Immigration is not social justice, no matter what Cardinal Mahony says

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I have been stewing about the Church's response to the sham immigration "reform" bills percolating in the Senate. This response has been led by Cardinal Mahony of Los Angeles, who has never been noted for any political activism that didn't involve running interference for liberal Democrats.

The cardinal's position boils to this: the United States should abandon its southern border and let everyone in. In Mexico alone, according to a recent survey, something like a quarter of the population would move to the U.S. if given the chance. That means about 28 million people, in addition to the 11 million illegals already here.

This is not a teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. It has little to do with the Gospel. It is the cardinal's personal opinion. Let's go to the Catechism:

The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.

How can immigration possibly be a "natural right" in the same sense as the right to life, if it is subject to "various juridical conditions" -- and thus can be denied if the civil authority sees fit? The answer must be that it is a conditional right, based on dire circumstance. Like the classic hypothetical situation where a man takes bread from a store to feed his family, the Catechism presumably means that a person has the right to leave his homeland if the alternative is death (which is the literal reading of "livelihood.")

Mexico is a Third World country, but they are well-off by Third World standards. They have a trillion-dollar economy, which works out to over $10,000 per capita. Compared to regional neighbors Guatemala ($5,200), El Salvador ($5,100), Honduras ($2,800), and Nicaragua ($2,400), Mexico is quite wealthy. Its citizens aren't fleeing north because they are starving, they are trying to improve their economic prospects. Big difference.

The Mexican government wants to keep exporting its poor, mainly so it won't have to undertake necessary social and economic reforms to solve its internal problems. I cannot recall the good cardinal, or any other prelate, calling on Mexico to institute "social justice" measures -- for instance, to insist on honest judges or property rights for all classes, which would help their economy immeasurably.

What about the effect on black people? They are Americans who helped build this country, contributed sons to fight and die in its wars, and have contributed heavily to the cultural life of the nation. Two-thirds of blacks are middle class or richer, but one-third aren't. They deserve prior consideration in any social decision regarding mass low-skill immigration, and their interests should be protected. Same thing with poor whites, or poor Hispanics, or any other poor person.

No matter how rich or powerful it is, the United States is a country like any other, and it has the right to require documentation of immigrants, to refuse entry to criminals, and protect its poorest and most vulnerable citizens against economic calamity. Aiding and abetting a corrupt and dysfunctional government, impoverishing the poor, imperiling our common culture -- how exactly does mass immigration further social justice?

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The key being, the restrictions being "fit" - not as the US particularly sees fit. Within that boundary there is probably a lot of room for disagreement. My humble proposal:

(1) abolish bi-lingual education. It only re-inforces lack of assimilation and ultimately acts against the interests of the immigrants, legal or not;

(2) shut the border (or at least control the flow;

(3) for those here, offer a legal worker/resident/citizenship track as follows:

0-5 years in residence: if, after five years of being here you have stayed of the welfare rolls and not committed a felony or violent crime, you get resident status (deported if you do);

5-10 years: if after 10 yrs of keeping your nose clean per above, you get to apply for citizenship.

The bad ones will weed themselves out.

as an aside: 28 million people, in addition to the 11 million illegals already here. oddly enough, that roughly corresponds to the number of American citizens we have aborted.

So, Eric, what do you want a bishop should say to those members of his flock who are illegal, some of whom were brought over by infants?

You are letting your views of Cardinal Mahony influence this. Fact is, all the Bishops on the border, including Archbishop Jose Gomez of San Antonio, a member of Opus Dei, are united on this.

surely you couldn't be more conservative republican than catholic? I have seen almost no negative comments from main stream catholics concerning the coming of catholic souls to the US.

thelrd in TEXAS

If this were a matter of "social justice," Larry, what difference would it make whether they were Catholic or not? Presumably, the fact that they are Catholic in Mexico rather than in America should make no difference. Unless, of course, the personal and political power of the bishop himself involved--on that point, it makes quite a difference indeed. Think about it.

For those accusing the writer of being more Republican than Catholic, please come off of it. One could easily say that our bishops are "amost unanimous" in being leftist Democrats, but no one seems to think that's informing their supposedly theological reasons for opposing America's right to its own borders. The idea that on this one issue the bishops are "all Church and principle" is just silly and naive.

Finally, delaying citizenship does nothing. Mexicans aren't coming here for citizenship, they're coming here for money, period. What they want isn't voting rights so much as residence. And telling them to simply stay as long as they'd like, but that they're not allowed the privilege of paying taxes isn't going to scare anybody away or reduce the flow.

If you folks are so convinced our man here is just subordinating his religion to his politics, then refute his eminently Catholic argument on Catholic grounds. Surely if he's guilty as charged, the case ought to be pretty simple to demonstrate. So, rather than saying "You're wrong and I'm more Catholic than you because of it," how about demonstrate your case in Catholic terms--which at least he's taken the time and effort to do. "Open borders seem like a really friendly thing" ain't much of a theological argument, so I can't wait to see what else you've got.

Geee...."Me, me, my, me,"

Your plan sounds like it is all about you, your wants and the expense of others.

THAT's what is against Catholic teaching.

When people claim "Fidelity" to Church teaching...or orthodoxy...and then propose putting down others for their own selfish wants amazes me.


Although I regularly read this blog, I make relatively few comments. My brief comment above was a simple observation, not a theological argument even to be hinted at. I have observed that priests and ministers have commented rather negatively toward the House Republican bill on immigration as promoted by Tom Tancredo of Colorado. Some have said that they would rather go to jail than to compromise their relationship with the "illegals."

I did not know that all the bishops or even most of them were liberal democrats; that remark surprised me. Surely the bishop of San Antonio-- an Opus Dei member?-- wouldn't be one of those. I do know we had a priest here in Bedford Texas give 200 dollars to the Kerry campaign.

But my basic point was very simply that despite mentioning the Catechism, the original post that I responded to could have come from some one like Tom Tecredo and not even George Bush, who as governor of Texas had the anthem sung in Texas, never supported ESL--always for bilingual education, and even supported a Caesar Chavez holiday. Poor George W was trying to figure out how to reach between the majority of Catholic leaders and people like Tancredo.

Social Justice was one of the major Catholic emphases since --forever, in my memory. Treating people who are here with dignity and respect is what I hear from the Catholic leaders of the South West.

I am not a theologian to argue Catholic thought on such issues although I do know God told the Israelites to treat the strangers in their land with respect. I am a government teacher who simply listens to what various leaders say.

Sorry I can't engage in theological arguments.


thelrd in TEXAS

Bill Cork (who, I am now convinced, really does exist) wrote:

what do you want a bishop should say to those members of his flock who are illegal, some of whom were brought over by infants?

Wow: they do grow 'em strong down there. :-)

I don't know how a bishop can put this inoffensively, but crossing a border illegally and using false documents to get a job may well be sinful acts. They are violations of just laws. Now, it's not my place to criticize unemployed people for seeking work, but I can't assume in general that the conditions to justify lawbreaking are present.

Sage, I appreciate the vigorous defense.

"Barny," I didn't say a word about "my wants and desires" in this entry.

Larry, I'm writing a longer entry that explains why I think illegal immigration is a violation of social justice. I do agree that we should treat everyone with dignity and respect. I do not agree that "dignity and respect" entitles anyone to a job in the United States.

RC puts it quite succinctly. If the alternative was starvation for the illegal immigrant or his family, that would mitigate or even remove the sinful aspects of document fraud and unauthorized border crossing.

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This page contains a single entry by Eric Johnson published on May 16, 2006 8:44 PM.

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