Obama to Push Immigration Reform

This is good news, and probably smart politics:

While acknowledging that the recession makes the political battle more difficult, President Obama plans to begin addressing the country’s immigration system this year, including looking for a path for illegal immigrants to become legal, a senior administration official said on Wednesday.

Mr. Obama plans to speak publicly about the issue in May, administration officials said, and over the summer he will convene working groups, including lawmakers from both parties and a range of immigration groups, to begin discussing possible legislation for as early as this fall.

Some White House officials said that immigration would not take precedence over the health care and energy proposals that Mr. Obama has identified as priorities. But the timetable is consistent with pledges Mr. Obama made to Hispanic groups in last year’s campaign.

He said then that comprehensive immigration legislation, including a plan to make legal status possible for an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants, would be a priority in his first year in office.

One of the things I respected about George W. Bush (insert caveat about all his flaws here) was that he pushed hard for immigration reform, despite strong, and ultimately successful, resistance within his own party. I recognize there are valid countervailing concerns in this area, for instance about undermining the rule of law, strain on public services, and negative effects on poorer Americans. However, I’ve always favored expanded access to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrants,  both as a means of addressing the abuses they suffer, and because I see citizenship as a win-win for most of the parties involved. It’s likely a winning issue for the Democrats as well, so it’s smart politics. It will be interesting to see how the proposal is designed; hopefully this plan will signal the beginning  of a more sane and humanitarian approach towards illegal immigrants in our country.

52 Responses to Obama to Push Immigration Reform

  • Oh dear, I know you’re going to take a lot of heat for this one so let me be the first to say I completely agree with you!

    There is no conflict between welcoming the stranger and upholding the law. Let the punishment fit the “crime”, if risking one’s life to feed one’s family can ever really be considered a “crime” by anyone with an ounce of Christian mercy in them.

    I don’t hate or get angry with people who always bash the immigrants; I feel sorry for them, that they can’t see Christ in them and treat them accordingly.

  • I don’t hate or get angry with people who always bash the immigrants;

    If you equate wanting to uphold immigration laws with immigrant bashing, then the person to be pitied is you.

  • It is a difficult issue precisely because the remedy may be worse than the sickness. I assure you that a “political push” for mass legalization will do no more good for our country than the last two (IRCA in 1986 and the early 1990s with section 241[i]).

    More to the point, I have yet to see any valid statistics or even a statistical model that suggests that there are only 12 million or so persons unlawfully present in the US. Immigration practitioners suggest the number to be nearer to 15 million and immigration authorities put the number closer to 25 million.

    It matters because the agencies that would oversee the legalization of these persons has to be prepared and funded sufficiently to deal with the change without causing massive harm to those persons LAWFULLY present who are seeking or will seek status.

    So, before you jump on the “Justice for the People Without Status” bandwagon, wouldn’t it be smart to insist that Congress do some investigating?

    How can you advocate for a “sane” immigration system without first advocating for a public investigation of the subject?

  • Actually I rather think that Obama will largely solve the illegal alien, as the son of a legal alien I became familiar with the proper legal terms rather early in life, problem but not by immigration reform which I doubt will get through Congress since more than a few Blue Dog Democrats are getting increasingly nervous and won’t want to touch this. I think as the economy completely tanks under his ministrations the problem will largely resolve itself.

    The process appears to be underway.

    http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2008/12/10/20081210goinghome1210.html

  • Instead of pietistic phrases, I would like to see a reasoned argument why current immigration laws are unjust. Catholic social teaching shows that we must be open to immigrants and welcome them. But it also teaches that a country has a right to limit immigration for varied reasons and that immigrants must observe the laws of their home country (something implicitly violated in illegal immigration.) In addition it teaches that a country may return immigrants if they violate their adopted countries laws.

    They may already be such arguments out there. I just haven’t come across them.

  • I have yet to see any valid statistics or even a statistical model that suggests that there are only 12 million or so persons unlawfully present in the US. Immigration practitioners suggest the number to be nearer to 15 million and immigration authorities put the number closer to 25 million.

    What you’re describing is a range of estimates; I am not sure what type of model would be sufficient for you. By definition, it’s very difficult to count people who avoid showing up in official records.

    It matters because the agencies that would oversee the legalization of these persons has to be prepared and funded sufficiently to deal with the change without causing massive harm to those persons LAWFULLY present who are seeking or will seek status.

    I agree this is a serious problem. Adding 12-25 million to basic social service programs is bound to be expensive, and there is likely to be an influx of immigrants into the United States if an immigration policy is announced (the U.S. isn’t Europe, but it certainly has a better safety net than Mexico).

    Some of this cost may be offset because the immigrants will now be able to pay into the system, but they are likely to be part of the 40%-50% who don’t pay income taxes. This can be mitigated to a certain extent by how the program for naturalization is designed; waiting periods, work permits, work history requirements, criminal background checks etc., can help screen out the most problematic cases. In the long-term, I think it will be a benefit to the U.S., as having more citizens is generally a prerequisite to national prosperity.

    I’m not saying it’s an easy question, and I tried to acknowledge some of the concerns in the post. But currently illegal immigrants are vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation and abuse, they are a drain on hospitals and schools that they do not support with taxes, and their presence undermines the rule of law.

    I think allowing them to become legal participants in the economy in some manner, through temporary work permits that lead to citizenship over time or some other mechanism can help address these problems. Were I in their place I would have few scruples about coming to the United States to provide for my family. It’s often argued that these programs are unfair because they favor Mexicans who just happen to live next to the U.S. over other groups. I think that argument goes both ways – U.S. citizenship is determined by the exact same mechanism (physical presence in the country at the time of birth) that determines Mexican citizenship. Creating a path to citizenship won’t necessarily be inexpensive, but I think it would be a step towards a more reasonable immigration strategy.

  • But is there more to citizenship than just being born in a country? If so, are immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, living up to the nature of citizenship?

  • I don’t know whether it’s smart politics or not, but it would be a good move.

  • Phillip,

    You ask for an argument as to why the current laws are unjust. Catholic Social Teaching recognizes a right of people to immigrate in order to seek a better life for themselves and their families. True, like most rights recognized by CST, the right to immigrate can be restricted if restrictions serve the common good. Almost all economists, however, believe that immigration is a net benefit for the economy, and I fail to see any other compelling reason why the laws have to be as restrictive as they are.

  • If there is a range of 12 – 25 million illegal immigrants in the US and this is appropriate, how many more could be allowed in and not negatively affect the common good? Given that the world is filled with poverty, equal if not greater than that in Mexico, how many spots should be opened for people from Ghana and Zimbabwe?

  • Phillip,

    The question right now isn’t how many more to let in; it’s how to best address the fact that about 12 million are already here consonant with their human dignity and the common good. Regarding Ghana and Zimbabwe, as I said above, citizenship is determined by birth. U.S. citizenship v. Ghana citizenship is just as arbitrary as Mexican citizenship v. Ghana citizenship. By your logic, we should allow any citizen of any country to have U.S. citizenship. Furthermore, the fact that they are already present in the country is also a reasonable grounds for differentiating between those in the U.S. and those in Zimbabwe.

  • But the question is relevant to changing US Immigration law. How many more should we in justice allow the law to permit in.

    You don’t answer the question though. Isn’t there more to citizenship than birth?

  • You don’t answer the question though. Isn’t there more to citizenship than birth?

    I was granted citizenship just by virtue of being born here, as were my children. Generally the bar is a bit higher if you were not born here, and that’s necessary for a number of reasons. However, it doesn’t mean we can’t set up work licensing programs and paths to citizenship for illegal immigrants who often are trying to escape crushing poverty.

  • John Henry,

    I find the expression “path to citizenship” to be troubling in this context because it suggests that one is not in place already.

    There are numerous avenues for those who are lawfully present as non-immigrants to obtain immigrant status and, thereafter, citizenship. So too, there are several avenues for those unlawfully present to regularize their status and, thereafter, apply for citizenship.

    We aren’t really talking about how to get this unknown number of persons that are unlawfully present to the point where they are citizens but how to get them lawful status.

    There have been three broad-based attempts to legalize those unlawfully present in the US:

    I. Section 249 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) provides for those who entered prior to January 01, 1972 to register as Lawfully Admitted Permanent Residents (LAPRs) so long as they are 1) persons of good moral character (GMC), 2) not ineligible for citizenship, 3) not deportable, and 4) have had continuous residence in the US since entry.

    II. A range of Legalization Acts in 1982-1986, providing for those who were physically present in the US for specific numbers of years, worked for specific industries, and demonstrated a future competency to become citizens.

    III. Section 245(i) of the INA, providing a waiver for fee of the requirement that one be in status as a non-immigrant in order to apply for immigrant status.

    Section 245(i) charged around $1000 to cure the “defect” of unlawful entry or presence. The up-side was that the costs of administering the program were off-set by the fee and it provided a remedy for those who were unlawfully present but otherwise eligible for Adjustment of Status to that of an LAPR. (245[i] left intact the other requirements of Adjustment like prohibitions against fraud, other criminality, etc.) The down-side was that the number of persons who had entered through fraud or previously sought LAPR status through fraud was extremely high. Since it was the only cure for the aforementioned defect, the amount of resources the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and, after the abolition of the INS, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) were forced to apply to address the fraud was greater than the income generated. These costs were bourn by the legal immigrants through increased fees across the board (hardly seemed fair to me). So too, the not-so-subtle message was that one could “buy one’s way into the US” – that the INA itself was invalid. It, in my opinion, undermined the rule of law by creating a remedy that was based upon money rather than an acknowledgement that it is fundamentally wrong to violate even regulatory laws. From an administrative point of view, it was a train-wreck. Application receipts jumped and dove month to month, making forecasting of resources all but impossible. The result was a “backlog” of all application types (legal and illegal applicants) that drove the processing times from an average of under six months to two years or more in some locations.

    Legalization in the 1980s was worse.

    Congress UTTERLY failed to fund or provide a workable system for administering the process of legalizing millions of unlawfully present aliens. The INS was inundated with fraudulent work letters, proof of residency, and the like that applicants submitted to meet the rigid residency and work requirements of the INA. INS Special Agents went from farm to factory all over the country, proving that the thousands of letters submitted from a particular location were fraudulent. However, since Congress stupidly put a prohibition in the law itself against the use of any finding for any purpose other than the adjudication of the application itself, all of that work (literally tens of thousands of man-hours) was wasted. Unwilling to approve what were proven to be fraudulent applications, thousands and thousands remained unadjudicated for nearly a decade since the US Attorney’s Office would not prosecute them and INS couldn’t, in good conscience, approve them. The result was a decision by the Clinton Administration to approve every single Legalization Application that was still open.

    Talk about undermining the rule of law, eh?

    My point is this, ONLY Section 249 has worked. It is simple and direct. Either you were here before January 1, 1972 or you were not. Everything else in the INA remains the same.

    Obviously, the world is a very different place now and merely updating the date would bring too many applications out of the woodwork to be workable. But, the key to successful regularizing of immigration status for masses of people must rest in a simple, direct approach and, therefore, on good numbers.

    It simply CANNOT be true that there are 12 million unlawfully present persons in the US in 2009 when Congress reported the same numbers in 1995. Until Congress does the kind of research and case-building that is required to know how many people there are, no one should be jumping on the band-wagon to come up with a “remedy.”

    Let them make the case. Force them to do the research and present it publicly. Otherwise, we will have another replay of Legalization with the newly attendant risk of being blown up by a terrorist that slipped through in the chaos.

  • John Henry,

    Not to quibble, but you and your children were not “granted citizenship just by virtue of being born here” any more than you were “granted” status as male or your ethnicity.

    “Citizenship” is a red-herring in this context since I am not aware of any proposal before Congress to grant citizenship to those now lawfully present. The distinction matters because, if you are talking about how to bring those without lawful status to the point that they have lawful status, the justice equation is different. It is not about whether or not the US ultimately grants them citizenship but whether they can remain in the US without fear of removal.

  • G-Veg,

    Thank you for the background on the dysfunctional administration of previous immigration reform legislation. I can only imagine how the next plan will look with architects like Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, although I still believe it may be worth accepting the inevitable inefficiencies.

    It is not about whether or not the US ultimately grants them citizenship but whether they can remain in the US without fear of removal.

    Sorry, I should have been clearer about that. I mentioned temporary worker permits above, and you are right, of course, that there are many ways to be legally in a country even without citizenship. I’ve been in about 15-20 legally, but only a citizen of one.

  • John Henry,

    I should have asked this earlier.

    Assuming that the Census is not a fraud (a big IF with Rahm warming up to it), why now? Why not wait for immigration reform until after the census? Surely those would be numbers that Congress could, in good conscience, rely on?

    Why should we, as a matter of justice, hurredly carp something together rather than waiting until 2011 or 12? Is there some injustice that Catholics should resist that attaches to deliberate lawmaking?

  • If there is a range of 12 – 25 million illegal immigrants in the US and this is appropriate, how many more could be allowed in and not negatively affect the common good?

    I have no idea. All I know is that it’s more than we let in now.

  • I think its not.

  • Why should we, as a matter of justice, hurredly carp something together rather than waiting until 2011 or 12? Is there some injustice that Catholics should resist that attaches to deliberate lawmaking?

    Well, sure, I think the timing is opportunistic. Republicans will assume their time-honored role as xenophobic bigots to alienate hispanic voters shortly prior to the 2010 mid-terms, and the Democrats will hold on to some of their seats. But, as with any other political question, if something is worth doing, we should be happy that it’s being done. Waiting for the perfect timing and ideal administration is a recipe for preserving the status quo rather than improving it. Not to be unkind, but is your concern about administrative timing influenced by a belief that change is not really necessary?

  • But its not xenophobic bigotry to ask that people follow laws and assimilate into the culture.

  • Phillip – sorry to be unclear. I don’t think people who oppose immigration reform are xenophobic bigots; I was referring to a popular caricature of Republican positions, which democratic strategists will rely on to characterize immigration reform opponents. Certainly, there is some bigotry in the U.S., and bigots are likely to oppose immigration reform, but I think it’s entirely unfair to call anyone who opposes immigration reform xenophobic. There is room for good faith disagreement in this area, although I think CST and concern for the common good favor immigration reform.

  • John Henry,

    No, I am not particularly concerned about the timing from a political viewpoint.

    I am concerned about the process.

    Congress has a responsibility to use its powers to collect and interpret information before crafting law. What shareholders would accept less from a board or directors than that? Why should we accept less than that from Congress?

    So, I am not particularly impressed by the urgency to badly cure a 20-year old complaint immediately if it means damaging what IS working now.

  • Thanks. I thought that’s what you meant. But that’s my problem with these issues. People will pull out terms such and “bigotry” or “not following the teachings of Christ” to paint their opponents in a negative light. That’s why I ask such questions. Because if there’s not more than “that’s what I think” kind of answer then you’re open to being called a bigot or unfaithful. Or being able to call others bigots and unfaithful.

  • I think its not.

    Give a reason.

  • I’m the one asking. You give a reason the quotas aren’t high enough.

  • Excellent post!

    I know, however, that manyRepublicans think they smell blood in regards to this possible development.

    The xenophobia they worked up, even over Bush’s attempts, was simply disgraceful and downright ugly. They will now want to turn this into a first major loss for Obama.

    I already saw Pat Buchanan salivating at the mouth, this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

  • “The xenophobia they worked up, even over Bush’s attempts, was simply disgraceful and downright ugly. They will now want to turn this into a first major loss for Obama.”

    Point made.

  • I’m the one asking. You give a reason the quotas aren’t high enough.

    People have the right to immigrate. To overcome that, one has to posit some compelling reason why the restrictions are necessary for the common good. You are asking me to prove a negative.

  • Yes… The infamous “They.”

    WE, those of us who energetically opposed immigration reform under President Bush, opposed the reform for a host of reasons. Sure there were bigots and such. There always are. But there were also a host of principled persons who opposed that dreadful, bloated, hasty bill. Frankly, those who reflexively supported it have nothing to crow about since its passing would have been a disaster that made previous immigration reform look organized and reasonable.

    I appreciate the sentiment that those “in the shadows,” whose life-choices included violating our nation’s laws, deserve some sort of a second chance. When we add a human face to the problem, it is easy to see that most of the people in such a position are no great danger to our way of life.

    However, your characterization of those who disagree is itself disagreeable.

    You assume that only a cold-hearted xenophobe or bigot could remain unmoved by the image of the desperate family that comes to the US in search of opportunity. You assume that we who oppose poorly crafted legislation that will encourage unlawful immigration and do little to restore the rule of law to our border policies oppose such legislation because we are more anxious to see President Obama fail than to see our Country succeed.

    You do us a great disservice and betray your own prejudices and irrationality in the argument.

    It was true before and it is true now that opposition to the party in power and its policies is NOT traitorous. Principled disagreements MUST have a place in our public discourse and your tarring everyone who disagrees with you with the brush of hatred, prejudice, and bigotry reveals more about you than it does about us.

  • The right is not absolute. A nation has the right to limit immigration for the common good. There are at least 12 million illegal immigrants in the country in addition to 10 million who legally came in the 90′s. Given that now approximately 10% of Americans are foreign born, there is potentially a significant problem in assimilating such numbers. Especially those who are illegal immigrants.

    You must have some reason why more is for the common good.

  • The difficulty with immigration reform is that while nearly all experts can agree that the current immigration quotas are very low, any move to legalize the illegal immigrants already here simply incents more people to come in illegally on the theory it will eventually work out for them too. So if you include legalization as part of any refrom bill, you incent people to ignore all of the actual restrictions you put in — and yet there’s really no practical and human way to remove all the illegal immigrants even if that was a good idea in the first place.

    Personally, I’d be in favor of returning to a 19th century style immigration policy and basically letting in anyone without a criminal record or epidemic disease. However, I don’t think that most immigration proponents are actually wanting to deal with the sort of laisse faire would which would result from truly free immigration. When you let people who back home make $2/day into the country, you probably do both them and your own country’s economy a lot of good, but you can hardly be surprised if they consider working for $5/hr for twelve hours a day a very good deal.

  • Depending on who you want to believe the total number of immigrants, legal and illegal may be as high as 16% of the population.

  • Darwin Catholic,

    Forgive me for drawing from your comment a new thread.

    We are assuming that the immigration “problem” is one that can be “solved.”

    As you astutely noted, there may be more persons here than CAN be removed and I would suggest that it may also be true that there are more persons here unlawfully than can be legalized through any efficient system. What harm then is there in leaving the system the way it is?

    Perhaps the only reasonable course is to worry only about those lawfully present. Make THAT system incredibly efficient, thereby creating an incentive to legal immigration. Those who placed themselves in a disfavored position would then reap the consequences of their choices the same as any other regulatory violator.

    To analogize, many townships don’t aggressively enforce building codes. Lots of people play light and loose with the code – expanding and screening in porches, moving interior walls, moving fences, even building out-buildings. Violators have no just cause for complaint if the township abruptly chooses to enforce the law, pulls the plats, and either fines or orders removal of any construction in violation of the code.

    Doesn’t the same reasoning apply to immigration? Shouldn’t the same principles of justice apply?

  • The amount of good that the US is capable of doing for it’s citizens and the rest of the world is directly proportional to the state of it’s economy. A healthy economy is one that is good for both business profitability and worker quality of life. If you increase the number of workers you will necessarily drive down the pay rates and/or other quality of life factors for workers, ultimately that will damage the economy, reducing the good we do in the world through private charity and public aid.

    Immigration has to have limits.

  • If you increase the number of workers you will necessarily drive down the pay rates and/or other quality of life factors for workers

    This isn’t true. The number of workers in the U.S., for example, is several times what it was a hundred or even 50 years ago, yet both pay and quality of life are much higher now than they were back then.

  • blackadderiv,

    This isn’t true. The number of workers in the U.S., for example, is several times what it was a hundred or even 50 years ago, yet both pay and quality of life are much higher now than they were back then.

    I should clarify, that this would be the case if the new workers are brought in too quickly, and especially if they are predominantly unskilled.

  • I guess the operative question is: how quickly is “too quickly” for an economy to adjust.

    If the result was that instead of US companies building factories (or contracting with other companies) in the third world which payed $0.5/hr, we instead let third world immigrants in and let the companies build better, more productive factories here that payed those immigrants $4/hr — everyone would be better off in the long run.

    The question is: would it work that way, or would we let lots of unskilled people in, but then pass labor regulations that made it almost impossible for them to get legal work?

  • DC,

    I guess the operative question is: how quickly is “too quickly” for an economy to adjust.

    Absolutely. Thus unregulated immigration is a serious problem. This is not like the prior centuries where the immigrants could take a piece of unused arable and start farming on it. Even some of the immigration surges from Europe caused much disorder in the US, and those were mostly skilled workers.

    If the result was that instead of US companies building factories (or contracting with other companies) in the third world which payed $0.5/hr, we instead let third world immigrants in and let the companies build better, more productive factories here that payed those immigrants $4/hr — everyone would be better off in the long run.

    Not necessarily, while $.50/hr may give someone a reasonable living in Bangladesh, it certainly doesn’t provide that in the US unless you factor in all of the government aid that such a low-income worker would depend on. Who pays for that aid? Big drain on the economy. Not to mention it will drive down the wages of those making more money now.

  • “A nation has the right to limit immigration for the common good.”

    The common good includes everyone.

    Here are some basic facts from the US Immigration Support website:

    “The average Mexican wage is about $4.15 an hour and those in the agricultural industry make even less. While an individual may be able to survive on that wage alone, it becomes more difficult for those with families. Currently about 40% of the Mexican population is below the poverty line. Unemployment is about 4% but it is estimated that nearly 25% of those working are classified as underemployed.

    Even when jobs are created, in many instances they are not sufficient to meet the growing demand of the Mexican people. Their pay may be so low that they cannot afford to cover even the most basic necessities. Thus, many Mexicans from both small and big cities find the neighboring United States to be extremely attractive.”

    Extremely attractive, to say the least. The journey north is not a pleasure cruise, its a life or death decision. Any “law” that cannot or will not take that into account is not a just law at all.

    No matter what difficulties we here face, our duty as Christians is clear – to welcome the stranger and especially the hungry stranger. Our society does not have to collapse because we do this. At most it might mean that we don’t get to live like a nation of aristocrats while the rest of the world trudges onward. On this point, John Paul II was quite clear:

    ” This is the culture which is hoped for, one which fosters trust in the human potential of the poor, and consequently in their ability to improve their condition through work or to make a positive contribution to economic prosperity. But to accomplish this, the poor — be they individuals or nations — need to be provided with realistic opportunities. Creating such conditions calls for a concerted worldwide effort to promote development, an effort which also involves sacrificing the positions of income and of power enjoyed by the more developed economies.

    This may mean making important changes in established life-styles, in order to limit the waste of environmental and human resources, thus enabling every individual and all the peoples of the earth to have a sufficient share of those resources. In addition, the new material and spiritual resources must be utilized which are the result of the work and culture of peoples who today are on the margins of the international community, so as to obtain an overall human enrichment of the family of nations.”

    I guarantee you that it wasn’t the lifestyles of the people in Mexico he had in mind.

  • Joe,

    do you honestly believe that if we opened the borders up and just allow in everybody who wants to everything would be hunky-dory? There is something different about the US that allows it to be successful. It is not it’s geographic location, or some magic air that makes anybody that comes here productive.

    If every Mexican moved to the US next week it would be utter chaos, the problems would be innumerable. Ultimately the US would no longer be the US, it would be North-Mexico, with ALL of the problems that Mexico has. The only way for us to help those poor Mexicans is to let them come here at a rate which allows them to assimilate into the society so that they can be productive, the rate is not infinite, it’s limited.

    Furthermore, why do we give huge preference to the Mexicans because they can walk here? What about Africans? Eastern Europeans? I guess not only do we open up the borders we’ll have to send planes and ships to the 4 corners to bring ALL of the poor oppressed people here…

    We do much more good by exporting good than importing people.

  • do you honestly believe that if we opened the borders up and just allow in everybody who wants to everything would be hunky-dory?

    So those are the only options? Keep immigration at its current level or have open borders? What about allowing more immigration than we have currently, but keeping some restrictions?

  • Yes the common good includes everyone. Everyone in the world. Including the people in a given country. And Catholic social teaching shows that there are rights. And it also teaches that there are responsibilities. America is called to respect the rights of immigrants. Immigrants are also called to be responsibele in that they obey the laws of their new country and seek to integrate themselves in the culture of the new country.

    America also has rights. One is to ensure that immigration does not cause compromise to its common good. One thing I fear is that if 16% of the country are foreign born, that 1 million new immigrants are coming into the country legally every year and that 500k to 1 million illegal immigrants may come into the country every year, that the common good may be compromised. Thus an argument, in very basic form at this time and from Catholic Social Teaching, that we are at reasonable immigration rates at this time.

  • “do you honestly believe that if we opened the borders up and just allow in everybody who wants to everything would be hunky-dory?”

    That alone, no. That, combined with restructuring our lifestyles as Pope John Paul II suggested – making better use of fewer resources, instead of living like pagans and rushing to the vomitorium sick from our excess consumption – I do think would make things better, if not “hunky-dory”.

    We see immigration as a threat to a way of life that has no justification, that is based on the labor of slaves and near-slaves in other countries and the threat of military, political or economic reprisal against countries that fail to play along by our rules, to our advantage.

    If all business in America, and between American and other countries were conducted on perfectly ethical grounds, then we wouldn’t have as much wealth, fewer people would want to come here, and we would all still be living relatively comfortable lives. As it is, when your country sucks up the worlds wealth as if it were sucking up dirt with a vacuum cleaner, that is where the people will go to.

    If they don’t have a right to come here, why do we have a right to live the way we do, with practically the whole world producing for our benefit?

  • Joe,

    I think it’s unhelpful to phrase arguments conditioned on assuming away central aspects of the human condition. Sure, if people were no longer selfish, stupid and inclined towards evil, everything would be great; communism would work, socialism would work, capitalism would work, any system would work. The question here, as always, is how to do the best we can given the realities of the human condition.

    Arguments for policies that begin with “if all business…were conducted on perfectly ethical grounds,” or the idea that Americans en masse will recognize some ideal of non-selfishness, assume away the most difficult and intractable part of the problem: people.

  • Joe,

    “do you honestly believe that if we opened the borders up and just allow in everybody who wants to everything would be hunky-dory?”

    That alone, no. That, combined with restructuring our lifestyles as Pope John Paul II suggested – making better use of fewer resources, instead of living like pagans and rushing to the vomitorium sick from our excess consumption – I do think would make things better, if not “hunky-dory”.

    If that were true then the chaos would be here and we’d be fleeing to Mexico. I’m sorry, your proposal is Utopian. You’re talking about 300 Million people suddenly becoming authentically Catholic and embracing your own interpretation of the social teachings, then all the 200 Million immigrants doing the same thing in perfect harmony.

  • I don’t actually think that if people were no longer selfish communism and socialism would work (nor do I think that the reason the U.S. is wealthy is because it “sucks up the worlds wealth as if it were sucking up dirt with a vacuum cleaner”). But these are arguments perhaps best left for another day.

  • I’d agree it’s best for another day, if at all. That type of discussion could only be based on competing ideologies, no? You would say even sinless people wouldn’t have sufficient information to make decisions which would result in a just society; I would say, yes, sinless people would be able to exchange and rely on information in a way that could result in a just society. And there we’d stay, I think…but if you think there’s more to discuss there maybe it would be interesting at some point.

  • I agree with you BA. Finally.

  • Matt,

    Perhaps there is some confusion here.

    No one is suggesting that the entire population of Mexico could or should be transplanted to the US. If that’s what you make of my arguments or anyone else’s, that’s just crazy and wrong.

    John Henry,

    “I think it’s unhelpful to phrase arguments conditioned on assuming away central aspects of the human condition. ”

    Then why have ethics and morals at all? Why not just adapt a purely pragmatic philosophy? The Church doesn’t do this.

    In any case, I don’t really “assume them away”; the real point here is to highlight that the unethical foundations, not to mention goals, of our economy hardly give us a right to then turn around and condemn people as criminals who are simply trying to survive.

    IF we were doing all of the right things, THEN would we have serious grounds to be upset with what others are doing. But as it is, we believe we have a divine right to a lifestyle far above subsistence level while, right next door, people can barely earn enough to survive. Nothing in the Catholic social teaching even remotely suggests that we have this right while our neighbor goes hungry.

    An unethical world, a fallen nature – maybe so. But we are Christians! If we don’t strive to become better, even as Christ commanded, “perfect” then we are wasting our time. We may as well become atheists. Invoking our fallen nature is never a way to escape the demands of justice and charity made upon us. What the Church teaches about society is valid for all people, and she teaches with authority on these matters.

  • Joe,

    Well, we’re going to transition into Triduum blogging soon, I think we’re talking past each other, and this is a large subject, so I’ll just offer a few brief comments that we could develop further in the future:

    1) Observing that people are sinful presupposes rather than ignores ethics;

    2) This observation has important policy implications; it is imprudent to develop policies based on the premise that people aren’t sinful;

    3) This is not in any way the same as saying our fallen nature allows us to escape the demands of justice;

    4) I am unclear on what specific policy you are claiming the Church has taught with authority. Certainly I think trying to explore legal options to improve the lives of illegal immigrants is the best application of CST here, but you seem to be pushing for a lot more than that. But there will probably be plenty of opportunities to go over those other policies in future posts.

  • “2) This observation has important policy implications; it is imprudent to develop policies based on the premise that people aren’t sinful;”

    I wasn’t saying we should; what I am saying is that we are sinful in ways that ought to make us think twice before shutting the doors to undocumented workers. I believe that immigration wouldn’t be perceived as the problem that it is if we were willing to make the sort of adjustments, as individuals and a nation, that JP II mentioned, and that really the whole Christian tradition implores us to.

    As it is, I think we see immigrants as threat to a lifestyle that has no inherent right to exist. That’s all for now, I’m sure, like you say, we can discuss it more in the future.

Follow TAC by Clicking on the Buttons Below
Bookmark and Share
Subscribe by eMail

Enter your email:

Recent Comments
Archives
Our Visitors. . .
Our Subscribers. . .