Times picks up on disconnect between Bush’s words and deeds on immigration during papal visit

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In the “credit where due” file, we have the NY Times picking up on the connection between the papal visit and the Pilgrim’s Pride raids.  I complained a few days ago about the absence of coverage of the fact that even as Bush was welcoming one of the foremost advocates for immigrants in the world to the White House last week, federal immigration agents were locking up migrants and breaking up families in widescale coordinated raids around the country.  

The story broadly covered some of the pope’s remarks on immigration:

Even as he was flying to the United States, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of protecting immigrant families, not dividing them.

He raised the issue again in a meeting on Wednesday with President Bush, and later that day spoke in Spanish to the church’s “many immigrant children.” And when he ends his visit to New York on Sunday, he will be sent off by a throng of the faithful, showing off the ethnic diversity of American Catholicism.

The choreography underscores the importance to the church here of its growing diversity — especially its increasing Hispanic membership.

Of the nation’s 65 million Roman Catholics, 18 million are Latino, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, and they account for more than two-thirds of the new Catholics in the country since 1960.

. . .

The separation of families “is truly dangerous for the social, moral and human fabric” of Latin and Central American families, the pope told reporters aboard his plane. “The fundamental solution is that there should no longer be a need to emigrate, that there are enough jobs in the homeland, a sufficient social fabric,” he said. Short of that, families should be protected, not destroyed, he said. “As much as it can be done it should be done,” the pontiff said.

The pope did not just send a message to the president and the public, he spoke to the bishops. In his private meeting with them on Wednesday evening, he emphasized that recent newcomers to the United States are “people of faith, and we are here to welcome them,” Cardinal Mahony said.

The pope also dwelled on the negative impact of family separation. Several bishops took that as a direct reference to the impact of previous immigration raids and deportations, in which illegal immigrant parents were separated from spouses and children who were United States citizens or legal immigrants.

. . .

His comments drew a rebuke from Representative Tom Tancredo, a Republican from Colorado who has been a leading opponent of illegal immigration.

Accusing the pope of “faith-based marketing,” Mr. Tancredo said Benedict’s comments welcoming immigrants “may have less to do with spreading the Gospel than they do about recruiting new members of the Church.” Mr. Tancredo, a former Catholic who now attends an evangelical Christian church, said it was not in the pope’s “job description to engage in American politics.”

Stay classy, Tommy “Tanc” T.  

On the other side of the issue, some members of the Catholic hierarchy said they were shocked that on the same day that Benedict and President Bush affirmed in a joint statement the need for a policy that treats immigrants humanely and protects their families, federal agents were conducting raids at five chicken plants. They arrested more than 300 immigrants accused of being illegal workers.

The timing was coincidental, immigration officials said, and it was not clear whether the pope had known about the arrests when he met with Mr. Bush.

But the raids surprised some American Catholic leaders, who are often on the forefront of advocacy for immigrant rights.

“I was stunned,” said Cardinal Roger Mahony, the archbishop of Los Angeles, the nation’s largest Roman Catholic diocese and one with many Hispanics. “I just feel these raids are totally negative. I thought it was very inappropriate to do it in such a blatant way when the pope was coming, when he has been so outspoken in defending the rights of immigrants.”

As is often the case with this administration, there are two apparent explanations for the snafu: either Bush didn’t make the connection between the raids and the papal visit ahead of time (incompetence) or he knew about the questions this would raise and did it anyway out of spite (stubbornness).  Either explanation is equally plausible. 

Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City said the pope was “not going to get into the specific points that our country has to hash out.” Bishop Wester, who is chairman of the Committee on Migration of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, said the pontiff had told the bishops “very clearly that we need to attend to the basic human rights immigrants have.”

Bishop Wester also criticized the immigration raids, which took place at plants in five states belonging to Pilgrim’s Pride, a major poultry processing company. Immigration officials said they did not consider the pope’s visit when planning the operations, which they said came after a yearlong investigation.

But Bishop Wester said: “It did strike me as inappropriate. The pope comes as a man of peace, a man of good will, the leader of a major religion. Many of the persons arrested were Catholic.”

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kyledeb said:

Score one point for the pro-migrant movement. Another good pro-migrant message moved through the nation's newspapers, but time and time again it has been proven that moving a message is not enough. The online battle is certainly one place where we need to continue to build.

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This page contains a single entry by David Bennion published on April 20, 2008 11:59 PM.

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