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Monday, November 20, 2006

Thoughts about St. Blog's Debate over the "Border Fence"

This past week witnessed a debate between Michael & Katrina over at Evangelical Catholicism, Thomas N. Peters @ American Papist and Gerald Augustinus of The Cafeteria is Closed, over news that
"A senior Vatican cardinal on Tuesday condemned the building of walls between countries to keep out immigrants and said Washington's plan to build a fence on the U.S.-Mexican border was part of an "inhuman program".

Cardinal Renato Martino made his comments at a news conference presenting Pope Benedict's message for the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Migrants and Refugees, in which the Pope called for more laws to help immigrants integrate."

SOURCE: Vatican cardinal says U.S.-Mexico fence "inhuman" Reuters. Nov. 14, 2006.

Tom's post -- "Oh, hush up, Cardinal Martino!" American Papist Nov. 14, 2006 -- seems to have been the provocation for the debate, with Michael and Katrina taking issue with his disrespectful tone. (Truth to tell, Martino is one Cardinal with a long-standing reputation for trying tempers. Even Jimmy Akin and the otherwise-gracious Amy Welborn couldn't restrain herself in responding "what an idiot!", responding to his typical inanities over the death penalty).

In any case, Evangelical Catholicism let fly with "The Problem with American Papist" (Nov. 15, 2006), which prompted the ensuing debate:

I'm not particularly interested in inserting myself into this debate, except to say that there is one aspect that is not really being discussed and which cannot be easily dismissed. Whatever decision is made about the border, national security is a relevant factor. Consider the following sampling of stories and information on this issue:
  • Unholy Border Alliance, by Erick Stakelbeck January 3, 2005:
    Roughly 60,000 illegal immigrants designated as 'other-than-Mexican,' or OTMs, were detained last year along the U.S.-Mexico border, including a sizable number from Arab and Muslim countries. And if recent reports are any indication, they may be getting some troubling new help in their efforts to enter the United States.

    In a December 4 incident that received scant media attention, a Bangladeshi Muslim man named Fakhrul Islam was among a group of 13 illegal aliens arrested near Brownsville, Texas, just across the border from Mexico. Border Patrol agents have said that one of the men detained along with Islam was a member of Mara Salvatrucha, a violent Salvadoran criminal gang with more than 300,000 members across Central and North America, including powerful enterprises in several major U.S. cities.

    Mara Salvatrucha, also commonly known as 'MS-13' due to its members' proclivity for sporting tattoos of the number 13, is involved in a smorgasbord of illegal activity, including the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people across the Mexican border. The gang controls many of the smuggling routes from Mexico into the U.S., a fact that has not escaped Al-Qaeda operatives eager to carry out attacks on American soil.

    In July, Adnan El-Shukrijumah, a high-ranking Al-Qaeda leader and one of the most wanted terrorists in the world, was spotted in Honduras meeting with members of MS-13. Attorney General John Ashcroft has said that El-Shukrijumah, who he has described as a 'clear and present danger to America,' is seeking ways to infiltrate the U.S. via the Mexican border, and is willing to pay top dollar in order to do so.

  • A restaurateur in Tijuana, Mexico, ran another business smuggling Lebanese compatriots into the United States, some with connections to Hezbollah:
    They would come, sometimes dozens a month over a three-year period, to find Salim Boughader Mucharrafille (search) — the cafe owner who drove a Mercedes and catered to some of Tijuana's more affluent denizens, including workers at the U.S. consulate only a short stroll away. His American customers were unaware that the savvy boss of La Libanesa cafe ran a less reputable business on the side.

    Until his arrest in December 2002, Boughader smuggled about 200 Lebanese compatriots into the United States, including sympathizers of Hezbollah, designated a terrorist organization by U.S. authorities. One client, Boughader said, worked for a Hezbollah-owned television network, which glorifies suicide bombers and is itself on an American terror watch list.

  • See also: Terror Threat On Southern Border - There Are Already Cases To Prove It, by Bill West. CounterTerrorism Blog June 2, 2006:
    On June 15, 2005, Mahmoud Youssef Kourani, a Lebanese citizen and illegal alien, was sentenced in Detroit to 54 months imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to provide material support to Hezbollah. The investigation leading to Kourani’s prosecution and conviction, that was conducted by ICE and the FBI, revealed that Kourani’s brother was the chief of security for Hezbollah in Lebanon. The investigation also revealed that Kourani sponsored Hezbollah fundraising meetings in his Dearborn, Michigan home.

    The Kourani investigation identified that he, too, was smuggled into the United States from Mexico.

  • Rio Grande: Gateway to Terrorism, by Julian Coman London Telegraph August 16, 2004:
    More than 1.2 million people attempt to cross US borders illegally each year. The vast majority are Mexicans who are immediately repatriated. But under existing laws, which take account limited detention facilities, many non-Mexican illegal immigrants are released prior to a hearing with an immigration judge, which most fail to attend. Almost 22,000 non-Mexican immigrants have been released pending a hearing since last October. Once released, they are free to travel on their own throughout the United States. According to one Texas immigration official, those who slip through the net come "from all over the world".

If that's not enough, you can read "Outgunned and Outmanned: Local Law Enforcement Confronts Violence along the Southern Border - a congressional hearing on this very issue, with some very unnerving testimony from those who patrol our borders, or the more recent "A line in the Sand. Confronting the Threat at the Southwest Border" - A Nov. 1, 2006 report by the Subcommittee on Investigations of the Committee on Homeland Security issues this interim report summarizing its findings regarding the criminal activity and violence taking place along the Southwest border of the United States between Texas and Mexico. According to the report:

During 2005, Border Patrol apprehended approximately 1.2 million illegal aliens; of those 165,000 were from countries other than Mexico. Of the non-Mexican aliens, approximately 650 were from special interest countries.

Evangelical Catholicism asserts:

Benedict's message on the World Day for Migrants and Refugees called for laws that aided immigrants in the name of their dignity as persons. Building a wall is not in harmony with Benedict's desire. The Mexican and United States bishops have declared the building of the wall as a violation of human dignity. Cardinal Martino, at an official news conference at the Vatican where he was representing Benedict XVI, speaking as a Curia official and not as a private spectator, repeated their concerns calling the project "inhumane".
Now, I don't expect Cardinal Martino to take this kind of reporting seriously, but I think Michael and Katrina at Evangelical Catholicism will acknowledge that -- independently of the growing concern over rising drug-gang violence and threats to U.S. citizens alone -- the United States post-9/11 should police our borders for this kind of activity and to take potential infiltration by non-immigrants seriously.

The Catholic Bishops have protested against the wall, asserting that they "believe it could lead to the deaths of migrants attempting to enter the United States and increased smuggling-related violence along our border. We also believe it would send the wrong signal to our peaceful neighbor to the south, Mexico, as well as the international community." They go on to assert as well that "As the world’s greatest democracy and lone superpower, our nation should be able to address the issue of illegal immigration without resorting to the construction of fences and barriers."

But one searches in vain for a proposal and recommendation that addresses the increasing violence committed by illegal aliens against U.S. citizens and the threat from those crossing the border with interests other than seeking employment and providing food for their families.

* * *

I don't plan on pursuing this topic further -- actually, I intend on taking a break from blogging, resuming when Benedict begins his visit to Turkey on Nov. 28th. However, I did want to address what I felt was a little-discussed aspect of last week's debate over immigration.

  • See also: Illegal Immigration: Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Mahony, by Greg Mockeridge. Cooperatores Veritatis May 11, 2006:
    One of the ways this can be helped along is for Church and civil authorities to seek to better understand each other's aims and concerns. As Cardinal Mahony's attack on HR 4437 clearly illustrates, such misunderstandings are rampant. To make matters worse, Cardinal Mahony never contacted any of the sponsors of HR 4437 to ensure that his understanding of what the bill said was correct. According to HR 4437 co-sponsor Peter King, not one bishop, priest, or Church official contacted him inquiring about the bill's content. This is inexcusable in my view.

    In difficult situations like that created by illegal immigration, the temptation to place inordinate blame on the illegal aliens themselves is great. The Pope warns against this danger: " It is necessary to guard against the rise of new forms of racism or xenophobic behavior, which attempt to make these brothers and sisters of ours scapegoats for what may be difficult local situations.(n.4)" Despite the widely publicized claims of of so-called pro immigration groups, there is absolutely no evidence that opponents of illegal immigration are motivated by racism or xonephobia. The accusations along these lines leveled at groups like the Minutemen border watchers are not only without merit, but are downright slanderous. The motivation here on the part of groups like the Minutement is nothing more than a legitimate concern for our own security and the integrity of our laws and sovereignty. . . .

From the new blog Against The Grain

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