Wash. Times accused critics of House immigration bill, which includes Conference of Catholic Bishops, of "disingenuous[ness]"

››› ››› KURT DONALDSON

A Washington Times editorial claimed that opponents of a recent House immigration bill have "disingenuously charged" that, under the bill, "anyone who helps an illegal immigrant would be considered a felon." But the bill explicitly includes under "criminal offenses" any person who knowingly "assists, encourages, directs, or induces" an illegal alien to "reside in or remain in the United States." So while courts would ultimately have to determine the scope of the conduct proscribed under the bill, critics -- including prominent religious leaders -- can hardly be accused of "disingenuous[ness]" for citing its plain language.

In a March 28 editorial, The Washington Times claimed that opponents of a recent House immigration bill (H.R. 4437) have "disingenuously charged" that, under the bill, "anyone who helps an illegal immigrant would be considered a felon." But the bill explicitly includes under "criminal offenses" any person who knowingly "assists, encourages, directs, or induces" an illegal alien to "reside in or remain in the United States." So while courts would ultimately have to determine the scope of the conduct proscribed under the bill, critics -- which include prominent religious leaders -- can hardly be accused of "disingenuous[ness]" for citing its plain language.

As Media Matters for America has noted, opponents of the House bill contend it would subject private citizens and charitable organizations to prosecution if they offer any assistance to illegal immigrants. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) reportedly stated that the bill "would literally criminalize ... every person who helped, assisted, reached out, [or] otherwise responded in a humanitarian way to the needs of immigrants." Fox News political contributor and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich (R-GA) made a similar statement about the bill on the March 23 edition of Hannity & Colmes: "[I]f I were asked by the Republicans in the Congress, I would urge them to drop the one section that relates to religious and other nonprofit institutions being good Samaritans. I think that that's actually a legitimate criticism and worth dropping."

Prominent religious leaders have also asserted that the House immigration bill would criminalize charitable aid to illegal immigrants. For example, in a March 22 New York Times op-ed, Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of Los Angeles, wrote:

The proposed Border Protection, Antiterrorism and Illegal Immigration Control bill, which was approved by the House of Representatives in December and is expected to be taken up by the Senate next week, would among other things subject to five years in prison anyone who "assists" an undocumented immigrant "to remain in the United States."

[...]

Providing humanitarian assistance to those in need should not be made a crime, as the House bill decrees. As written, the proposed law is so broad that it would criminalize even minor acts of mercy like offering a meal or administering first aid.

Similarly, in a March 1 statement issued on behalf of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, a group that "strongly opposes H.R. 4437," Washington, D.C., archbishop Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick warned that the bill "is overly broad and punitive" and that, in addition to "bring[ing] undue harm to immigrants, asylum-seekers, and refugees," it would "extend to U.S. citizens as well, including those, such as our own parishioners, who offer, in an act of mercy, basic sustenance to an undocumented migrant."

From the March 28 editorial in The Washington Times:

The House bill wisely addresses border security and interior enforcement. It presupposes that economic incentives are the primary motivation both for illegal aliens and their illegal employers in the United States. Thus, it greatly increases the penalties not only on those caught here illegally, but also for employers hiring them. Critics have disingenuously charged that this means anyone who helps an illegal immigrant would be considered a felon. What it does do is substantially increase penalties for those involved in criminal smuggling rings. The legislation also includes building a 700-mile wall along the Mexican border -- an expensive but affordable and necessary measure.

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Immigration
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The Washington Times
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