Politics & Policy

Deport Such Talk

Tom Tancredo rushes to unnecessary outrage.

I have news for Tom Tancredo: If the pope had wanted to endorse the defeated McCain-Kennedy immigration legislation or blast U.S. immigration law, he would have done so explicitly and non-apologetically. In fact, he did no such thing.

In a statement, Tancredo needlessly attacked the pope for doing what the pope does: reminding his bishops, and other Catholics, and people in general of their responsibilities to their fellow man.

The pope told his bishops Thursday:

Many of the people to whom John Carroll and his fellow Bishops were ministering two centuries ago had travelled from distant lands. The diversity of their origins is reflected in the rich variety of ecclesial life in present-day America. Brother Bishops, I want to encourage you and your communities to continue to welcome the immigrants who join your ranks today, to share their joys and hopes, to support them in their sorrows and trials, and to help them flourish in their new home. This, indeed, is what your fellow countrymen have done for generations. From the beginning, they have opened their doors to the tired, the poor, the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” (cf. Sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty). These are the people whom America has made her own.

Of those who came to build a new life here, many were able to make good use of the resources and opportunities that they found, and to attain a high level of prosperity. Indeed, the people of this country are known for their great vitality and creativity. They are also known for their generosity. After the attack on the Twin Towers in September 2001, and again after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Americans displayed their readiness to come to the aid of their brothers and sisters in need. On the international level, the contribution made by the people of America to relief and rescue operations after the tsunami of December 2004 is a further illustration of this compassion. Let me express my particular appreciation for the many forms of humanitarian assistance provided by American Catholics through Catholic Charities and other agencies. Their generosity has borne fruit in the care shown to the poor and needy, and in the energy that has gone into building the nationwide network of Catholic parishes, hospitals, schools and universities. All of this gives great cause for thanksgiving.

Tom Tancredo took that to mean something much more specifically political — and personal to Tancredo — than he should have. On Thursday he released a statement:

Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Littleton) today criticized the Pope’s comments regarding U.S. immigration policy. According to reports, Pope Benedict XVI said the United States must do “everything possible to fight . . . all forms of violence so that immigrants may lead dignified lives.”

“I would like to know what part of our lax immigration policy is considered violent,” Tancredo said. “I fail to see how accepting more refugees than any other nation–and providing free health care, education, housing and social service benefits to millions of illegal aliens is in any way ‘violent’ or ‘degrading.’”

Pope Benedict XVI has made amnesty a key issue in his papacy. He met with President Bush, reportedly adding his voice to the open-border lobby by encouraging Bush to provide blanket amnesty to all illegal immigrants in the United States.

Be chill, congressman. No one said anything about amnesty and no one said our immigration policy is violent. The pope knows this nation was founded by immigrants and that immigration today is a significant subject of political debate and struggle. The Church needs to continue to serve. And the government, while making and enforcing law, needs to be humane. Isn’t that pretty much what a pope would say?

But Tancredo took it another way entirely. His statement continued to blast the pope, accusing him of poll positioning (yes, the Pope). In his silly statement, the congressman announced:

“I suspect the Pope’s immigration comments may have less to do with spreading the gospel than they do about recruiting new members of the church,” said Tancredo. “This isn’t preaching it is ‘faith-based’ marketing.”

When the president and the pope issued a statement Wednesday, their section on immigration may have been among George W. Bush’s mildest. It read:

The Holy Father and the President also considered the situation in Latin America with reference, among other matters, to immigrants, and the need for a coordinated policy regarding immigration, especially their humane treatment and the well being of their families.

A president who is known to pontificate (if I may) about the Christianity of some of his friends and allies who are concerned about law enforcement, engaged in no such thing here with the Vicar of Christ (who is more of an authority than even Karl Rove).

Tom Tancredo has done some brave yeoman’s work on immigration, highlighting law-breaking and non-enforcement wrongs. But he does himself and the contentious issue a great disservice when he reacts without listening and attacks a holy guy who is only reminding his flock and this great nation of its moral responsibilities. Like everything else Pope Benedict XVI said while in the U.S. this past week, what he said on immigration is worth taking to heart. And you don’t have to endorse the immigration views of John McCain, Roger Cardinal Mahony, or the Wall Street Journal editorial page to think so.

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