The graphic above has shown up here and there; I saw it at Father Jim Tucker's Dappled Things. I agree with the value expressed in the slogan: human beings aren't "illegal" -- but I have qualms about some of the advocacy around the issue of immigrants illegally in this country.
Oh, where to start?
On the one hand, national sovereignty and national identity. This is important; and many associated with Cardinal Mahoney's position on this seem dismissive of the concerns here.
As a priest, I will do whatever necessary to provide for the needs of people who come to me: I don't ask their legal status, I try to communicate in whatever language (hablo solo pecueno Espanol), and I want to be an advocate for those who need a voice.
As a citizen, I am not sanguine about the prospect that my country would become a different country without the citizens having a say in that. I do not want this to be a bilingual country. I do want our nation to grow, rather than stagnate, as seems to be happening in many advanced nations.
And, I am concerned about our southern border being an easy way for terrorists to get into our nation. Maybe that isn't something we can fully fix in any case.
So, my general position is that we should welcome immigration, legally, but be tougher about illegal immigration. Perhaps we need more legal slots; perhaps we need a guest worker program. But the Cardinal Mahoney position seems to be -- seems, I stress -- to be dismissive of the "tougher on illegal immigration" component.
Now, what do I mean by "tougher"? Well, let's face it (and this is to my more conservative friends), we're not going to deport 10-12 million folks who have entered illegally. It won't happen. So doesn't that mean we should have a path to citizenship for them?
By "tougher," I mean less porous borders, and quick action on recent interlopers.
And, I think, as a nation we have every right -- and a great need -- to emphasize assimilation into our culture.
Having said that . . . time for another hand: as a Catholic and a Christian, there are aspects of our culture I'd dread the folks coming up from the south assimilating! Secularizing, MTV-izing, Planned Parenthood-izing, pornographizing these folks is not my agenda!
But there's enough on particular public policy; now, for another hand . . . the bigger, historical and human question . . .
Property rights, and even national rights, are not absolute. No, I don't want a reconquista, don't have any interest in facilitating it; but in terms of "right" and "wrong," in the broad context? Let's be honest -- the U.S. stole it!
My point is, there are larger tides of history -- perhaps we can redirect them, perhaps not. I'm not saying we the people of these united States have no right to try, but history rolls on.
So, aside from all the big, political questions, we have the specific human needs of people who are here, in our midst. They are not abstractions. The command to treat them as we would treat Christ stands. We, as Christians, should be concerned if the law impedes our obeying Christ in this matter. This is a legitimate point raised by Mahoney, if only to observe some proposals in law need to be clarified. I, for one, have no interest in a "trust me" explanation from Big Brother.
OK, time for another hand . . . we still have the question of what's going on in Mexico -- and what duty do we have to facilitate positive change there?
All the advocacy for the needs and rights of those who entered this country illegally seems to omit this point: that our nation being an easy destination for citizens of nations south of us lets the politicians of those nations off the hook for the change needed there to foster opportunity! Isn't that a social justice question? Yet the folks talking the most about social justice, in this debate, seem only to talk about acquiescing in more immigration to this country.
Final point: one of the uglier charges being made is that the Catholic Church is pro-immigrant because we want to fill our pews in the wake of the Scandal. Some on the right are making this argument, including Tucker Carlson of MSNBC and radio host Michael Savage. Funny, I didn't know the Know Nothing Party was still around.