Arizona, Immigration, and Moral Panic

Monday, April 26, AD 2010

When I first heard of the controversy swirling around Arizona’s “draconian” new immigration law, I’ll admit I was skeptical. It’s not that I thought I would approve of the Arizona law (I tend to be of the view that immigration is a net benefit to America). But hyperbole is an all too common feature of political discourse, and I had to wonder whether the bill was really as harsh and wrongheaded as its critics were making out.

After reading the text of the bill, however, I have to say that, yes, it really is that bad. The bill would criminalize charitable activities directed at illegal immigrants, would making it a crime for an illegal immigrant to try to get a legitimate job, and, in an Orwellian twist, would make illegal immigrants guilty of trespassing for being on private property even with the owner’s permission.

The law also requires state officials to enforce federal immigration laws, effectively turning every Arizona cop into a part time border patrol agent. Arizona’s politicians may like the idea of having cops enforce the immigration code because it makes them look tough, but actual police tend to hate the idea, as it makes their job more difficult and forces them to take resources away from actual police work. (During the debate on the Bush immigration bill back in 2006, for example, the Major Cities Chiefs Associations came out against a requirement for state police to enforce immigration laws, arguing that doing so “undermines trust and cooperation with immigrant communities, which are essential elements of community oriented policing,” and would require scarce resources to be devoted to immigration enforcement rather than other, higher priorities).

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0 Responses to Arizona, Immigration, and Moral Panic

  • Under the law, any citizen who feels the state or locality isn’t fully enforcing the immigration laws (perhaps because they are spending to much time trying to solve murders instead of raiding soup kitchens)

    Just out of curiousity, do you have an idea of what share of a typical departments man-hours are actually devoted to investigating homicides, and at what point the marginal utility of adding additional officers to such detail falls to zero?

  • The cops in Central Illinois, in my experience as a Defense Attorney, seem to have quite a bit of time to devote to such subjects as low level cannabis arrests, not wearing seat belt arrests, domestic battery arrests where no blows are exchanged, overweight trucks, cars with windows that are tinted too dark, etc. I doubt if checking on the immigrant status of people would take much time away from murders, etc.

  • I don’t think the argument used to justify the law was that the police don’t have anything better to do than look for illegal immigrants.

  • It seems to me that the article from American Conservative basically proves that crime rates for Hispanics, while higher than those for whites, are really close. I don’t really understand how that translates, “illegal aliens don’t break the law.” You do understand our problem isn’t with Hispanics?
    Also, you state “And, mind you, the law doesn’t just empower state officials to enforce immigration laws. It mandates that they do so.” A law that mandates police enforce the law does not fill me with righteous anger.

  • “I don’t think the argument used to justify the law was that the police don’t have anything better to do than look for illegal immigrants.”

    One of your attacks on the law did appear to be BA that it would divert the police from more important functions. I doubt very seriously if this would be the case.

    I think the main arguments in favor of the law would be that Arizona would be better off by stopping or slowing the flow of illegal aliens and that the Federal government has proven both inept and uninterested in stopping illegal border crossings. I have a feeling that the main effect of the law might be that it will cause illegal aliens to head for states that are considered illegal alien friendly like California. I suspect that result will bring broad smiles to the faces of most Arizonans.

  • The cops in Central Illinois, in my experience as a Defense Attorney..

    Well, but you only see the cases that are actually charged. That could represent a small percentage of the activity of the police; also, it could be that Central Illinois law enforcement has different priorities and staffing than Arizona law enforcement; or, it could be that the levels of criminal activity are different between the states. It is instructive, however, that the police in the situation are concerned about these issues, and have said so publicly.

    Even if they are wrong, I don’t think the law should criminalize charitable activities or charge invited guests for trespassing (a law which, one suspects, will simply increase the level of crime appearing in statistics on illegal immigration).

  • “Well, but you only see the cases that are actually charged.”

    Yep. I know that cops waste far more time on inconsequential offenses that are never charged.

    “It is instructive, however, that the police in the situation are concerned about these issues, and have said so publicly.”

    Major City Chiefs tend to be political appointees who are usually far more concerned about politics than policing in my experience and often take stances that bear no relationship to the attitudes expressed by the cops who actually enforce the laws.

  • I think CA Prop 187 is about was far as I’m willing to go on the “I’m peeved the Feds don’t enforce the immigration laws” tack. This seems to me to be going very much too far.

  • Prop 187 made a lot of sense, so naturally a federal judge found it to be unconstitutional:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/California_Proposition_187_(1994)

  • One of your attacks on the law did appear to be BA that it would divert the police from more important functions.

    Well I do think that. However, the law has been justified by some pretty apocalyptic language, invoking drug gangs, murders, kidnappings, etc. If it turns out that crime in Arizona is more akin to the Central Illinois town where you work, then I’d say the bill was passed under false pretenses (what is the murder rate for your town, btw?)

  • A law that mandates police enforce the law does not fill me with righteous anger.

    In that case perhaps we should mandate cops spend their time doing audits for the IRS or spot inspections for the EPA. After all, they’d just be enforcing the law. Which is their job, right?

  • BA,

    Here is one reading of the law: http://legalinsurrection.blogspot.com/2010/04/saturday-night-card-game-arizona.html.

    You note the law would:

    1. Criminalize charitable activities directed at illegal immigrants

    2. Make it a crime for an illegal immigrant to try to get a legitimate job

    3. Make illegal immigrants guilty of trespassing for being on private property even with the owner’s permission.

    4. Require state officials to enforce federal immigration laws.

    Some notes of mine:

    1. Any such identification must be made pursuant to an otherwise lawful incident (in other words, no searching / stopping / arresting based on suspicion of status alone).

    2. If the US Government gives an indication that such a person is illegal, the AZ police then turn the person over to Federal custody. The Federal law does not give exclusive right to enforcement of Federal law to Federal officers, I do not think, or at the very least, does not prevent state officers who have been informed that an individual is violating Federal law from taking such an individual into custody.

    3. It is already illegal under Federal law for an employer to hire illegal immigrants. Why are you concerned that this law makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to be hired, when the Federal law does so already?

    4. What charitable functions do you think are affected by this law, and what sections support your claim?

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  • “(what is the murder rate for your town, btw?)”

    Shockingly high for a town of 4000 actually. In 2002 in a case in which I was involved two kids were murdered by their father, for example. My former partner’s great,great grand father was the first recorded murder victim in Dwight. The richest man in town was gunned down in broad daylight by Chicago gangsters in 1933, the rumor in town being that he was keeping time with a mob boss’ moll. I’d say that the town has averaged about one murder every other year since I arrived in town in 85.

  • “In that case perhaps we should mandate cops spend their time doing audits for the IRS…”

    When tax-cheats engage in human trafficking, drug smuggling, murder and mayhem in the streets and in the countryside, then maybe we should.

  • Any such identification must be made pursuant to an otherwise lawful incident (in other words, no searching / stopping / arresting based on suspicion of status alone).

    Outside of traffic stops the police can pretty much always come up and talk to you if they wish, and often they have to in order to do their job. Suppose, for example, that a woman is raped and the police are canvassing the neighborhood to see if their are any witnesses. Everyone they talk to will be via a lawful contact and, under the law, they will have to verify the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect might be an illegal immigrant. Of course if they do that, then illegals won’t ever talk to the police, which will make it more difficult for the police to solve the crime (obviously this is purely hypothetical, as cops in Arizona don’t do anything but arrest people for not wearing seat belts).

    It is already illegal under Federal law for an employer to hire illegal immigrants. Why are you concerned that this law makes it illegal for an illegal immigrant to be hired, when the Federal law does so already?

    I don’t think it makes it a criminal offense to do so.

    What charitable functions do you think are affected by this law, and what sections support your claim?

    Section 13-2929(A)(2). A friend of mine used to work at a homeless shelter in El Paso. Most of the folks there were illegal immigrants. I suspect that this is true for most social services in border areas (fwiw, the local INS head had an agreement with the head of the homeless shelter that he would leave them alone as he didn’t want to interfere with the provision of charitable services; if a state official in Arizona followed a similar course he could be fined $5,000 a day).

  • Btw, Jonathan, the blog post you link to is explicitly limited to arguing that the Arizona law isn’t racist:

    If you want to argue that the law is not sound on civil liberties grounds, do so. If you want to argue that as a matter of public policy local governments should not enforce the immigration laws, then make that argument.

    But the one argument which is not legitimate is that the law is racist.

    As I didn’t argue that the law was racist, I don’t see how the blog post is relevant.

  • Prop 187 made a lot of sense, so naturally a federal judge found it to be unconstitutional

    I think that 187 did indeed make a lot of sense. (I was a Californie at the time, so I was right in the middle of it.) No thanks to the Feds on that one.

    However, I think this law sounds rather overboard.

  • “Everyone they talk to will be via a lawful contact and, under the law, they will have to verify the immigration status of anyone they reasonably suspect might be an illegal immigrant.”

    They will have to make a reasonable attempt, “when practicable,” to verify immigration status. In the course of an investigation, it would seem to be up to the officer’s discretion as to whether it is practicable at that point to do so.

    It also does not appear that the immigrant may be taken into custody purely on that status alone. There must be some other reason for assessment of criminal status.

    So, you’re more concerned with the criminal status than with the actual illegality of the job seeking? It did not seem so in your original post.

    Finally, section 13-2929(A)(2) states that it is illegal to “conceal…in violation of law” when the person doing the concealment “is in violation of a criminal offense.” So, it would have to mean that the person running the homeless shelter is already committing or has committed some criminal offense, and is attempting to harbor or conceal illegal immigrants in addition. If it were general, the wording would have to be “it is unlawful for a person to:…conceal” without the addition “in violation of a criminal offense.”

  • BA,

    The post I linked to also does a good job analyzing and clarifying some of the things (such as enforcement of federal laws) that you raise as concerns. I was not worried about the consideration of the racist part, as such.

    -J.

  • BTW,

    It appears that much of this bill is repeating Federal law in places. For instance, a much more intense version of this bill’s language is found at 8 USC 1324 – http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/html/uscode08/usc_sec_08_00001324—-000-.html

  • BA,
    Really, really, bad example. That shelter was not a homeless shelter so much as it was the Catholic Diocese of El Paso’s whistle stop on the underground railroad up to Chicago and other points, north. If you didn’t know, they had facilities on both sides of the border (meaning in what is now the war zone of Juarez)and worked primarily for the purpose of frustrating the enforcement of US immigration law. I don’t know if they are still there, but if they are, they are surely more about violating our immigration law than they are about caring for the needs of the homeless in the community; of which we have plenty.
    As a former officer of the US government, I doubt the local INS chief had the authority to agree not to do his job.

  • I’m not sure why anyone would want to cite Prop 187 as a precedent here. After all, the law (1) did serious damage to the Republican party in California (and, by extension, the nation), and (2) never went into effect. So even if you think the law sounded good in theory, in practice all it did was hurt the Republican party, literally.

    In the other thread Donald cited an article arguing that what happened in California wouldn’t happen in Arizona because voter turnout among Hispanics is low in Arizona. Er, is it not possible that the passage of this bill might change that? As I reflect on the matter, it is increasingly clear to me that this law will never go into effect (there are serious preemption and 4th Amendment problems with it, to say the least). So if there is a backlash and the Dems get another 10 sure thing electoral votes, you won’t even be able to say “well, at least we stuck it to the illegals.”

  • Arizona isn’t California BA just like Texas isn’t California. The demographics and the politics are completely different. Additionally the Democrat dream is that Hispanics will give them a permanent electoral majority, especially if this country continues to essentially have a “Y’all come!” policy to illegal immigration from Mexico. The politics are not so simple. Stop illegal immigration, or simply substantially reduce it, and assimilation and time will lessen the Democrat advantage among Hispanics. Political suicide for the Republicans is to continue to sit by and allow the Federal government to do nothing to stem the flow of illegal aliens.

  • FWIW, I don’t think that 187 hurt the GOP in California particularly. Indeed, 187 was one of the first high profile cases of the California GOP getting behind what proved to be fairly popular populist ballot measures.

    What’s crippled the GOP in California has been a combination of:

    1) The state becoming one of the most liberal in the nation in regards to polled opinion, with much of this centering around the LA and SanFran metropolitan areas (which have seen a huge influx of highly educated urban elite demographics over the last 30 years).

    2) The split within the California GOP between fairly liberal Republicans (as typified by Pete Wilson, Arnold, Meg Whitman, etc.) and hard right candidates from the more rural parts of the state and a few of the affluent suburbs. The state party is pretty well split between those two factions, each one of which is willing to refuse to support candidates put forward by the other.

    3) Some of the strongest public sector unions in the country.

    The state politics of California have become increasingly self-destructive on both sides of the aisle, but I don’t think it accurately reflects the history there to argue that 187 was a key turning point against the GOP. If anything, it underlined the ability of conservative ballot measures to do significantly better than GOP state candidates usually do at the polls. Further examples including the marriage ballot initiative, the marriage amendment, and the Grey Davis recall.

  • That said, while I don’t claim to know anything about the internal political dynamics in Arizona, it’s hard for me to imagine that this kind of stunt (which seems far more punitive and impractical than 187) will do the GOP any good. Even if it’s locally popular, it seems to reinforce an impractical reactionary streak which makes the GOP a bad governing party no matter how good it may be for campaigning.

  • This unmatched chaos caused by decades of unimportance as seen by both political parties over illegal immigration. In this firestorm of an issue we need to enact immediately the following measures to stabilize our nation’s immigration enforcement. This is specifically come to the surface after the bloody murder of Robert Krentz, rancher and landowner, with the upsurge in deaths of border Patrol agents and illegal aliens. 1. Deploy the National Guard permanently–fully armed along the border from San Diego, CA to Brownville, Texas. 2. Make it a felony with prison time for any employer not using the computer application E-Verify, to identify all workers on the payroll. This program will improve nationwide impact of self-deportation by ATTRITION, over the coming years for unlawful labor. 3. To terminate decades of unprecedented billions of dollars of debt for support of illegal immigrants on taxpayers. Read what Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) has to say about what taxpayers are forced to pay for 20 to 30 million illegal immigrants at–THE DAILY CALLER WEBSITE.

    Reestablish the legality of instant citizenship to babies born to an illegal parent or parents in federal court. 4. Make absolutely sure that any incumbent of both parties, starting with Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) is thrown out of office this year. Send this searing message to–ALL–pro illegal immigrant, Pro-amnesty politicians that America will not stand any longer lawmakers that are for sale to the highest bidder. 5. Those elected will re-fence the border as two separate barriers, with an open tracking area in between for the movement of National Guardsman accompanying the US Border patrol with full funding. That lawmakers who are supposedly there to represent every citizen and permanent resident possessing a green card, appropriate the money to seal the border from illegal entry. That these same elected officials have already spent $445 Billion dollars in taxpayer’s money in supporting some distant foreign government in Afghanistan; they therefore can easily appropriate funds for the correctly designed border fence.

    As a patriotic people we will voice our vehemence that we will join the war against any type of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. That contains in any shape or form a citizenship path, for those who stole into America. THERE WILL BE NO AMNESTY–NO PARDON FOR CRIMINALS WHO IGNORE OUR LAWS. We are not the financial, free-handout for foreign labor, which cannot support those entering America illegally. Arizona is the first state with a backbone that has been financial crippled by welfare payments to illegal alien families. Its undercurrent caused by the rising crime rate never seen to this extent before. Violence on a grand scale has flowed across the Rio Grande from the illicit drug industry. Exhaustion of the local police in Phoenix and other communities unable to handle the daily homicides, kidnappings, home invasions, predatory smuggling people and the narcotics trade.

    Any state, county city, town or public servant that boycotts the exceptional state of Arizona, should be black-listed. Hopefully–Americans will donate (however small) money to Arizona if the Governor Jan brewer gets sued. Perhaps a good patriotic American will arrange a website for everybody to give money in the immediate future? If and when it happens my check will be waiting…? If that happens Americans will boycott companies that hire illegal immigrants and that I will add–ONE–company hiring foreign labor to my blogs.

    NUMBERSUSA–is the website for the legal people of this country, so you can fight this illegal immigrant epidemic–with over a MILLION–members. We are here to tell the–TRUTH–not lies or well-honed rhetoric as the Far-Left liberals, hidden inside the Democratic Party, not from the Liberal editors of national press at the, Huffington Post, New York Times or the Los Angeles Times and others.

  • An impractical reactionary policy Darwin is thinking that the current policy of de facto open borders with Mexico can continue. This nation cannot continue being a safety valve forever for the failure of Mexican elites to reform their economy to provide economic growth for their citizens. I think most of the country agrees which is why Rasmussen is showing 60% support for the law across the nation.

    http://www.rasmussenreports.com/public_content/politics/current_events/immigration/nationally_60_favor_letting_local_police_stop_and_verify_immigration_status

    As for being a bad governing party, the saving grace for Republicans is that they get to run against Democrats who have amply demonstrated this election cycle just how bad a governing party can be.

  • Joe Hargrave continues to mistakenly believe this law does something to fight drug violence.

    Jonathan,

    It also does not appear that the immigrant may be taken into custody purely on that status alone. There must be some other reason for assessment of criminal status.

    The law also makes presence in the state a crime.

    13-2929(A) uses some curious phrasing. So I can harbor illegal immigrants but not if I didn’t pay my taxes?

  • The Rasmussen poll is interesting. Most believe the law will violate civil rights but most still support it.

  • As for being a bad governing party, the saving grace for Republicans is that they get to run against Democrats who have amply demonstrated this election cycle just how bad a governing party can be.

    No disagreement from me there.

    I also agree that tough immigration enforcement is broadly popular, at least in concept, throughout the country. And I think that whatever laws we have, we should enforce — though I’d like to see higher immigration quotas and a much simpler immigration process.

    However, at the same time, I think the extent to which heavy immigration from Mexico is hurting the US is in most cases overplayed. The fact that lots of people eager to work are coming into the US and working or starting businesses tends to help us and hurt Mexico, not the other way around.

    It is certainly a big problem when we have cross-border gangs and other criminal organizations — but I’m not clear that’s related to the issue of people simply wanting to come here to work.

  • If Tom Tancredo thinks the law goes too far, it probably goes too far.

  • In 2008, there were candidates that ran for offices in places like Arizona that ran as restrictionists and lost. Immigration polling suffers from a lot of issues polling in that it measures sentiment and not depth. Consensus was that being restrictionist wouldn’t preclude someone from election, but it wasn’t enough to secure them power.

    Right now, there isn’t any real institutional support for Arizona’s law, so it will become more unpopular over time. (As a note, I haven’t reviewed the bill itself.) As for the politics, who know? I know, a rare admission of modesty on my part. I imagine Arizonians aren’t in the habit of sending people to the statehouse to address immigration, so I’m thinking they won’t be evaluated too strongly on that matter. Arizona’s staggering budget deficit and massive cuts to public schools will likely be issues that have an impact.

  • “As I reflect on the matter, it is increasingly clear to me that this law will never go into effect (there are serious preemption and 4th Amendment problems with it, to say the least). So if there is a backlash and the Dems get another 10 sure thing electoral votes, you won’t even be able to say “well, at least we stuck it to the illegals.”

    The real poltical backlash and how it will delay real immigration reform often gets overlooked

  • “that the Federal government has proven both inept and uninterested in stopping illegal border crossings.”

    I think this is a little too braod. Once can say LOOK STATE and Local Govt don’t care about Druck Drivers because they are still on the road

    There has been a lot of effort at the border and some immigration folks are screaming at Obama at the high level of deportations

    The fact is it is not so mucha failure of Federal Govt but a failure of the American people to quit letting the extrmes on either side that want move a inch define the debate and the solutions

    Till that cahnges nothing will happen.

  • However, at the same time, I think the extent to which heavy immigration from Mexico is hurting the US is in most cases overplayed. The fact that lots of people eager to work are coming into the US and working or starting businesses tends to help us and hurt Mexico, not the other way around.

    Common theoretical exercises of the sort published in textbooks tend to demonstrate that trade in factors of production (e.g. labor as manifested in immigration) are beneficial economically. If I am not mistaken, this has been empirically verified, but the benefits are small and collared for the most part by the immigrant populations themselves. The benefit to the extant population is tiny (IIRC, one study put it at <0.1% of domestic product per annum) and sensitive to the public benefits regime (which the judiciary fancies they ought to have discretion over, natch).

    Immigration streams are regulated by a famously incompetent bureaucracy, are in their source severely maldistributed, are modally from a country suffering severe social pathologies at this point in time, are arriving in a society where the dominant faction of the elite is dedicated to the fostering of unassimilable subcultures for its own self-aggrandizement, and tend (to a small degree) to damage the employment prospect of the lower strata of the labor force. In short, mass immigration is a loser as a social (not economic) proposition.

    The thing is, immigration cannot be conducted according to public policy if it is not controlled. It is not controlled if you do not enforce the law. It is not terribly credible that that cannot be done, which makes much discussion of immigration regimes rather exasperating.

  • “There has been a lot of effort at the border and some immigration folks are screaming at Obama at the high level of deportations”

    I disagree jh. What enforcement there is tends to be for show. That is why we have such absurdities as a return to “catch and release”,

    http://myvisausa.wordpress.com/2010/01/25/immigration-enforcement-agents-drive-illegal-aliens-to-work/

    and the abandonment of the virtual fence along the southern border.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/17/us/17fence.html

    The Obama administration is as serious about curbing illegal immigration as it is about curbing government spending.

  • I am against any law that attempts to stop Mexican Gangs from racially profiling their victims.

  • “13-2929(A) uses some curious phrasing. So I can harbor illegal immigrants but not if I didn’t pay my taxes?”

    As noted over on Volokh, that is one of the ambiguities of the law. However, I suspect that will be worked out in the courts and in further revisions.

  • Here’s an example of moral panic. Cardinal Roger Mahony wrote in a blog post, “I can’t imagine Arizonans now reverting to German Nazi and Russian Communist techniques.”

    Failed words from a failed prelate.

  • UPDATE: It appears that I may have linked to the wrong version of the bill text (at least, that’s according to Mark Krikorian at the Corner). The actual version of the bill that was passed does not appear to include the provision making it trespassing for an illegal immigrant to be on private property with the owner’s permission, but otherwise appears to the objectionable features of the Senate version. Indeed in at least one case it appears to be worse. Commenter Jonathan, for example, had argued that the bill would not criminalize the provision of charitable services to illegal immigrants because the anti-harboring provision said that it was illegal to “conceal…in violation of law” rather than simply saying “it is unlawful for a person to:…conceal.” The final version of the bill says the latter.

    I apologize for the error.

  • This is funny. Mark Krikorian links to the wrong bill too! It took me a while to track the final final bill down. http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/Chapter_Laws/2010/49th_legislature_2nd_regular_session/CH_113.pdf

    The trespassing language is gone but doesn’t really make a difference. “Trespassing” is replaced with “willful failure to complete or carry an alien registration document.” So illegal immigrants can be in the state but not without papers which means they can’t be in the state. Same thing.

    The harboring ambiguity is back. A court looking at the legislative history can’t read the qualifier out since it was removed by the House at one point then put back in. A very good case can be made for voiding the entire section.

  • Don, you may recall that when the mandatory seat belt laws took effect in Illinois everyone was repeatedly assured that police were not going to stop anyone “just” for not wearing a seat belt — they would only ticket if you were caught doing something else like speeding and they noticed that you also were not buckled up. Well, that isn’t the case anymore — seat belt violations can now be treated as a “primary offense.” Plus, we also have the periodic “roadside safety checks” where everyone is stopped and asked for their license, insurance cards, etc.

    Now, if the intent of the law in Arizona is to allow or encourage local police who stop or arrest a suspect on probable cause for ANOTHER crime to also check the suspect’s immigration status while they are at it, that would not be so bad. However, given what has happened with seatbelt laws, drunk driving, insurance laws, etc. I fear that the law as written could very easily devolve into a situation in which either 1) people start getting pulled over for “driving while Hispanic” or 2) in reaction to 1), police start demanding some kind of citizenship documentation from everyone they arrest, including Anglos, to prove that they are not “profiling.”

  • I certainly do remember that Elaine! I recently had a conversation with one of my judge friends where he told me about a jury trial he had over a seat belt case. He was pretty ticked that the State was wasting his time with a prosecution on just a seat belt.

    You raise a legitimate concern in that there can always be overreaching by the police. However, aliens in this country are already required I believe to have their papers allowing them to be in the country on their person at all times. My mother, before she became a naturalized citizen, always kept her papers in her purse. In regard to people who are already citizens, most people I assume would have documents on them to establish citizenship. Looking in my wallet I have my voter registration card, my attorney registration card and various other forms of identification. I wouldn’t consider showing these to the police any more onerous than the showing to them of my driver’s license.

  • I don’t see why leftwingers are getting so angry by this new law. All it does is give police the right to ask people to present their immigration documents. In nearly all places on earth that is thoroughly fine. Why is that some outrage in The USA?

  • OH YEA, GIVE THEM ALL THEIR RIGHTS AS HUMANS, GIVE THEM THE MASS IN THEIR LANGUAGE AND GIVE THEM THE TRAINING AND THE JOBS BUT ME A US CITIZEN WHO ONLY SPEAKS ENGLISH AND IS UNEMPLOYED FOR THE FIRST TIME AT THE AGE OF 57 CAN’T GET A JOB BECAUSE I DO NOT SPEAK SPANISH AND ENGLISH . SO BY NOT MAKING IT A LAW TO LEARN ENGLISH AND SPEAK ENGLISH, THE PERSON WHO WORKS IN THE DOCTORS OFFICE HAS TO SPEAK BOTH LANGUAGES TO TAKE CARE OF FREE OF CHARGE OR CHARGE THE GOV. FOR THEIR HEALTH, THEIR HOUSING, THEIR EDUCATION, THEIR FOOD STAMPS, AND THEN THEY DRIVE AROUND WITHOUT LICENSES AND INSURANCE. BUT THAT IS OK, WE ARE SUPPOSE TO TAKE CARE OF ALL THE POOR, BUUL CRAP…IT IS A SYSTEM GONE WRONG AND CHRIST HIMSELF WOULD TELL YOU THE SAME THING. THESE PEOPLE COME HERE BECAUSE WE GIVE THEM EVERYTHING AND WE WON’T HAVE ANY MONEY LEFT TOTAKE CARE OF THEM MUCH LESS OURSELVES. SO KEEP IT UP..THE BISHOPS CAN TAKE THEM IN THEIR HOMES.

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Obama to Push Immigration Reform

Wednesday, April 8, AD 2009

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.

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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.