Program on May 9 focuses on complicated issue of ‘illegal’ immigration

Posted 4 May 2024 at 7:34 pm


Note advertisements in the Orleans Hub and Pennysaver on Rev. Dr. William Wilkinson’s presentation at the Hoag Library Thursday, May 9, at 6:30 p.m. on immigrants and race.

 A very active Christian recently asked, “Why don’t those ‘illegals’ become ‘legal?’”

The answer: most can not.  An immigration judge, Walter Ruhle, in a speech at the Buffalo Catholic Center said it’s virtually impossible.  A friend, very successful, who came from Mexico in 1993 at the age of12, has spent $35,000 on legal fees, but remains “undocumented.”

In the past, we allowed Chinese to come to work on the railroads, but wouldn’t allow them to become citizens. In 1924, we ruled that Japanese could not become citizens.

We’ve done the same thing recently with about 6 million mainly Mexican farmworkers, who came from 1986 to 2003 to work in our farms, in food processing, service industries and even health care, but blocked them from citizenship.

Secondly, it’s not the immigrant workers who are illegal. It’s their employers who are illegal.  The 1986 law, which still applies (despite two failed major bi-partisan efforts to correct it) makes it illegal to hire “undocumented” workers.

Thus, it is the growers, food processors, hotel and restaurant owners, who are breaking the law. Clearly the 1986 law was impractical and we seemingly had no intention of enforcing it. To go back nearly 40 years and do so now, would be impractical and unfair.

Even more so, it would be unfair and cruel, to evict “undocumented” workers, 2/3rds of whom have been here for over 20 years and have had children and developed families,  with no practical way to become documented.

Also, it would make no sense to undermine “small” farmers, who still rely on such workers.   Orleans County agricultural economy would suffer dearly.

We citizens of this area and good Christians should know this. But, we are inclined “un-Christianly” to blame “the least of these” (in terms of power and influence.)

Take the time and effort to learn the truth.

Come hear Rev. Dr. Willliam Wilkinson this Thursday. Read up on the program two months ago, “Are Immigrants Good for Orleans?” featuring Sheriff Christopher Bourke, major farmers, an immigrant, historian Bill Lattin and immigrant case workers.

There will be handouts on that prior program and other immigrant worker issues.

Hope to see many of you this Thursday.

Bob Golden


Golden, a retired probation director in Orleans County, has worked on this issue since 1962, including private, county, national and Diocesan roles.