Migration and the Limits of Charity
A reader with the name of Meunke asks:
I’m really confused about this immigration question. I can understand how many want to assist the suffering of others who are seeking a better life. As a Catholic myself, I can’t helped but be moved to pity at the plight of these people, particularly the children.
Then again, I can’t quite get behind the idea of many that, if we are to be truly generous, we should make no attempt whatsoever to prevent or slow ANYONE who wants to come to the US by any means, in short, simply pretending that we have no borders at all, or if they exist, they are meaningless.
The latter seems particularly dangerous to me. Most of these immigrants don’t come here to be US citizens, they come here to earn some money for a better life of some kind. This of course matters a LOT, particularly if you don’t have any money and no real way of getting any in your own country. Most have family they are trying to support back in their home countries. Just stop by any place that does Western Union transfers on payday and see. These people (again, yes, exceptions can be found) don’t want to ‘become American’. How this shakes out is that you have large and growing sections of population that don’t really share much in common with the rest of the country. I personally have never automatically believed that ‘diversity is strength’. If that were always so, then Kosovo, northern Ireland, Syria, etc would all be havens of solidarity. Maybe things will work out great. I sincerely hope so.
So, directly to my question: What is someone like myself to think of this immigration issue? I know very well that what one’s government wants is NOT always in accord with what we as Catholics must do. We MUST feed the hungry, clothe the naked as they are made in the image and likeness of God. Does this mean we must NEVER turn away anyone away. Must we abandon any borders or control to do this?
Allow me in answer directly to quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which contains teachings on social justice conservatives find distasteful:
V. Justice and Solidarity Among Nations
2437 On the international level, inequality of resources and economic capability is such that it creates a real “gap” between nations. On the one side there are those nations possessing and developing the means of growth and, on the other, those accumulating debts.
2438 Various causes of a religious, political, economic, and financial nature today give “the social question a worldwide dimension.” There must be solidarity among nations which are already politically interdependent. It is even more essential when it is a question of dismantling the “perverse mechanisms” that impede the development of the less advanced countries. In place of abusive if not usurious financial systems, iniquitous commercial relations among nations, and the arms race, there must be substituted a common effort to mobilize resources toward objectives of moral, cultural, and economic development, “redefining the priorities and hierarchies of values.”
2439 Rich nations have a grave moral responsibility toward those which are unable to ensure the means of their development by themselves or have been prevented from doing so by tragic historical events. It is a duty in solidarity and charity; it is also an obligation in justice if the prosperity of the rich nations has come from resources that have not been paid for fairly.
2440 Direct aid is an appropriate response to immediate, extraordinary needs caused by natural catastrophes, epidemics, and the like. But it does not suffice to repair the grave damage resulting from destitution or to provide a lasting solution to a country’s needs. It is also necessary to reform international economic and financial institutions so that they will better promote equitable relationships with less advanced countries. The efforts of poor countries working for growth and liberation must be supported. This doctrine must be applied especially in the area of agricultural labor. Peasants, especially in the Third World, form the overwhelming majority of the poor.
2441 An increased sense of God and increased self-awareness are fundamental to any full development of human society. This development multiplies material goods and puts them at the service of the person and his freedom. It reduces dire poverty and economic exploitation. It makes for growth in respect for cultural identities and openness to the transcendent.
2442 It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity “to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice.”
Likewise with this teaching that the rich nations must help aid the poor nations and reform institutions that sustain that poverty, so too the rich nations have an obligation absorb a reasonable amount of immigrants who wish to come here and become Americans, speak our language, adopt our culture, and vow on their lives to defend our Constitution.
I do not read the Catholic teaching as a suicide pact saying rich nations must welcome hostile populations in limitless numbers from poor nations bent on fundamentally transforming or abolishing the institutions which make us Americans, suckling on the public teat, and aiding the growth of the World Caliphate or (what is much the same thing) the Democrat Party.
The Good Book says we must care for widows and orphans and the stranger.
It does not say that if a countless number of, let us say, Babylonians, want to move into Jerusalem and outnumber and displace the current population, that this is the purpose and pleasure of the Almighty.
We Christians are supposed to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves. That means we help the poor until it hurts, but it does not meant that we set ourselves up to be chumps for con men. If you don’t know whether the bum on the streetcorner panhandling is going to spend your money on drink, don’t give him money. Call him by name, walk with him across the street, and buy him a meal at a burger joint. It takes more time and effort and more love, but that is how you act charitably without being a chump.
The difficulty is learning how, with caution and discretion, to find the solid ground between these two evil extremes.
If our nation wants to have an open border with a nation who also has an open border with us, so that people may move freely back and forth, if we are convinced that the partner nation has a population which carries no communicable diseases, and has laws similar to ours, and the people coming will adhere to our language and our cultural norms, I have no objection to that.
If our nation, on the other hand, in order to avoid the drawbacks of minimum wage laws and socialist policies that create unemployment, our elite wish to import cheap labor and Dem voters, where the laborers can be treated like slaves in that they can be turned over to the border patrol if they cause trouble for their employers, this is both an evil according to the laws of men, and a hypocrisy, and an evil according to the laws of God.
Such laws are antilaws; they are in direct opposition of the purpose laws are supposed to serve. They are laws meant to punish those who follow them and reward those who break them. The solution there is to abolish the minimum wage (for noncitizens if not altogether) and issue some sort of worker’s permit for migrants, and severely punish employers who overstep those bounds.
The current so-called crisis was created by the Obama administration the same way the gunrunning crisis in Mexico was created by ‘Fast and Furious’. There is no famine and no plague in Central America. The illegal aliens are coming in droves because they have been told that this administration will not deport anyone here illegally. They were encouraged to come and told to come.
There is a law in place since the Bush Administration that requires minors being brought across the national boundaries to be detained for a time if there is a credible suspicion that the child is being used as a sex slave. The operant provision reads, in part:
Upon receiving credible information that a child described in subparagraph (C)(ii)(I) who is seeking assistance under this paragraph may have been subjected to a severe form of trafficking in persons, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall promptly determine if the child is eligible for interim assistance under this paragraph. The Secretary shall have exclusive authority to make interim eligibility determinations under this clause. A determination of interim eligibility under this clause shall not affect the independent determination whether a child is a victim of a severe form of trafficking.
Any child coming over the border, legally or not, who falls under the provision of this law must be detained while his eligibility for interim stay is examined. This law does not apply to the vast majority of cases under consideration here.
As for the rest, the law which prevents the free movement of peoples across national borders is neither unjust nor heartless, but absolutely necessary for this or any nation to maintain its sovereignty. That said, there are current provisions in our laws to allow persons to enter the country if they are fleeing political oppression, and certain other hardship cases.
The current laws are wise and fair and easily in keeping with Catholic social teaching. The problem is that these laws are not being enforced, and this encourages trespassers to come across the border, secure in the knowledge that they will not be sent back. This creates an incentive to encourage more to come, who are not welcome.
We can have a welfare state, or we can have low immigration barriers, but we cannot have both.
Now, the current law does not have a working bureaucracy to enforce it. The Naturalization and Immigration Service does not keep proper records and does not enforce the laws we have.
That said, we cannot, as Christians, merely let the children starve. Each man personally should feed and cloth one or more of them for the amount of time it takes to locate their parents and send them home. The Catholic Social teaching does not forbid the government from exacting taxes to pay for some of this charity work, albeit we Christians get no spiritual benefit from that. However, as a practical matter, we have to care take of them in such a way that it does not create an incentive for more lawlessness.
The idea of allowing anyone in any numbers across our borders to receive free food, clothing, housing, education and medical care in not in keeping with Catholic teaching, or with reality.
At the moment, whether or not this administration created the crisis artificially, we must take care of them until they can be shipped home.
We need to abolish the current Naturalization service and hang its leaders from lamp posts, and create a new bureaucracy that will actually do the job they are hired to do. We can fund them with the money we will save when we abolish the IRS and Department of Education and Department of Energy and every other unconstitutional bureaucracy. Placing the national guard on the border and allowing the immigrants to enter according to normal legal channels will act as an interim solution.
The current immigration law, with its emphasis on bringing in family members and assigning citizenship to anchor babies needs to be reformed dramatically, and laws akin to what we had in the 1960s and 1970s would be more reasonable, namely, asking for educated and skilled workers to enter. English must be made the national language, and immigrants required to learn it to conduct legal transactions here.
During wartime, no one suspected of being exposed to Jihadist training or sympathies should be allowed to enter the country. Even if we had an open borders policy as a matter of law, during wartime, we would have to secure the borders to weed out enemy agents attempting to enter the country to do us harm.
In the broadest terms, this general problem will not be solved until the Welfare state is dismantled. The welfare state is counterproductive, as it creates more poverty than it cures. It is not sign of sympathy to the poor to set taxfunded paymaster over them.
The less welfare we have, the more immigrants we can absorb, and this will benefit them and benefit us.