Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Justice for Immigrants

When I read that Catholic priests are taking part in these demonstrations around the country, I wondered what I really think about these matters, and what I might share with you. So often, high-emotion slogans or reactive statements dominate.

Here are some thoughts:

* Overall, immigration is good for this country.

Many people presuppose some very faulty ideas about economics; to be fair, a lot of the things they hear about such subjects has flawed economic and social ideas imbedded in them.

For example, people aren't a "drain" on resources; they are the principal resource! Folks coming here are a net plus in terms of jobs and prosperity.

That's not to say there are no negatives to welcoming immigrants; but for all that immigrants "receive" or "take," they bring more -- both in what they contribute, and also in that they are consumers. Their advent isn't simply to be feared, but it does require some planning and response. (Unfortunately, we are simply paralyzed right now.)

It would be fair to limit what social assistance goes to immigrants to this country; both fair to taxpayers, and fair to the immigrants! I'm not recommending a cold shoulder; but it's reasonable to say, "you come here, you work, you pay your way." (And I think most do.)

It is valid to observe illegal immigrants pull down wages; however, the best remedy is an economy that creates lots of jobs, which we are well able to do. Sadly, our politicians here in Ohio have created an economic dystopia; but most of the country does better fostering jobs and growth. And we need to bring these workers out of the shadows, for their sake, and for everyone elses.

The folks coming up from nations to the south of us are Christian and therefore can be a source of new life and strength both to our culture and our Church, if we receive them well.

Remember, these folks pay the U.S. a huge compliment -- they want to be here; they go through tremendous ordeals to be here. We have a lot of worries about folks who are bred to hate us; not these folks.

Another benefit of this in-migration is that it may save our bacon when it comes to Social Security -- at least, for the time being.

* We can only do so much anyway.

We are dealing with fundamental disparities between the opportunities available in the United States, vs. their homes. Until that changes -- and it won't change easily or quickly -- this reality will continue.

There is a question of social justice that often gets short-shrift: shouldn't we do more to help that change things in those other countries, rather than simply drain off their more enterprising folks? As long as incompetent, statist, corrupt and indifferent folks who run things in those countries can have out-migration as a "safety valve," they can postpone dealing with their more fundamental problems; meanwhile they lose some of the very folks they need to bring that transformation. And they can leave the problem for their successor. (A similar phenomenon can be observed in many cities, and states, in the U.S.)

Realistically, what are we going to do? We're not going to eject all the illegals; we're not going to keep them all out. We're not going to build a wall from the Pacific to the Gulf.

Maybe we could invade Mexico, and engage in some "nation-building"?

Other than our current, do-almost-nothing policy, what we're most likely to do is manage it better; I hate to say it, but some sort of guest worker program may make sense, along with allowing more folks to become citizens the proper way. But there are reasonable quid-pro-quos; see next item.

* A nation has a right to manage its borders; and to expect those within to be part of the community.

Some who are taking the side of the illegal immigrants seem to dismiss the totally legitimate right of a nation to control its borders. And of all nations to accuse of being exclusionary, for heaven's sake! I welcome knowledgeable refutation here: has any nation been more welcoming, more tolerant, more accepting of immigrants -- both legal and otherwise -- than ours?

It did not help the cause of the illegal immigrants that the demonstrations featured foreign flags. I would have advised the folks to bring American flags; and I rather suspect many of the organizers were savvy enough to suggest that. And yet that advice was either not widely given, or not heeded.

Certainly, part of any "deal" responding to this problem can and must be steps to facilitate and expect "assimilation." Again, in this country, this hasn't been anything cruel or unfair. There is nothing wrong with insisting that anyone who wishes to be part of this country -- that is, you want to stay here -- to learn the language, and learn the ethos.

Now would be a good time for some good sense on the "multi-culturalism" and bilingual education nonsense that has taken root here and there. The deal should be: we'll welcome more immigrants from south of us; but in response, you will become part of our culture; we will have one language -- English.

(In general, I think social, economic and cultural forces tend to move things in that direction anyway; but there are folks, especially in politics, who make mischief on this subject, aggravating the problem and not doing Spanish-speaking newcomers any real favors anyway.)

* Our Bishops Conference needs to stop acting so woolly-headed on this subject.

The few times I've seen anyone on TV presenting the bishops' position, most of it was reactive mush; little was constructive. Unfortunately, this reflects the thinking and political allegiances of the folks who staff the episcopal bureaucracy in D.C.

The one point that comes across is that the proposed law seems to empower the government to punish anyone who provides any sort of help to an illegal immigrant. The politicians say that's not their intent; if so, I agree with Father Jim Tucker at Dappled Things who said the legislation should be written clearly on this point. You might expect our solons would take pains to write laws clearly. You will be sorely disappointed in that expectation. I can tell you, I have never asked anyone about his citizenship or legal status, and I don't plan to start.

* More important than how many come is that our government needs to know who's coming in.

Our nation faces a much graver peril from Islamofascist terrorists who want to destroy us. The porosity of our borders is extremely disturbing. If we reach some sort of accommodation on immigration -- we welcome more, we regularize the illegals, we have some sort of "guest worker" program -- then we get millions of folks out of the shadows, and there are millions of folks who are no longer drawing resources away from the threat from the terrorists.

Whatever you want to say about the millions of Hispanics in our midst, very few are interested in blowing up cities; and I rather suspect we could make this implicit deal: "We'll welcome you here, either as citizens or legal, guest workers; in exchange, you police your ranks, and any trouble makers, turn over to the feds."

Anyway, these are my thoughts; you're welcome to offer your own.

8 comments:

Rich Leonardi said...

Whatever you want to say about the millions of Hispanics in our midst, very few are interested in blowing up cities; and I rather suspect we could make this implicit deal: "We'll welcome you here, either as citizens or legal, guest workers; in exchange, you police your ranks, and any trouble makers, turn over to the feds."

But the 1965 (or was it '64) immigration reform acts weren't intended to be welcome mats to Moslems either, but that's precisely what they became. In the early 1970s, before the full impact of those reforms, seventy percent of the trickle of Arabs entering this country were Christian.

Fast forward to today. The overall numbers of incoming Arabs have increased dramatically, and the proportions have reversed: seventy percent now are Moslems.

Should we build a "Fortress America"? No, but we should also appreciate the resilience of the law of unintended consequences.

Father Martin Fox said...

Rich:

It may be politically incorrect, but I would favor a distinction between our approach to immigrants from this hemisphere, vs. those from anywhere else.

Because the reality is, there is an intense pressure on our border, with millions already here, and I do not believe we will eject the illegals here, and make a significant reduction in who is coming across the border -- whether we ought to or not, I think it won't happen.

Anna said...

I lived in Southern California for about 10 years. I know from experience that there is a drain on social services due to immigration, legal and illegal.

I don't have any answers, but wish that there was more push down in Mexico to develop good, safe jobs for its people there. I don't really call the maquilidore jobs all that safe. The Mexican health and safety rules are much weaker than US ones.

Fr. Larry Gearhart said...

On the whole, I like the balanced picture you give to this issue. I have only one quibble. You say, "It did not help the cause of the illegal immigrants that the demonstrations featured foreign flags. I would have advised the folks to bring American flags; and I rather suspect many of the organizers were savvy enough to suggest that. And yet that advice was either not widely given, or not heeded." My question to you is, do you know for a fact that most of these demonstrations did not feature an American flag even more prominently than the Mexican one? Could we not be looking at skewing by the press?

Father Martin Fox said...

Fr Larry:

You are absolutely right about the foreign flags; we really don't know.

You make me nervous praising me for balance; I'm not used to that, when it comes to political issues!

joeh said...

Having watched the amnesty program under Reagan with the promise to seal the borders, this is not a good sign to see the same thing 25 years later.

Here is what I would advise for what that is worth:
The problem is we have a very bad neighbor dumping on our lawn. We need to make this issue priority one with Mexico and make them clean up their act. I have no doubt Mexico could seal their border with us cheaper and faster than we can with the ACLU on our side of the border. We should impose economic sanctions and whatever else we can use to make them end this issue.

Second, we can attack the employers who are paying these folks nothing, often under the table. I suggest a 100,000 fine per incident giving 10,000 of this as a reward to anyone that reports them successfully.

Third, we put anyone committing a crime of any kind in jail in Arizona under that sheriff down there and rent them out for the cost of their upkeep for the next 25 years.

With those measures, we will not have to hunt down people to deport, they will be flowing back across the border the way they came.

The carrot now comes in that we work with Mexico who is now a good neighbor on a guest worker and immigration plan that works for everyone.

Problem solved.

herkco said...

Ah Yes,
the good fathers continue to live in a dream world where all the poor southern christian folks are northbound so as to build one happy parish grande.
go to the border states and stay for awhile, good padres. get the real picture of where the loyalities of your future parishiners lay. this will explaing the abundance of the mexican flags you saw in the newspapers.
BUT - pay no attention to any of those middle class, eurocentric pewsitters who keep you clothed and fed. they are nasty, selfish racists who hate immigrants. So say our bishops.
nevertheless, illegal entry = criminal entry. What part of that don't the kept and comfortable clergy understand? Hmmm.

Father Martin Fox said...

Herkco:

I don't mind discussing with folks; this blog gives that opportunity. I went to some trouble to post a number of thoughts for everyone's consideration.

But your response is insulting and offensive. I'd remind you that you're a guest here, and no matter what your religion (or none), it's just bad form to show up and be insulting.

If you want to have a conversation without the attitude and condensension, I'm all for that.

Wanna try a "redo"?