to attend. The event in Washington was one of at least 65 rallies scheduled around the country Monday to protest the House bill and show support for amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Richard Parkins, director of Episcopal Migration Ministries, told Cybercast News Service that the Episcopal Church has "taken a strong stand on rights for immigrants."
"Those who are here who have worked, supported their communities, have been law abiding residents of their communities, should be given a chance to remain legally," Parkins said.
In his address to the crowd, delivered mostly in Spanish, McCarrick compared the protest to civil rights marches of the 1960s. "We must still fight against racial discrimination in our land," he said, adding that Catholics are in "prayerful protest against discrimination ... of the immigrant who comes to our country seeking a better life for himself and his family."