I’ve been mulling over a post about illegal immigration for a while now, but I’ve been taking my time since it can be such a sensitive and complicated issue. I read a good article in the latest issue of The Catholic Answer that I think does a good job covering the points I wanted to make. (It’s not available online.)
Before I list the guidelines this article suggests as the points we need to take into account when formulating an immigration policy, I want to make clear my main problems with illegal immigration:
1) It’s illegal. Respect for valid and just laws should be a benchmark of our personal behavior. Immigration law is very screwed up and in great need of reform, but there’s little inherently unjust about it and therefore deserves our respect. We fail as citizens of America and the world when we encourage disrespect for and the flouting of valid laws.
2) Mass immigration can remake our society without the consent or even input of the current members of our nation. Ryan at Jokers to the Right by coincidence has a post describing the division and instability this can bring to our nation when immigration becomes too destabilizing a force.
After the break I’ll list the principles the article discussed and add any comments I have on them.
1) The basic human rights of all immigrants, even those who have entered the country illegally must be recognized.
I would hope this is common sense. Just because someone’s here illegally, we can’t violate their fundamental human rights: we can’t starve them, beat them, enslave them, deny their freedom to worship, etc. Now, that doesn’t mean they’re entitled to all the rights of actual citizens, either. We were all taught in drivers education, for example, that a driver’s license is a privilege, not a right. So we are under no obligation to give illegal aliens drivers licenses, welfare checks, the right to vote, and other privileges of citizenship.
2) The Church must care for those in need, including illegal immigrants.
While, as noted above, the state is under no obligation to provide for some of the material benefits of those in their country illegally, they can not prevent private citizens and organizations from doing so. One of the fundamental principles of Christianity is care for the poor and to illegalize that in even a small case like aid to illegal aliens to to begin to illegal free practice of religion, and therefore not something the government should be allowed to do.
3) The right to migrate is not absolute; the common good of the host country and respect for its laws must also be taken into consideration in immigration laws and policies.
4) The common good of the host country is not simply a matter of preserving current levels of prosperity.
Comments on both of the above two points. This is a point I made above in my opening remarks: a sudden influx of many people from a foreign culture is destabilizing to the existing culture. In one aspect, there’s a good benefit to the many Mexicans coming into America: they’re Catholic and the more Catholics here, the better. I really respect the devotion Mexicans have to Our Lady of Guadalupe and the more Marian devotion we have (she is our patron saint under the Immaculate Conception, after all and as Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Patroness of the Americas) to the Mother of God, the better.
Despite those benefits, the large influx we’ve had in recent years is potentially destabilizing as we’re importing another culture into our own and that won’t likely happen smoothly. That is the main danger of immigration: destabilization of culture. That’s the reason we’ve long restricted immigration and previously favored European nations. It wasn’t necessarily racist, but cultural.
5) Migrants must not be treated by employers or authorities as merely cheap tools of production.
This is another problem illegal aliens face: since they’re already outside the law, they’re easily exploitable. We don’t know they’re here, so we can’t help them out.
6) All immigrants have certain responsibilities they must fulfill toward their host country, including obedience to its laws.
And this should include immigration laws. In addition, no formal statistics are kept (none that I’ve seen anyway), but all indications are that illegal aliens are responsible for a very disproportionate percentage of crime. After all, if you’re willing to break the law by entering and staying in the country, you’re not too likely to respect other laws, either.
7) Neither the unilateral efforts of the host country nor purely restrictive measures are enough to solve the problem.
8) Migrants’ home nations, and other nations as well, must work both to change the unjust conditions prompting migrants’ flight to other countries and to prevent their criminal exploitation.
I think these two points go together. In essence, Mexico is basically passing their responsibility on to us. It’s easier to print fliers showing how to sneak into America then reduce their corruption, free their markets and allow their people to create jobs. It’s easier to stay corrupt then do the right thing. We do need to institute some restrictive measures, but we also need to convince Mexico to put their own house in order.
These are merely principles, and honestly don’t get into the nitty-gritty of what a firm solution should look like. Should we have a guest-worker program? How many immigrants should we allow in? Should we favor certain nations? Those questions will be left better in the hands of someone who’s more knowledgeable on the subject than I am.