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Steve King loses a bishop

Steve King, the Iowa congressman with a fondness for citing dogs, (drug) mules, and cantaloupes in making illustrative points about immigrants, has earned the ire not only of immigrant advocacy groups but also of fellow Republicans like House Speaker John Boehner, Paul Ryan, and Eric Cantor. For contending that for every undocumented high school valedictorian there are a hundred drug smugglers, he’s won four Pinocchios from the Washington Post’s Fact Checker page. Now he’s also incurred the disapproval of Sioux City, Iowa, Bishop R. Walker Nickless:

I am disappointed by Rep. King's remarks, which speak of migrants in a way that undermines their human dignity and the respect owed them as children of God. While Catholics may disagree on the specific approach to reforming the immigration system, they should agree that the immigration debate should be conducted in a civil and humane manner. I urge the U.S. House of Representatives to address the immigration issue on its merits. I support common sense reform that provides a reasonable path to citizenship for the undocumented and promotes family unity.

Not quite the “slamming” that some news sites seem to wish—but good, sensible remarks nonetheless. King, quick to pivot, sees a fund-raising opportunity in what he claims is willful misunderstanding by those inclined to disagree with him. Many of the “dozens of messages from Hispanics” he says he's received are supportive--and "declare disgust for the way the left has tried to twist my words. If you also agree, I hope you’ll make a generous donation to my campaign. Every single dollar you’re able to give will help me fight back against these baseless attacks.”

About the Author

Dominic Preziosi is Commonweal’s digital editor.



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How bad is this guy. He even goes beyond Limbaugh and Hannity, both of whom are being dropped by many local stations.  Even Falwell and Robertson drew back when the right  went against them. 

I am disappointed by Rep. King's remarks...

The bishop is disappointed? Well, that's better than being delighted, no doubt. But disappointed is what you are when you expected a person to do or say something better. Not the most charitable of persons, not a saint, not even a bishop could expect that of King.

If ever there were hate words the words of this monster King fit exactly. It is important that a civil society does not tolerate such hateful words. 

Bishop Nickless should have said, I am dissapointed by Rep. King's remarks, whick speak of illegal imigrants in a way that undermines their human dignity and...

It is also true that illegal immigrants, who initiate their careers as residents of the United States of America by undermining their own human dignity by disrespecting and violating our immigration laws, and then in many cases committing social security fraud and collectng welfare benefits, etc... And into the bargain, some of them show up at demonstrations demanding amnesty, and ultimately, citizenship.

I'm not bying it, and the good Bishop ought not to be selling it.

Bob  - the word "migrant" and the word "immigrant" have slightly different meanings and connotations.  "Migrant" might encompass a broader swath of situations.

But I think it's the omission of the word "illegal" that you're really objecting to.  Certainly it's true that many migrants have broken the law.  But are our current immigration laws just?  I believe they're not.  The bishops (not just Bishop Nickless) may have this in mind in refusing to emphasize that they are here illegally.  Catholic social teaching has a less absolute approach to many aspects of the law than we are accustomed to.  Thus, even though a migrant may have broken a law by coming here to work, he may have had to do this in order to support his family, and that need supersedes the law.


As a follow-on to my previous comment: this two-side piece of collateral is a good primer on the bishops' views on immigration reform.  Would that this advice were followed in Congress.




Are our immigration laws just?  Who gets to define that?  And in the meantime, we don't want to have folks from other countries deciding to define it for us.  We as a nation have a right to control our borders.  Now, if the Bishop is saying that, no, we Catholic Bishops have the absolute right to tell all American citizens what is just, that is their right as  American citizens and their obligation as Bishops.  But they ought to be very specific about why the laws are unjust, and stop trying to demonize and marginalize anyone who disagrees with them.

Even here, on a Catholic website, we see posters demonizing immigrants. I  wouldn't hold it against someone who entered illegally to seek a better life for their families;I would do the same for me and mine.

Bob S. --

It seems to me we have to be concerned with the original injustices suffered by the immigrants, and those injustices are found in the immigrants' homelands, not here.  In Mexico and the other Latin American countries the economic systems have been unjust for many, many generations.  For generations, even hundreds of years, the top 1% have been taking most of the economic profits -- you know, the way the top 1% have started to do in this country.

So it seems to me that our bishops and politicians should be exerting their brotherly influence on the bishops and politicians of those countries so that there is no need for the immigrants to leave their home countries and families and friends.  

But the basic moral question for you and me is:  do we have obligations to our neighbors from, say, Mexico?  I say that if we call ourselves Christians we cannot avoid helping them.  "Love thy neighbor as thyself" is not an option, it's a necessity.  Take it up with Jesus if you disagree.

I read Jim's link and the first thing that the bishops suggest is as part of comprehensive immigration reform which has been all over the press in recent months is:

Global anti-poverty efforts


Many migrants are compelled to leave their homes out of economic necessity in 

order to provide even the most basic of needs for themselves and their families. 

The bishops call for international efforts designed to create conditions in which 

people do not have to leave their homes out of necessity. Trade, international 

economic aid, debt relief, and other types of economic policies should be pursued 

that result in people not having to migrate in desperation in order to survive

I have not seen this discussed in any of the comprehensive immigration reforms. All I hear about are paths to citizenships and border security. The fundamental issue, however, is imbalances in economies and social and political structures. There should be far more attention paid to the impact of NAFTA and GATT on local economies. It frustrates me to no end to hear politicians rattle on about free trade but fail to inlcude labour and environmental standards and equity within the agreements so that the trade is not just free but is, in fact, fair as well. I try to support as much as I can fair trade products between co-operatives here and in Latin American countries. But overwhelmingly, free trade does not include these other elements as the bureaucrats argue that the agreement is about trade and not these other issues such as environment and labour (as if these, in reality, can be separated).


It is discouraging because whether the party in charge is Liberal or Conservative, Democratic or Republican, the result when it comes to trade is always the same!


The above element should be a key component because the US needs to ask why all these people are flooding in to begin with. You don't see similar issues on the northern border!!


I think, too, before we can seriously weigh in on economic justice in other countries, we need to look in the mirror. The poor may be better off here than in many places, but we still have quite a way to go ourselves. 

Are our immigration laws just?  Who gets to define that? 

Of course, our legislators make the laws, and courts may get an opportunity to decide whether or not they are just or at least constitutional.  But ultimately, we the citizens get to decide whether the work of our lawmakers is just, and to hold our leaders accountable.

The Republican Congressional leadership has pretty much univocally distanced themselves as far from Rep. King as they could.  That's a big step forward for the GOP.  Imagine if a presidential primary were in full swing, and a member of the media in a televised debate asked Republican presidential candidates to comment on King's dopy words.  If this was 2012, I'd think we'd have been fed a depressing bushel basket full of equivocations and evasions by the candidates.



As always "Who is my neighbor?" The Samaritan was not only an immigrant but a hated group. We are citizens of heaven before we are of our country.


In your example, an individual human person, the Samaritan, decides to help out a suffering person by binding his wounds and checking him into an inn, and paying the innkeeper with his own resources.  The Samaritan didn't demand resources from anyone else, but used his own.  He didn't demand instant legal immigrant status (or instant citizenship) from whatever government entity had oversight, if there was any government entity extant.  But you get my point (I hope).

Incidentally Bill, nice to hear from you again. 

Millions of immigrants come to the United States because of the lure of massive numbers of jobs.  If the jobs didn't exist, they wouldn't come.  (The image of immigrants sneaking over the border to live off of American welfare is a figment of the Right's paranoid imagination.)

Like other Americans, some of these immigrants pay taxes and some are paid cash under the table.  Their "illegal" status doesn't mean that they are somehow ripping off the American public.  It means that they themselves have few or no rights and that by and large they are exploited by the same middle and upper classes who hypocritically complain about them.

The fact is, the Right wants them to remain undocumented so they can continue to exploit them.  But there's no question whatsoever that they play an essential role in the American economy.

I wonder what our immigrant ancestors had to go through to come to, and become citizens of, this country?  Mine came from Ireland, Prussia and Holland (the country names in play at that time).

I know that the ones from Ireland and Germany pretty much went to the local county clerk, signed up and were granted citizenship within a couple of years.  This was in the mid 1800s, before the Civil War.  I doubt if they had to know much about the US outside of the fact that they were here, were married and raising scads of kids, and wanted to buy land and farm that land.

"Legal" immigration wasn't much of an issue in those days.  The more the merrier.


You are quite right about the drawing power of jobs.  And, there may be some conclusions to draw from that fact. 

In the old Soviet Union, one needed an internal passport to travel around the country.  For many decades, it was illegal to migrate, especially to Moscow.  Nevertheless, Moscow's population never stopped growing, and that was not the result of a high birthrate.  Russians simply observed that a) there was very little opportunity for advancement in the hinterlands, and b) that the prospects seemed a lot better in the big city.  So they found a way to move and settle there, passport or no passport.  Even a completely totalitarian state was unable to stop this flow to the major cities.

That illustrates why all the talk about "secure borders" is just so much blather.  We don't generally worry about "secure borders" with Canada, because Canadians generally find enough opportunity north of the border.  Some of us seem to worry about Mexico and Central America precisely for the reason you cite:  the attraction of jobs.  That attraction is essentially irresistible.

Instead of wasting money building walls and fences, we would do better to use that money to invest in the economies of the countries we fear (and NOT just in maquiladoras near our border!).  Then, the citizens of those countries might be able to see opportunity in their own lands, and not have to separate from home and family just to make a halfway decent living. 

Is this crazy?  Consider that when the recession hit and jobs dried up, so did the flow of new immigrants from Latin America.  And some who had come earlier decided to go home, at least until things improved. 

Evidence-based decision making is always better than prejudice.

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