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" Woe to the legislators of infamous laws, to those who issue tyrannical decrees,
who refuse justice to the unfortunate and cheat the poor among my

people of their rights."


Isaiah 10:1





Casa Juan Diego was founded in 1980, following the Catholic Worker model of Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, to perform the works of mercy serving immigrants and refugees. From one small house it has grown to fifteen houses. Casa Juan Diego publishes a newspaper, the Houston Catholic Worker, to share the stories of the immigrants and refugees and the values of the Catholic Worker movement.


New Immigration Bill Shames United States: All Hispanics at Risk

by Mark and Louise Zwick

Hispanics have had their Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass), similar to that which occurred in Germany in November of 1938.

It occurred December 16, 2005. The House of Representatives of the government of the United States, with 60 votes to spare, declared that all new immigrants who can't prove exact legality are criminals and subject to imprisonment.

If this bill becomes law, anyone who assists or employs one who “lacks lawful authority to remain in the United States” is also subject to imprisonment. The punishment: three to 20 years in prison for those who assist or employ immigrants who may not have papers, the same punishment meted out to professional smugglers who profit from transporting illegal aliens across the border. Anyone who helps a brown-skinned person or one with a Spanish accent is a possible suspect who may be breaking the law.

Key provisions include changing undocumented presence in the U.S. from a civil to a felony offense, broadly expanding the definition of smuggling immigrants to include the provision of services to the undocumented, eliminating many due process rights for documented and undocumented, involving state and local police in enforcement of immigration laws, erecting 700 miles of a wall along the border with Mexico and adding many new military surveillance systems for border patrol.

Kristallnacht was the night when the Nazis began to openly attack the Jews in Germany. The Jewish people told each other, “This cannot be real. The German people are good people. They have Bach and Beethoven. This is a one-time event.” But it was not a one-time event. As history has proven, good people can be influenced to tolerate bad laws.

In one grand sweep the House of Representatives in H. R. 4437 indicted millions of people as felons and subject to arrest—not unlike what happened in Germany on that fateful night—a terrible night.

Like the Jewish people marked with the Star of David, immigrants also have a mark—the mark of the brown skinned or a Spanish accent. (The beloved Lady of Guadalupe is known as “La Morenita,” or Our Lady of the Brown Skin). Only a small percentage of the undocumented are Irish or Asian.

It takes a victim of the Nazis to recognize the coming of another holocaust where whole populations are declared guilty and criminals.

Andrew S. Grove, writing in the Wall Street Journal , of all places, puts things in perspective and gives his response: “This bill scares me.... It scares me because it has the potential of turning neighbor against neighbor—and of changing our country into a place of fear and mistrust.”

Grove, who is the former chairman of the Intel Corporation and a member of the board of overseers of the International Rescue Committee, relates the probable consequences of this bill to his experiences in his childhood under the Nazis:

“This could change the nature of our society in a way that I have seen firsthand. As a Jewish child hiding from the Nazis in Hungary, I saw how the persecution of non-Jewish Hungarians who hid their Jewish friends or neighbors cast a wide blanket of fear over everyone. This fear led to mistrust, and mistrust led to hostility, until neighbors turned upon neighbors in order to protect themselves. Is this what we want?...

“Consider the potential effects of this bill. Volunteers who save the lives of individuals who are left to die by smugglers—by providing water or food, or by taking them to a hospital—could face arrest and prosecution. An immigration worker who encourages a refugee from political persecution to seek asylum in the United States could be charged with a felony; so could a manager who forgets to check the papers of a job applicant.

“Prosecution of these well-intentioned people will lead to a growing schism. We will be forced to become a nation of identity-checkers; anyone who looked “foreign” would likely have to endure a life-time of proving their status even if they were native-born American citizens. People will be deterred from helping anyone suspected of foreign origin. The events of World War II, the civil wars in Africa, the strife in the Middle East, ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, the decades-long civil disturbances in Ireland and the recent riots in France, all provide wrenching examples of fractured societies.”

H. R. 4437 is a declaration of war on the brown skinned and those with Spanish surnames. All are guilty until proven innocent.

French justice has arrived on our shores—guilty until proven innocent.

We will become a nation of people who are legal and those who are brown skinned who might not be legal.

H. R. 4437 has created havoc in the immigrant community.

We are at a loss as to what to do. Thousands of people will be abandoned, especially sick and injured people. Casa Juan Diego itself as we know it faces extinction with the passage of that bill. If it becomes law, it will mean an end to services to many thousands of poor people. It is not just the able-bodied immigrants that we are concern about, but their families, and especially the many sick and injured who would be incarcerated.

There are better proposals in the Senate for immigration reform. Our economy depends on immigrant workers. We need half a million new workers each year and there are only five thousand visas. Why could we not have a program where the millions of undocumented workers who are already here contributing to the economy could apply to work legally—without tearing up their families with deportations?

As Grove said, “This [House] bill forces us to answer the questions: What kind of country do we want? Our country has promoted tolerance and diversity through most of its history, providing an outstanding and attractive example to others. Coming to this country and enjoying its openness has taught me how wonderful it is.”


Helping the Poor, the Immigrant, the Injured May Be Considered Treason

(According to House Bill H. R. 4437)

by Mark and Louise Zwick

We had just returned from visiting our sick men's houses, where many of our guests live who are greatly disabled and rejected by our society, to read in the Houston Chronicle 12/17/05 that the House of Representatives (not the Senate) had passed a bill that would declare all of these men common criminals and subject to a year in prison because they were undocumented. They would become felons-if this bill becomes law.

The many paralyzed-quadraplegics--who have fallen from scaffolds while working on buildings in Houston could now be easily imprisoned and then deported.

In this new legislation there is a tremendous expansion of what constitutes smuggling and harboring-giving a cigarette or a sandwich or a glass of water to an immigrant may be reason enough to make one a felon.

In one grand sweep, our representatives solved the immigration problem by creating as suspects any Spanish-speaking person who lives and works in the United States, not to mention those who look Hispanic.

The Brownsville Herald stated, "If the promoters of this legislation get their way, the immigrant workers who build homes, clean hotel rooms, work in landscaping, and toil in manufacturing jobs will be lumped with some of the worst criminals in this country."

Many new industries will have to be developed to care for the offenders. Just imagine how many prison hospitals would have to be built just to care for the sick and injured immigrants who have already been rejected and left to suffer or die on their own. They number in the thousands.

Wouldn't that be an irony? Once they are declared criminals, society will be required to serve them in prisons after years of deliberate neglect.

More prisons would have to be constructed for all the carpenters and cement workers who have built all these condominiums and town houses that now engulf us in Houston. The builders, you can be sure, would arrange for the avoidance of arrest until the buildings were complete, because everyone knows who builds the buildings in Houston.

Some, of course, would think this was wonderful-those who place buildings and running prisons as a great part of the Gross Domestic Product. The prisons could not be built fast enough, of course, to house the millions of "criminals" who today are our best workers.

New offices would have to be set up throughout the United States to receive sightings of "aliens!" Teachers could report undocumented immigrants as they reported anyone who disagreed in Communist countries. Emergency room doctors could report the very sickest to be taken to prison.

The courts would be so clogged with good people now called criminals that robbers and murderers would not be able to be brought to trial.

Those who designed this legislation have saved the best consequences for last as part of their plot. They believe that mandatory prison sentences of up to five years should be imposed on church groups and employers and workers in social services agencies who assist immigrants with their most basic needs.

Mixed with the immigrant felons would be white collar workers who stayed true to their calling.

As a Representative from Texas who opposed the bill said in the House of Representatives, "If on some silent night, when all is calm and all is bright a young man and a clearly pregnant woman, from out of town, ask if they can rest by your manger - be warned! first verify their visas."

M.L.Z., L.Y.Z.

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, January-February 2006.

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