Editor’s note: This is the second part of a two-part story. You can read Part 1 here. This essay first appeared at Insidecatholic.com (now Crisis) August 26, 2008.
If we are indeed to treat immigrants as fully human, as equal moral adults, then we won’t wax hysterical when they face the consequences of breaking the law. If I were to sneak into Mexico and use false identity papers to gain financial benefits from its citizens, I’d know I might end up in a jail cell. I wouldn’t expect a Mexican parish to hide me, and sign me up for benefits funded by the local government. The state has its structures and its legal codes, and except where they are grossly unjust, we are expected to obey them. If Caesar has the right to mint currency and collect taxes – and we have this on pretty high authority, I think – then he’s probably also in charge of granting citizenship. If he isn’t, who is? The companies that crave cheap labor? The ethnic lobbies? Our bishops?
Or is someone out there going to argue that American immigration laws are unjust, that we have no right to limit who enters our country and when? If so, then I expect them to apply the very same logic to xenophobic Mexico – and then to Vatican City. Let’s relocate Rome’s gypsy camps to St. Peter’s Square, and grant these “undocumented” the rights of citizens. Then when they form a majority, let them change its laws to suit themselves. Let them “redistribute” the contents of the basilica, giving “preferential option” to the poorest among them. (I’ll see you on eBay; I’ve always coveted those reliquaries…)
Or if you wish to argue that our country really needs some 2 million mostly unskilled immigrants every single year – given that most of our lower-skilled manufacturing and service jobs are migrating overseas – I’ll have to ask you why. Are the poorest Americans so overpaid that we need to bid down the price of their labor? Or are they too lazy and cosseted to work at “jobs no American will do”? (To this phrase, the favorite of the big-business, cheap-labor lobby, I always like to add, “At the wages we’re willing to pay.”) Are the labor and safety laws for which American workers fought for decades so stifling that we need to import an underclass that employers can abuse – locking them in overnight, sticking 16-year-olds at meat slicing machines, sending injured workers for care to public emergency wards?
And now I have a question for our immigrants and the lobbyists who “love” them: Why do so many recent Catholic immigrants vote for pro-abortion, pro-gay marriage candidates? Why are the Latino organizations rallying to the Democrats? Could it be that other issues are more important to them? That voting in their ethnic – let’s be blunt, their racial – self-interest trumps for them the sanctity of life, and of the family? I remember when a bunch of white Catholics acted this way – when they voted in Louisiana for David Duke. I told them, in print, how disgusting I thought that was. When Latinos vote for pro-abortion Democrats to further their racial self-interest they are no better. To treat them as equals is to tell them that.
And to act as good citizens, as honest members of the community that protects our rights and has made possible our relative prosperity, we must seek the best interests of that community – while opening the doors to provide temporary refuge to those who are in immediate danger of death. Not to people simply “seeking a better life.” I could have a better life in Switzerland; does that give me a right to citizenship? No one pretends that the “sending” countries that provide most of our immigrants are subject to mass starvation or persecution. Indeed, as immigration expert Mark Kirkorian reported in his interview for the documentary, The Promise of Home:
The overwhelming majority of illegal immigrants from Mexico actually had jobs in Mexico. They’re seeking better jobs. The poorest of the poor in any society very seldom leave. They don’t have the resources to move.
In an age of terrorism, in a country full of “soft targets” that attracts the hatred of so many around the world, we cannot afford to leave our border unguarded. News reports have shown how narcotics cartels work with immigrant smugglers, to ship in both drugs and dealers. We’ve seen reports of “coyotes” bringing in unauthorized entrants from countries rife with terrorism. As expert on Islamist terror Brigitte Gabriel told the makers of The Promise of Home: “Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and Hezbollah… are working with the MS-13 gang in smuggling terrorists into our country. We know that al-Qaeda is paying between $25,000 and $50,000 to the MS-13 gang per terrorist to be smuggled into our country.” Thanks to our lack of a border fence, al-Qaeda could pretty much swim the Rio Grande any time it liked. Remember that the next time you’re patted down at the airport.
In voting for our country’s “best interests,” we must have a special care for the very poorest among us – the very poorest Americans. But other people have claims as well. If the “preferential option for the poor” means that middle-class people (and ethnic majorities, and even prosperous elites) have no moral claims whatsoever – and may simply be exploited with abandon – then it is no option at all. It is neither justice nor mercy but simple resentment, an ideological club.
Even if they are not as objectively needy as would-be migrants, working-class people have rights and claims under justice. So do – and here I’m going to step on some toes – middle-class people living in the suburbs. So do the rich. Pope Leo XIII actually taught that while we are all called to acts of charity, no one is commanded by the gospel to give away so much that he sinks from one social class to another. Religious vocations aside, the rich are not required to turn themselves into paupers. America need not – in fact, it should not – join the Developing World.
The Catechism also prohibits suicide.