Habitat For Humanity: Americans Must Come First
June 19, 2009, 05:00 AM
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Like many Americans, I have admired the work of Habitat for Humanity International for years. But, unlike most Americans, I have had a long nagging feeling that inevitably some of Habitat's efforts have been made on behalf of either illegal aliens or recently-arrived legal immigrants.

This week, Habitat volunteers began their work building houses on a non-profit basis for America's poor. "The Fund for Humanity" finances the building costs with money that comes from existing homeowners' house payments on no-interest loans that in turn come from a pool of funds provided by supporters as well as donations generated by fund-raising activities.

Since its 1976 founding by Millard and Linda Fuller in a small, interracial, Christian community outside of Americus, Georgia, Habitat for Humanity has built over 300,000 houses around the world, providing more than 1.5 million people in 3,000 communities with decent, affordable shelter.

The Fullers gave up what they described as a successful business and affluent life style in Montgomery, Alabama to begin their new life of Christian service that gradually evolved into the concept of "partnership housing"—the residents-to-be working with volunteers.

In 1984, Habitat for Humanity got a nationwide boost when former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn signed on to build houses in inner city New York. This year, the Carter Work Project will supervise Habitat volunteers in Southeast Asia constructing homes in countries along the Mekong River, including Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China.

Another high visibility volunteer, Arizona Cardinal Super Bowl quarterback and Iowa native Kurt Warner will travel to with his wife Brenda to Cedar Rapids to reconstruct homes in partnership with families devastated by the 2008 floods.

Unfortunately, any time that I read about "an ecumenical Christian ministry," as Habitat describes itself, I assume that the organization either lobbies for amnesty or would eagerly support higher levels of legal immigration.

And of course Carter's involvement raised my eyebrows, too.  We certainly know that his sympathies lie with refugees and more immigration.

In the late 1979, the last year of Carter's administration, when the "boat people" plight came to public attention, many in government and private voluntary agencies debated what the United States should or could do about the several hundred thousand refugees languishing in Southeast Asian asylum camps.

Carter soon made the decision to resettle 14,000 refugees per month. Soon thereafter, his thoughts focused on strengthening the then ad hoc domestic resettlement system. (See a video here of then-Vice President Walter Mondale welcoming Vietnamese in Iowa and encouraging Americans to "have them in your neighborhood and to be able to get to know them, and maybe go to church together, or to see them get elected to the city council, or something like that and hire them for your business. It carries a much different, more profound lesson. It has to strike you.")

Eventually, Carter signed (ironically on April Fools Day) the Refugee Resettlement Act of 1980 that opened, to put it mildly, a complete can of worms.

Carter's misguided sympathy, as reflected the 1980 Act, triggered the infamous Mariel Boatlift and created a welcoming atmosphere for refugees that we are still coping with today.

And, again ironically given his association with Habitat, Carter's open-arms refugee policy led to housing regulations violations when many immigrant families exceeded the limit of the numbers of people who can legally live in a dwelling.

Now my suspicions have been confirmed. With the illegal alien population vastly greater today than it was twenty-five years ago when Habitat began its crusade, and with charities and church groups much more tolerant of illegals, some have indeed found their way into housing that should be reserved for Americans only.

  • During a 2006 ICE raid in western Michigan, officers found fugitives from El Salvador living in a Habitat home. See photo here.
     
  • On a military website, a combat veteran and natural-born U.S. citizen wrote: "I am a combat vet and an American natural born citizen. I lost my home to a tornado in 2001. Habitat turned me down when I applied for help. I also did not get any help from FEMA either. I applied to Habitat again in 2003 and again they turned me down. Habitat builds homes for illegal aliens and non-natural born citizens all the time. I know of one woman they built a home for who was born in Jamaica and neither of her parents were citizens of America."

At the same time, Habitat is subject to increasing outside pressure to accept more immigrants, possibly including illegal aliens, as participants.

  • In Memphis, where the Mexican and Central American population has more than doubled in the last decade, the Greater Memphis Habitat joined with the Hispanic Business Alliance to encourage Spanish-speakers to apply for the homes. Only a last minute vote by the board of directors mandated that applicants must be legal residents and authorized to work in the U.S, basing its guidelines on the Federal Housing Administration's rules for issuing mortgage insurance.
     
  • The Atlanta-based Habitat leaves decisions based on immigration to other affiliates nationwide, passing the buck and leaving open the opportunity for aliens to qualify.
     
  •  New York City Habitat does not have an "official" immigration policy but feels that its list of required documents should disqualify all but legal residents. [Illegals Denied Habitat Housing, by Daniel Connolly, Memphis Commercial Appeal, April 30, 2008]

And legal immigrants, including refugees, either live in or are about to move into new Habitat homes.

  • In Denver, landscaper Rodolfo Reyes and his daughter Bella Rose need "a place to call their own"
     
  • In Anaheim and Yorba Linda California, Carmen and Hector Granados twenty-year residents, look forward to their new home. Another immigrant, Khalifa Imam moved into his own Habitat for Humanity home in 2006.
     
  • In Pittsburgh, a Somali family of eight brought to the area from Kenya by Catholic Charities has a new home.

Habitat's only firm requirements, according to its website, are that prospective homeowners must demonstrate need, an ability to repay the mortgage; and a willingness to partner with Habitat. Immigration status goes unmentioned. Anything else could leave Habitat exposed to future attacks by the radical left, Open Borders fanatics.

Of course, it is hard to speak out against any needy person having a home of their own. But the brutal truth is that, in a pecking order of who qualifies, native-born Americans must be at the top.

Here's what a Pennsylvania volunteer told me:

"I wouldn't have worked the Somali home because, frankly, there's so many needy Americans that I feel should have had the opportunity. It's not that the Somali case isn't compelling—it is. But now, as refugees, they have a whole new life opened to them anyway: job opportunities, school for their kids, a western lifestyle. For them, the house is just the cherry on the top.

"What about the thousands of Americans who have suffered for decades? Why don't they count?

"And as for Carter building homes in Vietnam, that's just nonsense. Whatever assets Habitat has, be they monetary or human capital, has to be put to work here in the U.S."

It may sound churlish to protest housing for immigrants and refugees. But my position on this is the same as it is on every other immigrant related issue: American families must come first.

Contact Habitat of Humanity here.

Joe Guzzardi [email him] is a California native who recently fled the state because of over-immigration, over-population and a rapidly deteriorating quality of life. He has moved to Pittsburgh, PA where the air is clean and the growth rate stable. A long-time instructor in English at the Lodi Adult School, Guzzardi has been writing a weekly column since 1988. It currently appears in the Lodi News-Sentinel.