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Wake-up call

Migrants and ministering


Episcopal priests, though married with children, can become Roman Catholic priests who ordinarily are sworn to celibacy and bachelorhood. Do other Catholic priests begrudge this? Are they jealous? Do they view the former Episcopal priests as interlopers and illegitimate? Do they ostracize them?

Not if they are pure of heart and true to their mission. Is it a tenable assertion that in a way, many of the migrants are analogous to the Episcopal priests and legal American residents are the bearers of the original faith?

This comparison may be offensive, but that doesn't negate its debatable applicability. After all, patriots subscribe to the concept of shared humanity and charity, even in the absence of a pragmatic delivery system.

But are there fatal impediments to unconditionally welcoming them, whether we call them migrants or by some more technically precise but harsher legal language? They are seeking to improve the quality of their lives and their standard of living. But they are not refugees in the sense, for instance, of the Jews on the ship St. Louis of the Hamburg-America Line, whom President Franklin Roosevelt refused to allow entry into the United States, knowing that many would face certain death in German death camps.

From all races and ethnicities, millions of other genuine refugees over many generations were, with numbers that the country could absorb, allowed to settle here, provided they met the legal criteria. They received none of the benefits, such as prepaid credit cards, that are being showered upon our latest migrants. And they were required to have sponsors who would, in effect, be co-signers to assure they would not become "public charges.”

Aspects of past policy were grossly unfair. There should be neither means tests nor an obligatory social network ready to spring into action to pay the debts of a person who, if deported because of poverty or being unattached, would be in peril if denied sanctuary.

Nonetheless, there have been abuses and the politicians have been complicit. Nobody can blame the migrants for doing what works to achieve their objective. All of us would do the same, and many of our ancestors did so. Migrants have been correctly advised that all they need to do is say "asylum" to get their way.  

We are living in a time when shibboleths increasingly have the force of law.

Regardless of the stresses that migrants are bringing to our struggling economy, they must not be despised, ganged-up upon, or described collectively as undesirables, as many radio talk show hosts and others are doing. Neither should they be pampered as aristocrats. Entitlements should be needs-based and with firm but humane strings attached.

If people perceive that they are being treated as second-class citizens in their own country, and feel overwhelmed by unaddressed exasperation, there is a risk of civil unrest and, tragically, migrants may be targeted.

It is essential that there be vetting prior to entry, to keep out the minority of criminals who may have infiltrated their ranks. Health screens and vaccinations must be mandatory. And in rare instances of aggravated violence, such as the videotaped assault on NYPD officers, deportation of the guilty and subsequent ineligibility for readmission. 

Apparently, that is more likely to happen to folks found in possession of counterfeit Covid vaccination cards. Federal law enforcement must again operate in full partnership with the NYPD and other congruent city and state agencies. Politicians who order law enforcement under their command to defy federal law and refuse to cooperate with those charged with executing it should be removed from their offices.

Historically, many immigrants who have prospered and enhanced our nation were illiterate and poor on arrival. Many had to resort to the "hooks and crooks" that were accessible back then. They had to get their foot in the door or else all would be lost. 

Every generation uses whatever means is available to them. 

Migrants need sustenance, like everybody else, and if the political decision is made to curtail the benefits they have been receiving, there must be a way for them to make up the difference. "Nothing will come of nothing,” said a semi-mythological king of yore. And there is dignity in labor. 

But the migrants are between a rock and a hard place. If they get jobs, some nativists accuse them of taking jobs from Americans; if they don't work, they're called lazy, mooching parasites. 

New York's State Civil Service Commission has identified 20,000 vacancies in the state and the State University of New York, under seven "transitional titles,” which asylum-seekers will be eligible to fill. Qualifications are not stringent. Their participation in the economy will support their sense of having a stake in society and, by so doing, expedite their integration.

Immigrant workers will get the same wages, sick leave, overtime and perks as other workers. This protects everyone. When there is a level playing field, bosses don't get to construct speed bumps.

Mayor Eric Adams has indicated there may be openings in the city as well. That's fine, as long as legal residents get priority. The new NYC Workers Bill of Rights will be distributed to each and every employee starting July 1. And every immigrant, regardless of status, will be given information about unionization. 

Now that's what I call a passport to America!

There's more good news on the labor front. In early February, State Senator Jessica Ramos introduced a trio of bills, called the "Wage Theft Deterrence Package.” Penalties would include loss of liquor license and a suspension by the Tax Department of a business's Certificate of Authority, which would basically shut it down. Under the New York Penal Law, which took effect in September of last year, wage theft is now considered larceny.

According to ProPublica, more than 127,000 New Yorkers have been victims of wage theft, and more than $79 million in earnings have been lost, despite the New York State Department of Labor's endeavors to recover it.

The surge of migrants is unprecedented, and our infrastructure is buckling. But far more destabilizing will be the invasive menace of government surveillance of the entire population, through digital currency, in relation to central banks. The carbon footprint each of us leaves on this earth is like the footprints that seagulls leave on wet sand, compared with our expanding and mutating digital footprints.

Another controversial issue is Section 230, the only surviving provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 that the U.S. Supreme Court struck down. That one is a mixed bag, but it should stay in effect.

It says that Facebook, Meta, Instagram et al are not publishers, but are intermediaries, and are not legally liable for harmful content, as long as they weren't its original producers. It protects them from most civil lawsuits. The theory is that people are responsible for their own online conduct and its end results. These tech giants are thus regarded as facilitators and vessels.

Almost five billion people worldwide use the internet. Policing it would be impossible. Without Section 230,  censorship would defeat the entire purpose of open lines of communication. Everybody's thought processes would be screened like yellow dust through a gold prospectors sieve. "If the law makes us liable for the speech of others, the biggest platforms would likely become locked,” notes the Electronic Freedom Foundation.

The flip side of Section 230 was illustrated last week when Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Meta, during testimony at a Senate hearing, turned to families of suicides and others who were hurt by online bullying and apologized. He was put on the spot by a senator who suggested he do so, and Zuckerberg, who thinks fast on his feet, figured he had nothing to lose and could gain some repairing of his image by being quotably, although mildly, penitential.

But he made clear that he had no intention of compensating the casualties or their survivors. According to Bloomberg, Zuckerberg had in the past been urged by his former vice president of global affairs to hire 45 employees who would be tasked with suppressing and expunging predatory material. But he demurred on principle. It would have cost Zuckerberg (whom Forbes estimates has a net worth of over $167 billion) less than the $100,000 that pop star Taylor Swift gifted, of her own volition, to each of the members of her traveling entourage. 

Where is my root-canal specialist (a participant in union plans) when I need her? She had just the right touch when striking raw nerves. Perfect prep for reading tomorrow's front page news.

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