Amen, amen I say to you: He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up another way, the same is a thief and a robber. – John 10:1
With the recent news that President Donald Trump has ordered an end to the Obama-era immigration amnesty program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the topic of illegal immigration is making headlines once again.
Advocates of an open-borders approach to immigration tend to focus on findings indicating
that the willingness of less-skilled immigrants to work at low pay reduced consumption costs — the costs to consumers of goods and services like health care, child care, food preparation, house cleaning, repair and construction — for millions of Americans. This resulted in “positive net benefits to the U.S. economy during the last two decades of the 20th century.” These low-wage workers simultaneously generated “a redistribution of wealth from low- to high-skilled native-born workers.”
Still, while studies on the topic vary in their interpretation of the data, whether you hear it from The Heritage Foundation or the New York Times, it seems fairly uncontentious to tally up illegal immigration costs for the American taxpayer at an amount totaling more than 50 billion dollars a year.
And when it comes to immigrant crime, it should be obvious to anyone that 100% of illegal immigrants to the United States have broken federal law. But what about other crimes? The statistics on the contribution of illegal immigrants to American crime are not easily found in any single location, and disputes over the data are common. But in a 2015 report, Fox News pieced together
a patchwork of local, state and federal statistics that revealed a wildly disproportionate number of murderers, rapists and drug dealers are crossing into the U.S. amid the wave of hard-working families seeking a better life. The explosive figures show illegal immigrants are three times as likely to be convicted of murder as members of the general population and account for far more crimes than their 3.5-percent share of the U.S. population would suggest. Critics say it is no accident that local, state and federal governments go to great lengths to keep the data under wraps.
Statistics show the estimated 11.7 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. account for 13.6 percent of all offenders sentenced for crimes committed in the U.S. Twelve percent of murder sentences, 20 percent of kidnapping sentences and 16 percent of drug trafficking sentences are meted out to illegal immigrants.
There are approximately 2.1 million legal or illegal immigrants with criminal convictions living free or behind bars in the U.S., according to ICE’s Secure Communities office. Each year, about 900,000 legal and illegal immigrants are arrested, and 700,000 are released from jail, prison, or probation. ICE estimates that there are more than 1.2 million criminal aliens at large in the U.S.
With all of this in mind, I have long wondered why the Catholic bishops in this country are so vocally in favor of unrestricted — and even illegal — immigration, and against attempts to reform or restrict our dangerously porous borders. They seem not to care at all that we’re a nation of laws, and that open borders mixed with a welfare state creates a combination that is entirely unsustainable. For years, I assumed that this was to fill the pews in a Catholicism that has shown consistent decline since the end of the Second Vatican Council. In a controversial interview with 60 Minutes this week, former White House chief strategist (and Catholic) Steve Bannon lent his own voice to this theory:
“The Catholic Church has been terrible about this.” Bannon said. “The bishops have been terrible about this. By the way…you know why. You know why. Because unable to really to….to come to grips with the problems in the Church, they need illegal aliens, they need illegal aliens to fill the churches. That’s…it’s obvious on the face of it. That’s what the entire Catholic bishops condemning [Trump’s action on DACA]. They have an economic interest. They have an economic interest in unlimited immigration. Unlimited illegal immigration.”
The USCCB fired back without hesitation, releasing a statement in response to Bannon’s comments at surprising speed. The statement reads:
“It is preposterous to claim that justice for immigrants isn’t central to Catholic teaching. It comes directly from Jesus Himself in Matthew 25, ‘For I was hungry and you gave me food…a stranger and you welcomed me.’ Immigrants and refugees are precisely the strangers we must welcome. This isn’t Catholic partisanship. The Bible is clear: welcoming immigrants is indispensable to our faith.
Caring for and about the ‘Dreamers’ is nothing more than trying to carry out that seemingly simple, but ultimately incredibly demanding, commandment. It is a commandment found throughout Sacred Scripture, reaching back to the Hebrew scriptures, including Leviticus, ‘when an alien resides with you in your land, do not mistreat such a one’ (Lv. 19:33). In fact, the Church has been pro-immigration since God called Abram to leave Ur: ‘Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you’ (Gn. 12:1). To suggest otherwise is absurd.
The witness of the Catholic bishops on issues from pro-life to pro-marriage to pro-health care to pro-immigration reforms is rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ rather than the convenient political trends of the day. We are called not to politics or partisanship, but to love our neighbor. Let’s reject the forces of division that insist we make a false choice between our safety and our humanity. It is both possible and morally necessary to secure the border in a manner which provides security and a humane immigration policy.
Our pro-immigration stance is based on fidelity to God’s word and honors the American dream. For anyone to suggest that it is out of sordid motives of statistics or financial gain is outrageous and insulting.”
The question I find myself asking, however, is that if the economic benefit illegals present to the nation is their contribution of low-wage, unskilled labor, are they really bringing enough to collection baskets in dioceses across America to justify the effort the bishops make on their behalf?
I don’t know the answer. Recently, however, a friend brought another economic incentive to my attention – the federal money being given to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops and Catholic Charities for the purposes of “refugee resettlement”. You’ll note that while they are not identical terms, in the USCCB statement above, immigrants and refugees are mentioned in the same breath. Refugees are defined by the Immigration and Nationality Act as “any person outside his or her country who has a ‘well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.'” Even so, it can be difficult to tell, depending on the case, where the category of “immigrant” ends and “refugee” begins. In a 2015 article for the Captial Research Center, James Simpson of Foundation Watch tells us
In December 2013, the Obama administration announced an in-country refugee program for Central American Minors (CAMs) that allows persons under 21 years of age from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador direct travel to the U.S. While those countries tragically suffer from high crime and poor economic conditions, merely being a member of an afflicted population does not raise a person to the definition of “refugee.” By offering this status, the Obama administration is deliberately expanding the definition, an action that has been called a “rogue family reunification program.”
Simpson also reveals that
Left-wing grant-makers have embarked on a campaign aimed at overwhelming America with unprecedented levels of immigration. These foundations underwrite a universe of liberal organizations that are devoted to bringing in ever more people from all over the world, and the organizations’ motives include money. These groups, known as “Volunteer Agencies” (VOLAGs), don’t just receive private dollars from liberal foundations; they also are richly rewarded with your tax dollars when they collaborate with federal government agencies.
Primary funding for the VOLAGs comes from the federal and state governments. But many secondary immigrant/refugee advocacy and assistance organizations are supported by wealthy state and national foundations whose assets total tens, if not hundreds, of billions of dollars. Most of these well-established foundations are the Left’s primary source of support outside government.
After revealing the names of over a dozen such progressive foundations — including George Soros’ Open Society Institute and the Media Matters bankrolling Tides Foundation — Simpson goes on to list the nine primary “Refugee Contractors” whom the “federal government pays …. to resettle refugees and asylees.” Among the nine is “CC/USCCB: Catholic Charities/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops”.
According to the table provided — with figures from USAspending.gov — We see that from 2008 to 2015, the Catholic Charities/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops shows funding received for refugee resettlement in an amount totaling over $2 billion dollars.
In a story from LifeSiteNews earlier this year, Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch gave a different number, saying that “Over the past nine years, the USCCB has received a total of $534,788,660 in taxpayer dollars for refugee resettlement programs”. It’s difficult to say which figure is more accurate, or how they’re being tallied. But If either number is correct, the USCCB is receiving — at the very least — hundreds of millions of dollars, all to bring refugees from other countries into America.
Simpson goes on:
Because they [the contractors on the above list] are non-governmental organizations (NGOs), they can and do lobby for advantageous changes to immigration law and build allies in Congress and the bureaucracy, all fertilized by an open spigot of taxpayer dollars. While six of the nine contractors are affiliated with religious groups, the false notion that they are charitable organizations just doing the Lord’s work needs to be corrected. They are federal contractors, relying on the government for most, and sometimes all, of their income. This is big business. They do the government’s bidding, whether it honors religious principles or not.
OnePeterFive asked the USCCB if they could verify how much money they are receiving for these services, and how the money given to them for refugee resettlement is allocated. They did not respond to our inquiry.
Curious about what information is publicly available, I did my own search of USAspending.gov, and found $635,250,759 of government funding directed to the USCCB and its various agencies. After playing with the spreadsheet to remove all the other categories, I discovered that of this total amount, $452,108,508 was received for programs under the umbrella of Migration and Refugee Assistance, for contracts with start dates ranging from 2011 to 2016.
That’s a lot of money for a bishops’ conference to be receiving from the federal government. Enough that one might wonder how it impacts the USCCB’s view on public policy issues. Which is exactly the concern that Deal Hudson, a former advisor to President George W. Bush on Catholic issues, expressed in the aforementioned story from LifeSiteNews:
“Just how dependent have both agencies become on taxpayer money to cover their annual overhead, apart from special programs and services?” Hudson asks. “What percentage of annual receipts does this federal money represent?”
Hudson says he is concerned that an over-dependence on government funding could threaten the Catholic identity of both the USCCB and CRS, and their social justice work.
“How can either institution call itself ‘Catholic’ when they have created financial dependency of the federal government?” he said. “Doesn’t this level of funding make the USCCB hesitant to publicly criticize the Congress and the administration on abortion, same-sex marriage, fetal stem cell research, and euthanasia?”
In light of these staggering figures, the USCCB’s sputtering indignation that anyone would suggest that their work on these matters is for “sordid motives of statistics or financial gain” rings hollow. However much they want to present their work on immigration and refugees as a Gospel issue, it’s difficult to see altruism at work when so many other issues that should concern them go ignored — and so much cash is at stake.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher and Executive Director of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have seven children.