The Baltimore Police Department recently announced it will recognize issued to “undocumented immigrants” by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore. According to the Archdiocese, and a local church coalition Baltimore United for Leadership Development (BUILD), illegal aliens are “reluctant to come forward as victims or witnesses of crime” and “helping immigrants get an identity card from a trusted institution — the Catholic Church — will make people more comfortable talking to officers.”

Advocates for illegal aliens have, for decades, falsely asserted that those unlawfully present in the United States are hesitant to report crime due to a fear of being deported. However, one need only observe the number of people who show up at “Undocumented and Unafraid” protests, and publicly declare their illegal status, to know those claims are absurd.

And neither the Roman Catholic Church, nor the BUILD coalition, have explained how an ID card issued by a non-governmental entity will make people who fear deportation more comfortable dealing with law enforcement. A Catholic parish identity card confers no rights or privileges. And illegal aliens in Maryland can already obtain drivers licenses and state ID cards.

Nevertheless, this program shouldn’t be dismissed as an anti-Trump/pro-illegal-alien publicity stunt by the Catholic Church. As FAIR has repeatedly noted, the use of the term “undocumented immigrant” is deliberately employed to convey the impression that illegal aliens have committed a minor infraction that can be corrected by simple, ministerial action. The recognition of the church-issued ID program is nothing other than a deliberate attempt to create the impression that individual communities, like Baltimore, can bypass federal immigration law and “regularize the status” of illegal aliens by providing them with “documents.”

That interference has dire implications for constitutional federalism. Like defense, the minting of currency, and the conduct of diplomacy, immigration is an exclusively federal function. This is because, as the Supreme Court noted in Harisiades v. Shaughnessy, “[A]ny policy toward aliens is vitally and intricately interwoven with contemporaneous policies in regard to the conduct of foreign relations, the war power, and the maintenance of a republican form of government.”

When Baltimore attempts to usurp the federal power over immigration it upsets the constitutional system of checks and balances that makes our government run. Simply put, the City of Baltimore (much less the local archdiocese) doesn’t have access to the type intelligence, defense, and diplomatic information necessary to determine if the admission of a particular immigrant is in the national interest. Sanctuary city policies, alternative ID programs, and states’ refusal to cooperate with immigration enforcement only make the U.S. vulnerable to infiltration by terrorists and criminals.

Furthermore, in a Republic whose founding was largely prompted by a desire to separate church and state, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has no business attempting to perform a governmental function. Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle has asserted that the Catholic Church is an effective “validator” for the police. But Churches are not set up to confirm personal identities. And Catholic officials in Baltimore have publicly stated that, “there will not be a specific database of cardholders.” One wonders how those processing ID applications plan to guard against fraud if they can’t refer to a dedicated records system to determine when and to whom they have issued ID cards.

In the end, documents issued by the Catholic Church don’t change the status of illegal aliens. But programs like Baltimore’s do create a false impression that illegal migration isn’t a crime and that immigration enforcement is somehow immoral or unjust.

Matt O'Brien writes for the Federation of Americans for Immigration Reform. 

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