Migrants: illegals or God's ambassadors?

by Dean Brackley

View Author Profile

Join the Conversation

Send your thoughts to Letters to the Editor. Learn more

Immigration rights advocates hold up signs outside the the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix April 21 to oppose a bill that would make it a crime to be in the United States illegally. The bill, which the Legislature passed April 19, is waiting for a signature f rom Gov. Jan Brewer. (CNS photo/J.D. Long-Garcia, Catholic Sun)

The Obama Administration continues to re-affirm its commitment to enact comprehensive immigration reform, even though passage this year is unlikely. Last December Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Tex) introduced H.R. 4321 for that purpose, and this past March Senators Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) unveiled their version of a Senate bill. Then in April, Graham pulled back, and the governor of Arizona signed a draconian law against illegal immigration that showed, by counter-example, how urgent comprehensive reform is. We should expect plenty more political drama over immigration reform during this election year.

At this stage, what can we add to the familiar debates? I think we can add some new perspective. Here I want to review the issue from the standpoint of the sending countries themselves, in particular from Central America, and do so in the light of Christian faith and Catholic social teaching.

My friend and parishioner David Adrian left El Salvador for California five years ago in order to feed his wife, Maribel, and four children. People like David cannot get a U.S. visa, simply because they are poor. The only way into the U.S. is by sneaking across the border after the long trek through Mexico. David didn't want to leave. The first time he tried he spent a few nights under a tractor trailer on the Guatemala-Mexico border, but he missed his wife and children so much that he returned home. However, the need to provide for them proved too much for him; so he left again and didn't turn back. Last Christmas I asked Maribel about David. She told me, as she always does, that he phones her and the kids from California every day.

A Drama of Biblical Proportions

David and his family are legion. Every day hundreds of poor Central Americans leave their countries and head north. They're not alone. The poor are in motion everywhere today. Worldwide, the number of immigrants has doubled in the last 30 years to almost 200 million people. (1) Almost one in five lack proper documentation. (2) This is a massive global phenomenon.

Consider what it means for a country like El Salvador. A few years ago the U.S. embassy estimated that an average of 740 Salvadorans were abandoning their country every day, mostly bound for the U.S. Today's estimates run between 400 and 500 a day. (3) If all were leaving for good, El Salvador, with a population of six million, would lose one percent of its population every five months and half the population in twenty years. But not all leave for good. Some of those who left yesterday were actually deported from the U.S., or from Mexico, a few weeks ago.

While the civil war of the 1980s gave Salvadoran migration to the U.S. a hefty push, Guatemalans and Hondurans are now heading north in even greater numbers. (4) (Nicaraguans can migrate more easily to neighboring Costa Rica, where about a half-million of them now reside. With more robust economies, no armies and higher social spending, Costa Rica and Panama generate little emigration.) On any given day thousands of Central Americans stream northwards through Mexico, where, according to a recent study, some 1,600 of them are kidnapped, beaten, extorted, raped and even killed each month, (5) more than before, now that the drug cartels have expanded into human trafficking. (6)

How many actually make it to the U.S.? The U.S. Border Patrol reports that in FY 2008 it was detaining more than 137 Central Americans a day, (7) a big drop compared to previous years. Fewer are immigrating, in part thanks to tighter enforcement but above all on account of the lack of jobs in the U.S. (8) How many Central American migrants succeed in evading U.S. authorities? How many who entered legally eventually overstay their visas? Would there be four hundred new unauthorized Central American immigrants a day? Five hundred? The Salvadoran government estimates that 2.7 million Salvadorans now live in the U.S., over 500,000 without documents. (9) Even if the number is lower, future migration and births in the U.S. will ensure that the majority of all Salvadorans will be living in the United States within thirty years. Although tighter controls, deportations and fewer jobs may slow this trend, they cannot stop it.

The populations of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala –like Mexico-- are now bi-national. The home countries are permanently wedded to the U.S., and no divorce is possible. This creates lopsided economic, political and cultural dependencies on the U.S. Before the current global crisis caused a sharp downturn in 2009, migrants' remittances made up 17 percent of El Salvador's GPD, 25 percent of Honduras's and 10 percent of Guatemala's. (10) Central American trade is overwhelmingly with the U.S. Small wonder Central American governments fear opposing Washington policies. Political dominance emboldened the Bush Administration to intervene openly in Salvadoran elections in 2003 and 2004. But right-wing Salvadoran governments have been turning El Salvador into a kind of Central American Puerto Rico for decades. The Salvadoran economy is 100 percent dollarized. We have a military base, an FBI office, a DEA office. English is fast becoming our second language. For most of the Iraq war, Salvadorans were the only troops from Latin America who participated in the occupation.

Deportation vastly complicates the migration mega-drama. Last year the U.S. government deported over 19,000 Salvadorans by air, an average of 53 a day, which was a slight drop compared to 2008. (11) The U.S. repatriated over 27,000 Guatemalans and more than 25,000 Hondurans, for a 2009 total of 71,719 people deported by air –almost 200 a day-- to these three small countries.(12) All Salvadoran deportees, at least, arrive bound hand and foot. Migration authorities sedate deportees for the flight when they deem it necessary. (13)

In recent years, the Department of Homeland Security has been scouring U.S. jails for deportable prisoners, apparently facilitating their departure with parole when possible. (14) The Bush Administration targeted 10 percent of the U.S. inmate population for deportation. (15) Central Americans who return under these conditions, including gang members, pose a serious problem when no jobs await them on arrival home.

Mexico, too, deports Central American emigrants on a grand scale, expelling over 63,000 of them last year, an average of 173 a day. This was down from the peak year of 2007 when Mexico deported over 100,000 Central Americans. (16) In all likelihood, the U.S. government helps fund Mexico in this effort, trying to stanch the migrant flow as far south as possible. (17)

Why They Come

The scale of migration northward from Central America, and also from Mexico, and of deportation southward, is mind-boggling. What does it say about conditions in our neighbor-countries to the south? As the story of my friend and parishioner David suggests, the majority of people there lack opportunities for a decent life. At least two-thirds of Salvadorans, Nicaraguans and Hondurans are poor, despite lower official figures. It's worse in Guatemala. The U.N. Development Program recently reported that only one in five economically active Salvadorans has a decent, stable job. Even before the recent crises –a great spike in fuel and grain prices, followed by the fallout from the financial crisis--, things were getting worse in Central America. For example, while chronic malnutrition declined from 13 percent to 10 percent from 1990 to 2003 in Latin America and the Caribbean overall, it increased in Central America from 17 to 20 percent. (18)

In this critical situation, governments fail to provide adequate education and health services. In El Salvador the average number of school years completed has now reached six, and the schooling is most often sub-standard. By some accounts, twenty percent of persons age 15 to 24 in Latin America and the Caribbean neither study nor work; for Honduras the figure is 30 percent. (19)

Poverty and lack of opportunity are propelling the migrants northward. They are not looking for the sweet life; they leave reluctantly, out of necessity. John Paul II called this the "migration of the desperate." (20) The notorious wall rising along the southern U.S. border will not stop this migration. Hunger is stronger than fear.

Why has immigration to the U.S. increased so much in the past two decades? Haven't Mexico and Central America always been poor countries? Why the big increase in migration now, not only from Latin America but also from Africa and other poor regions of the world?

Migration has soared on such a massive scale not only because people can travel and communicate more easily, but above all because of the growing gap between rich and poor and skyrocketing unemployment in poor countries. "Even in the face of strong overall growth in developing countries," write John Hoeffner and Michele Pistone, "the poorest countries in the world . . . have had no growth since 1970; indeed, in many of these places conditions continue to worsen." (21) Over 200 million Latin Americans, 40 percent, live in poverty. (22) In Latin America, already one of the world's most unequal regions, inequality has increased in recent decades, as it has elsewhere. (23)

Globalization, in its current form, is fueling these trends. Economic life is everywhere increasingly shaped by the unregulated global expansion of markets. Well-positioned minorities –of individuals and countries—prosper, while many more who are poorly positioned find themselves excluded. Globalization has failed to create jobs where people live. (24) The U.N.'s International Labor Office estimates that 212 workers were unemployed in the world. (25) A few years ago, the ILO reported that almost half of the world's 2.8 billion workers were living on less than two dollars a day, with over 500 million of them earning less than a dollar a day." (26)

Multi-national agreements negotiated by elites guarantee that capital and merchandize move freely across borders, while workers displaced by those flows are prohibited from doing the same. Financial and commercial markets are "free"; labor markets are not.

Consider Mexico. "In the 12 years following passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994," writes Donald Kerwin of the Migration Policy Institute, "more than two million persons lost their jobs in the Mexican agricultural sector. As a result, many formerly independent, small family farmers joined U.S. migrant labor streams, most without legal status or protection." (27)

Neither NAFTA nor its Central American equivalent, CAFTA, take into account the enormous disparities between the trading partners. Contrast this with how the European Union took pains to strengthen the weaker economies of future partners, like Spain and Ireland, before they joined. That helped limit emigration from these countries and permitted an open-border policy in the E.U. (28)

Who's Illegal Here?

Anyone with a heart will respond to massive poverty with compassion. Yet, people with a head will ask why the U.S. should admit all the people knocking at its door, even granting Washington's complicity with the present form of globalization. What about the responsibility of the poor nations themselves and their governments? That question calls for a response in several parts.

For starters, people are migrating not only because they are poor but also because receiving countries want their labor. Historically, the U.S. government turned a blind eye to illegal immigrants for that reason, especially in boom times. From now on, the aging and shrinking populations of Europe and the U.S. will need powerful injections of immigrant labor, not only to work the fields, but also to replenish social security and pension funds and to give care to the sick and aged. (29) Massive south-to-north migration responds to a mutual need, of poor migrating populations and of affluent receiving populations, as well. (30) Immigration policy and law are woefully out of step with these facts on the ground.

The situation cries out for comprehensive reform. Meanwhile, in communities around the U.S., brown faces multiply in classrooms and emergency rooms. Never mind that immigrants pay taxes or that they pump billions each year into our needy Social Security system, including millions of immigrant workers who will never recoup their contributions because their cards are bogus. Those contributions don't cover soaring public school and hospital bills. True, undocumented immigrants do agricultural work that citizens refuse to do, but they also do hotel, janitorial and construction work that stymies union organizing.

The bottom line for their critics is that they are lawbreakers. They are illegal. "And, what part of 'illegal' don't you understand?"

The first response to that question is that "illegal" is an epithet. Actions can be illegal and one's status can be illegal; people themselves are not illegal. (31)

Still, immigrants are breaking the law. Amnesty for lawbreakers undermines the rule of law. We are a republic of laws and not of individuals! Right? Well, only in part. Unauthorized border-crossers are not criminals. They have not committed a felony. Our judicial system categorizes them more like traffic violators or scofflaws.

Our vaunted respect for the law is also partial. Permit me to digress a bit here, because the issue is important, and the point to be made is, I think, dramatic. Ironically, those who cry "No amnesty for lawbreakers!" most loudly are perfectly willing to forgive more serious violations of the law. They want amnesty for Justice Department lawyers who justified torture; for top government officials who authorized spying on U.S. citizens without a warrant; for those who incarcerated hundreds at Guantánamo (and elsewhere) who were innocent of crimes, forbidding them recourse to legal defense and holding many in solitary confinement for over a year. Those who argue "No amnesty" for immigrants want amnesty for the highest public officials who knowingly launched an unnecessary war in Iraq that has caused over 150,000 civilian deaths. (32)

These were egregious violations of substantive laws, including the Constitution and the Geneva Conventions. The charge is bi-paritsan. With one exception, the entire Congress ceded its constitutional prerogatives, to knowingly enable the executive to wage war without just cause in 2003. Congress later voted to rescind habeas corpus for people merely suspected of ties to terrorism. Talk about undermining the rule of law!

Anyone living in poor and minority communities understands how selectively we apply our laws. After working for years in the South Bronx, accompanying tenants to housing court, studying anti-pollution statutes, and the like, I concluded that no more than five percent of the laws and regulations on the books in New York City were actually being enforced. New York City is hardly alone in that.

If violating the law undermines the rule of law, bad law undermines it even more. U.S. immigration law is bad law, which has long been an embarrassment to self-respecting lawyers. Existing immigration statutes trample fundamental constitutional rights. Applying them retroactively, inconsistently and in draconian fashion, the federal government has carried out massive deportations in recent years, 298,000 of them in FY 2009. (33) Although the Obama administration has curbed some of the abuse, federal immigration prosecutions soared to record levels in 2009. (34) In recent years, immigration agents have entered and searched homes and questioned and detained people, all without a warrant. They have ignored Constitutional Miranda rights. They have denied detainees access to a lawyer unless they paid for one. They have shipped them to sites far from the families and friends who might otherwise help them. Immigrants who challenge their detention or a deportation order can pay for that with years in jail. Witnesses multiply accounts of Kafkaesque nightmares and heartbreaking stories of families separated for trivial infractions. (35)

Much of this is perfectly legal under immigration law. It is ironic, and in the end absurd, that, since controlling our borders is technically only an administrative and not a criminal matter, immigration law falls, not under the judiciary, but under the Justice Department of the executive branch, which can ignore the rules designed to safeguard the rights of people accused of real crimes. (36)

Legal scholar Daniel Kanstroom suspects that future generations will look back at this season of massive deportations and compare it with "the McCarthy era, World War II Japanese internments, the Palmer Raids, the late nineteenth-century exclusion and deportation of Chinese laborers," all incidents which compromised the freedoms, due process and tolerance at the core of our democratic traditions. (37)

Still, violations of law and Constitutional principles by some, including high public officials, don't justify lawbreaking by others. They do not by themselves excuse crossing the border without proper authorization. To get an adequate perspective on undocumented immigration, we need to ask about the place of law in our lives.

Christians and the Law

The New Testament challenges commonsense notions of law. For Jesus, all the precepts of God's law must be understood as different ways of putting love into practice. St. Paul follows Jesus: All the precepts of God's law are summed up in practicing love toward our neighbor (Gal 5:14). Meeting essential human needs trumps all other considerations. (See "Christians and the Law: The Case of Illegal Immigration.")

If that is true of divine law, it naturally holds for human law. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, human laws are only valid to the extent that they conform to God's eternal law. Aquinas laid the groundwork for modern Catholic social teaching on immigration. By natural law, people have a right to the goods of this earth, which the Creator has destined to meet the needs of all people. All have a right to pursue and lead a decent life, above all in their homeland. That is, they have a primary right not to emigrate. (38) When that right is denied them, they have a right to seek what they need elsewhere, and to do so without breaking up the family in the process. Catholic social teaching affirms the right "to migrate to foreign lands, even without proper legal documentation." (39) Other countries have the moral duty to receive those who come to them in dire need and to protect their rights. If this entails burdens, we cannot expect the poorest to bear the brunt of it. While governments of receiving countries have a right to regulate migration, that right is circumscribed by more fundamental rights of migrants (40) and the international common good. Immigration can only be restricted when "grave requirements of the common good, considered objectively," require it. (41)

I am not arguing for open borders but for comprehensive migration reform and, indeed, for reframing the issue. The lens of law and national sovereignty is too narrow for the drama of migration, which we must instead view through the wider lens of human dignity and the international common good. As Daniel Groody puts it, "from a Christian perspective, sovereign rights are subject to a larger vision of human rights, the common good, the kingdom of God, and the gratuity of God." (42)

Reaping the Whirlwind

For understanding unauthorized immigration, it also helps to put things in historical perspective. Again, consider Central America. From the time of the Spanish conquest, privileged elites have ruled the isthmus, maintaining the popular majorities in poverty. The twentieth century brought several efforts at social reform. José Santos Zelaya, one of Nicaragua's greatest statesmen, was a pioneer reformer. However, when he insisted on to regulating U.S. mining and lumber companies and sought loans from European countries, Washington overthrew his government in 1909. Two years later the U.S. Navy helped depose President Miguel Dávila of Honduras on behalf of U.S. entrepreneur Samuel Zemurray, who went on to found the United Fruit Company and also to control subsequent Honduran presidents and huge swaths of Honduran territory. In the words of former New York Times correspondent Stephen Kinzer, the overthrows of these two presidents "marked the end of a period during which Central America was moving toward profound social reform. They dreamed of transforming their feudal societies into modern capitalist states, but American intervention aborted their grand project." (43)

The story doesn't end there. In 1954, as Guatemala was enjoying a ten-year "democratic spring" that promised to pull the country out of its feudal past, the CIA organized a coup which overthrew the democratic government. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Allen, at the head of the CIA, promoted this coup on behalf of big business in Guatemala, including that same United Fruit Company, to which both brothers had strong business ties. Guatemala descended into a hellish spiral of violence in which over 200,000 people were eventually killed and over 400 hamlets destroyed. Even though the country is no longer at war, the legacy of this barbarity endures. Guatemala remains one of the most violent places on earth.

As one reform after another was crushed in the region, reformers turned into radicals, like Fidel Castro, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua and the FMLN guerrillas in El Salvador. When the Sandinistas triumphed in Nicaragua in 1979, Washington launched a counter-revolution that eventually succeeded. U.S. military aid also stymied revolutionary change in El Salvador. To suppress movements for change like these in Central America, U.S.-supported governments engaged in systematic torture and state terrorism. In the last decades of the 20th century, more than 300,000 died, most of them civilians, and most at the hands of government forces supported by the U.S.

Throughout the twentieth century, Washington maintained "our friends" in power in Central America. These tiny elites allied with U.S. businesses preside over some of the most unequal societies in the world. That inequality has always produced enormous social tensions. Until recently, the safety valve for this pressure was simply to die before your time, or protest and be killed. Throughout the twentieth century another possible outlet for social pressure, namely social change, was consistently blocked.

Today very few Central Americans foresee a solution to endemic poverty any time soon. But, unlike their forebears, they no longer sit by and watch their children die before their time. Now there is a new safety valve for the social pressure: Los Angeles, Houston, Chicago.

Obviously, the real solution to the problem of massive immigration from Central America and Mexico is sustainable local development in the region. But that would require the kind of social transformation that neither the U.S. government nor its friends in Central America will permit in what Washington calls its "backyard." The Obama Administration made this perfectly plain once again when it refused to condemn last year's coup in Honduras. Apart from deep social change, local development would require a U.S.-sponsored Marshall Plan-type program, which is not likely to happen either. It is hard to imagine a debate about the root causes of migration, including U.S. foreign policy, taking place on the floor of the Congress. We will not see it on C-SPAN. In fact, the political climate in Washington does not favor comprehensive immigration reform any time soon. Immigrants, who will continue to grow in numbers, will also likely continue to serve as scapegoats and pawns on the chessboard of U.S. politics for years to come.

As a result, even though a majority in the U.S. favors reform, including a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants, (44) the churches will have to continue to stand up for migrants' rights, including family reunification, and a path to legal status and eventual citizenship.

A friend of mine recently provided a stellar example of that. On May 1, along with her friends, Sister Patti Ann Rogucki was arrested in front of the White House wearing a T-shirt that read, "ARREST ME, NOT MY FAMILY." She said she really meant it, that she was there for her friend Blanca, a mother awaiting deportation.

Locally, we must welcome immigrants to our local schools and congregations. In those settings, we can let them tell their stories. Putting a human face on "the immigration problem" in this way softens hearts and dissolves prejudice. Thinking more globally, we will have to work toward the long-term goal of an adequate juridical framework for international trade and finance. In the meantime, we must also globalize solidarity in favor of the sustainable development that reduces the need to migrate. The churches, especially the Catholic Church, with people on the ground in poor countries, have no rivals in their potential o globalize the practice of love.

Conclusion: God's Ambassadors

In Leviticus we read, "the foreigner who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the foreigner as yourself" (Lev 19:34). No ethical precept is repeated more frequently than this in the Old Testament. (45) The letter to the Hebrews tells us: "Do not neglect to show hospitality to foreigners, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it" (Heb 13:2). Dorothy Day called the destitute poor God's ambassadors. "I was a foreigner," said Jesus, "and you welcomed me" (Matt 25:35).

Like God's Suffering Servant, today's immigrants are "despised and rejected" as sinful lawbreakers. With deeper insight, Isaiah sees that the Servant "was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities" (Isa 53:3,5). In the present case, not strictly for your transgressions and mine, but insofar as they are the fruits of past U.S. foreign policy. The Servant is a "light to the nations" (Isa 42:6), and "by his bruises we are healed" (Isa 53:5).

The desperate poor who migrate north are representatives of the poor billions to our South, from whom we are estranged, to our loss and theirs. Perhaps God is sending them to revitalize our churches, our nation and our broken world.

[Dean Brackley, a U.S.-born Jesuit, teaches theology at the Universidad Centroamericana in El Salvador.]


(1) See The Global Commission on International Migration, Migration in an Interdependent World: New Directions for Action<./em> (Switzerland [sic]: GCIM, 2005), p. 11. The report is accessible at http://www.gcim.org. Thirty-two states convened the GCIM and mandated its report in response to an appeal by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in 2003.

(2) Mary DeLorey, "International Migration: Social, Economic, and Humanitarian Considerations," in And You Welcomed Me: Migration and Catholic Social Teaching, Donald Kerwin and Jill Marie Gerschutz, eds. (Lantham, Md.: Lexington Books,2009), pp. 31, 48. "Approximately 800,000 people per year are trafficked across international borders" (John J. Hoeffner and Michele R. Pistone, "But the Laborers Are . . . Many? Catholic Social Teaching on Business, Labor, and Economic Migration," in ibid., p. 59).

(3) Former U.S. Ambassador to El Salvador Douglas Barclay cites this figure in an interview, "Barclay connects CNY to El Salvador," The Post-Standard (Syracuse, N.Y.), June 11, 2007, online edition. The U.N. Development Program estimated that in 2005 a net number of 1,000 Salvadorans left per day.

(4) The Honduran Foro Nacional para Migraciones estimated in 2008 that 185,000 abandoned Honduras each year. That would be 570 per day. La Prensa (Tegucigalpa), June 6, 2008, online edition. El Salvador's El Diario de Hoy estimates: "Each year, some 300,000 undocumented Central Americans traverse Mexican territory with the intention of reaching the United States, but some 200,000 are intercepted and deported to their respective countries" (Feb. 20, 2009, p. 28). Hereafter I abbreviate El Diario de Hoy as EDH.

(5) Marc Lacey, "Migrants Going North Now Risk Kidnappings," New York Times, Oct. 17, 2009, online edn.; "En México secuestran a 1,600 emigrantes al mes," La Prensa Gráfica (San Salvador), Sept. 12, 2009, p. 30; cf. ibid., p., 39. Hereafter I abbreviate La Prensa Gráfica as LPG.

(6) Josh Meyer, "Drug cartels raise the stakes on human smuggling," Los Angeles Times, March 23, 2009, online edition.

(7) EDH, Dec. 17, 2008, p. 30. In FY 2008, the Border Patrol apprehended a total of 723,825 persons, including 661,766 Mexicans (1,813 a day), 19,346 Hondurans, 16,396 Guatemalans, 12,683 Salvadorans and 1,466 Nicaraguans.

(8) Patrick Barta And Joel Millman, "The Great U-Turn: Global Migration Flows Reverse for the First Time Since the Depression as Work in the Rich World Dries Up," Wall Street Journal, June 6, 2009, online edn.; Richard Marosi, "Border arrests drop to 1970s levels," Los Angeles Times, March 8, 2009, online edn.; Julia Preston, "Mexican Data Say Migration to U.S. Has Plummeted," New York Times, May 14, 2009, online edn.; Ginger Thompson, "Fewer People Entering U.S. Illegally, Report Says," New York Times, Oct. 3, 2008, p. A17.

(9) LPG, Apr. 24, 2008, p. 13; LPG, Nov. 8, 2008, p. 14. There are approximately 1.1 million foreign-born Salvadorans living in the United States. Aaron Terrazas, "Salvadoran Immigrants in the United States," Migration Information Source, Jan. 2010, http://www.migrationinformation.org/USfocus/display.cfm?id=765#1, accessed Mar. 8, 2010. The Guatemalan government estimates that there are 1.2 million Guatemalans living in the U.S., 60 percent of whom are undocumented (EDH, Dec.. 22, 2008, p. 28).

(10) LPG, Feb. 19, 2008, p. 3. EDH, Dec. 12, 2008, p. 28.

(11)Programa "Bienvenida a Casa," "Resumen ejecutivo AIES del 01 al 31 de diciembre de 2009," n.p.: Dirección General de Migración y Extrañería, 2009, p. 2. Since 1998, 101,307 Salvadorans have been deported from the U.S. (ibid.); cf. LPG, Jan. 12, 2010, online edition.

(12) The figures for Guatemala are available at http://www.migracion.gob.gt/es/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=172&Itemid=235; for Honduras, see El Tiempo (San Pedro Sula), Jan. 1, 2010, online edition. In 2008, the U.S. repatriated 78,353 persons to El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, an average of 213 a day. This represented about one-third of the number of immigrants forcibly deported from the U.S. the previous year. In 2007 the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) repatriated 276,912 immigrants. Julia Preston, "U.S. To Speed Deportations of Criminals Behind Bars," New York Times, Jan. 14, 2008, online edition.

(13) Julia Preston, "U.S. To Speed Deportations," New York Times, Jan. 14, 2008, online edition.

(14) Ibid. The U.S. prison system, the largest in the world, holds over 2.3 million inmates. Adam Liptak, "Inmate Count in U.S. Dwarfs Other Nations'," New York Times, Apr. 23, 2008, online edn. The head of ICE Julie L. Myers "said the agency would work with states to devise parole programs allowing immigrants imprisoned for nonviolent crimes to reduce their prison time if they agreed to be deported immediately upon release" (ibid.). By 2009, the program had expanded from federal and state prisons to local jails. Today undocumented people are being detained for deportation after being stopped for traffic violations. LPG, May 24, 2009, pp. 32-33.

(15) Julia Preston, "304,000 Inmates Eligible for Deportation, Official Says," New York Times, March 28, 2008.

(16) http://www.migracion.gob.gt/es/images/stories/deportados/terrestres/dt2009.pdf, accessed Feb. 18, 2010.

(17) The Bush administration's Merida Plan combating drug-trafficking and organized crime probably also addresses border security. Washington Post, Oct. 27, 2007.

(18) Organización de Naciones Unidas para la Agricultura y la Alimentación (FAO), "Estrategia para extender a escala nacional el Programa Especial para la Seguridad Alimentaria –PESA- en América Central 2005-2009, p. 2, available at http://www.fao.org/spfs/pdf/Estrategia_PESACAM.pdf.

(19) Sergio Barrios Escalante, "Lucha de clases: el verdadero 'ruido de fondo' en la Cumbre de Chile (y II)," Incidencia Democrática, Nov. 29, 2007, http://www.i-dem.org/rd/2007/noviembre/291107-1340.htm, consulted Mar. 31, 2010.

(20) John Paul II, Message of the Holy Father for the World Migration Day 2000, 2. "How can the baptized claim to welcome Christ if they close the door to the foreigner who comes knocking?" Ibid., 5.

(21) Hoeffner and Pistone, "But the Laborers Are . . . Many," p. 57.

(22) Comisión Latinoamericana de Naciones Unidas para América Latina y el Caribe (CEPAL), Panorama social de América Latina (Santiago de Chile: Naciones Unidas, 2007), p. 55.

(23) The average income of the richest ten percent is nineteen times that of the poorest 40 percent. Ibid., p. 87.

(24) Cf. DeLorey, "International Migration," p. 32.

(25) International Labour Office, Global Employment Trends: January 2010 (Geneva: ILO, 2010), p. 9. This represents "an increase of almost 34 million over the number of unemployed in 2007, and most of this increase occurred in 2009" (ibid.).

(26) Delorey, "International Migration," p. 36.

(27) Donald Kerwin, "Rights, the Common Good, and Sovereignty in Service of the Human Person," in And You Welcomed Me, Kerwin and Gerschutz, eds., p. 98. Under NAFTA heavily-subsidized corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, cotton, beef, pork, and poultry exports to Mexico increased dramatically. "For supported crops, the 'dumping margins' – the percentage by which export prices are below production costs – from 1997-2005 ranged from 12% for soybeans to 38% for cotton. . . . We estimate total losses to Mexican producers from dumping-level U.S. export prices at $12.8 billion from 1997-2005 for the eight products (in constant 2000 US dollars). To put these losses in context, the average annual loss of $1.4 billion is equivalent to 10% of the value of all Mexican agricultural exports to the United States . . . ." Timothy A. Wise, "Agricultural Dumping Under NAFTA: Estimating the Costs of U.S. Agricultural Policies to Mexican Producers," p. 3, http://www.ase.tufts.edu/gdae/Pubs/wp/09-08AgricDumping.pdf, consulted Mar. 7, 2010.

(28) DeLorey, "International Migration,", p. 38; cf. Wise, "Agricultural Dumping Under NAFTA," pp. 3-4.

(29) Delorey, "International Migration," p. 33.

(30) See the landmark report of the GCIM, Migration in an Interdependent World, note 1, above.

(31) Gaspar Lo Biando and Richard Ryscavage, "Introduction" to And You Welcomed Me, Kerwin and Gerschutz, eds., p. xiii.

(32) David Brown and Joshua Partlow "New Estimate of Violent Deaths Among Iraqis Is Lower," Washington Post, Jan. 10, 2008, p. A18.

(33) Spencer S. Hsu and N.C. Aizenman, "DHS Corrects Report that Overstated ICE Deportations under Obama," Washington Post, Mar. 8, 2010, online edn.

(34) "Immigration Cases Increased About a Fifth Over 2008," The Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 1, 2010, p. A6. In recent years, local law enforcement officials have turned over tens of thousands of immigrants, with no criminal convictions, who end up detained by ICE. Nina Bernstein, "Report Critical of Scope of Immigration Detention," New York Times, October 6, 2009, online edn.

(35) Daniel Kanstroom, Deportation Nation: Outsiders in American History (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2007), chapter 1; Bill Ong Hing, Deporting Our Souls: Values, Morality, and Immigration Policy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006), chapter 3.

(36) Kanstroom, Deportation Nation, chapter 1. See Donald Kerwin, "Rights, the Common Good, and Sovereignty," pp. 111-12.

(37) Kanstroom, Deportation Nation, p. ix.

(38) They have "the right to find in their own countries the economic, political and social opportunities to live in dignity and achieve a full life through the use of their God-given talents." John Paul II, Message of the Holy Father for the 90th World Day of Migrants and Refugees 2004, 3.

(39) Groody, "Crossing the Divide: Foundations of a Theology of Migration and Refugees," in And You Welcomed Me, Kerwin and Gerschutz, eds., p. 5. Groody refers to the Sacred Congregation for Bishops, Instruction on the Pastoral Care of People Who Migrate (Washington, D.C.: United States Catholic Conference, August 22, 1969), 7.

(40) See, for example, John Paul II, Laborem exercens, no. 23; idem, Familiaris consortio, nos. 46, 77; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2241, 2433.

(41) Sacred Congregation of Bishops, Instruction on the Pastoral Care of People Who Migrate; cited in Hoeffner and Pistone, "The Laborers Are . . . Many?", p. 71.

(42) Groody, "Crossing the Divide," p. 19.

(43) Stephen Kinzer, Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq (New York: Times Books, Henry Holt and Co., 2006), p. 104.

(44) Jorge Ramos, "El enemigo nuevo", LPG, 23-12-07, p. 26, citing a Los Angeles Times-Bloomberg poll.

(45) See William R. O'Neill, S.J. and William C. Spohn, "Rights of Passage: The Ethics of Immigration and Refugee Policy," Theological Studies 59 (March 1998), pp. 84-106, at 84.

Latest News


1x per dayDaily Newsletters
1x per weekWeekly Newsletters
2x WeeklyBiweekly Newsletters