January 20, 2009

Regarding Immigration

I have the proverbial mixed emotions concerning illegal immigration. I can certainly understand why desperate people would want to find work and I think the workplace raids are harsh, unnecessary, and injurious to families.

But one of the assertions of the the Catholic bishops in regard to immigration (as we now call illegal immigration) is that the control of national borders is a legitmate right, and yet the latest comprehensive immigration reform package offered by the bishops includes "abandonment of the border 'blockade' enforcement strategy".

So I'm scratching my head. How does that follow? I searched the USCCB site and came up with the justification:
Components of reform which are needed include: opportunities for legalization for the undocumented currently living in the United States; temporary worker programs with full worker protections and a path to permanency; and reform of our family immigration system that will allow families to be reunited in a timely fashion. The reforms should be enacted simultaneously so that all aspects of our legal immigration system are addressed. Properly implemented, this reform should alleviate the need for a U.S. border “blockade” policy, which has not discouraged undocumented migration and has driven migrants into dangerous and remote parts of the American Southwest.
Leaving aside the debatable point whether the fence has discouraged illegal immigration or not, let's assume that all the aforementioned reforms were enacted. Would that really stem the flow of illegal immigration? This smells like politics and wishful thinking intruding on the thinking of the bishops. I wish they were less influenced by ideology even though I realize that is something likely impossible since none of us is untainted.

Interesting stats from Zogby, which our diocesan newspaper quoted approvingly: "60% of U.S. Catholics would opppose federal legislation to build a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border." (The word 'entire' is telling. It makes the statement sound extreme and thus gather more votes for opposition.) I find the other stat a bit puzzling: 57% of Catholics would oppose "U.S. government assistance and trade policies that would create jobs abroad in order to prevent immigrants from coming here illegally to seek employment." This is the way, it seems, to stem the flow of illegal immigration. Help Mexico become self-sufficient in its own job creation, although it might defy the term 'self-sufficient' to give what probably amount to handouts.

Illegal immigration isn't something I feel strongly about but I'm interested in the history of how the bishops came to their current statement on immigration. It's entirely possible I simply don't understand Catholic social teaching. But it's hard to imagine Bishop Sheen in 1947 saying that control of borders could be accomplished through a lot of reforms that tacitly suggest no responsibility be placed upon Mexico, its government, or its citizens crossing illegally.

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