When people come from abroad to make a new home for themselves, and they are committed to the goal of becoming part of our nation – that’s immigration. When they come to exploit economic opportunities while proudly flaunting their determination to continue in their allegiance to a foreign flag – that’s colonization.
During the Los Angeles march, large numbers of foreigners marched proudly under the flag of a foreign country, to demand the right to live in the United States. They claim that the issue is immigration. But by their own actions, they reveal what is in fact a determined effort to force Americans to accept large foreign colonies in our midst, and to pay handsomely for the privilege of doing so. We have both the right and the moral obligation to say no.
Obviously our political leaders do not understand the real nature of the issue. In his radio address, President Bush told us that his guest-worker program is not intended to lead to citizenship for the illegal aliens in our midst. He actually seems to believe this is a point in its favor. At the same time, he and others like him want us to believe that the latest so-called immigration bill is somehow in line with the great tradition of immigration that literally created the American people. This is a lie.
In the past, the large majority of people coming to America from abroad came here to become part of the nation. They brought habits, customs and creeds that enriched the panoply of our emerging national identity, but they also accepted the challenge of becoming an integral part of it. Citizenship is the proper fruit of that kind of immigration, and that’s what makes it good for America.
Accepting the presence of large numbers of people who maintain their allegiance to a foreign flag, a foreign language and a foreign culture – and who mean to claim many of the benefits but none of the responsibilities of citizenship – is a departure from the tradition that built this nation, and the culmination of inept policies that will end in its dissolution.
Given the destructive consequence of allowing such colonization, it is especially dismaying to see supposed moral leaders demanding that we accept it. I must assume that Cardinal Mahoney means well when he encourages people to violate laws intended to enforce our immigration policies. I’m sure he honestly believes that it is morally right to help individuals in need regardless of their immigration status.
But as a Catholic leader, I must question his willingness to abandon the wisdom of Catholic moral tradition, which has always cautioned against the impetuous inclination to do good for particular individuals while bringing on greater evils for society as whole. This wisdom has been at the heart of the reasoning derived from the just war doctrine that requires, for example, opposing zealots who justify killing abortion doctors on the plea that they are saving the life of an innocent child. Their particular act saves some innocents, but at the great risk of civil violence and war that will plunge the whole society into destructive evils that endanger all its members.
True moral responsibility requires that we compare the good we may do by violating the immigration laws with the harm that will result from destroying our capacity to enforce immigration rules and regulations. Will the absence of immigration controls (in effect, open borders) lead to greater evils than the effort to enforce them?
As we ponder the response we should consider the spectacle of the major cities in many countries around the world, where the pressure of uncontrolled migration from rural to urban areas has led to excessive burdens on their infrastructure, and the development of enormous slums riddled with disease and poverty. The United States is, as it were, the urban capital of the world. Uncontrolled migration from the global hinterland will result in pressures upon our economic, social and political infrastructure that will degrade both our material well being and the always fragile fabric of our national identity.
The result will be greater poverty, greater social friction and unrest, and sharper, more irreconcilable differences in our political life. The latter will be especially true if we have permitted large communities of non-citizen workers to become a permanent feature of our national life. This would be a population of people who pay taxes and yet, as non-citizens, have no say in the political process that determines their ultimate disposition. “No taxation without representation” was the early battle-cry of political justice in America, and it still indicates the truth that representative government is part of the natural birthright of all human beings. It makes no sense to adopt policies that encourage the permanent existence of a large, disenfranchised population in our midst.
All this suggests that immigration control is prudent and necessary for the common good of the country. Moral reasoning that ignores the common good is in fact not moral at all. Cardinal Mahoney and other Catholic leaders should revisit and ponder this principle of the Catholic moral tradition. If immigration control serves the common good, then effective immigration laws are appropriate and morally obligatory.
Thomas Aquinas rightly points out that law without enforcement is no law at all. Therefore, effective immigration law means effective enforcement of the laws. When Cardinal Mahoney encourages citizens to ignore the laws, and thus undermine their effectiveness, he encourages them to take particular actions that, by contributing to the overall collapse of the economic, social and political infrastructure, will result in far greater misery and suffering than they purport to alleviate.
This is irresponsible, immoral and contrary to the rational requirements of Christian conscience. Christ exemplifies the truth that, for the sake of the whole, even innocent individuals ought to be willing to sacrifice themselves. Encouraging illegal immigrants to seek their own advantage by a route that undermines the common good thus represents a corruption of their respect for the principle that ought to govern their Christian consciences.
It is both unfair and dishonest to react to this analysis as if it represents some willingness to slam the door of opportunity in the face of the hopes and aspirations of less fortunate people around the world. On the contrary, the effort to develop and enforce responsible immigration policies aims to assure that the invitation to hope is not extended in ways that destroy its fulfillment. It is also intended to make sure that our policies do not aid and abet the tendency of some foreign elites to enrich themselves at the expense of their people, and then escape accountability for their viciousness by pushing the victims across the border into the United States. Is it morally right to facilitate the corruption and greed of these self-serving exploiters?
I believe that immigration in the true sense is good for America. This would mean policies aimed at assuring that by and large the people who come to America come with the intention of becoming full and responsible citizens of the republic. It also means discouraging any who think they have the right to establish foreign enclaves in our midst, in order to gain economic advantages for themselves without fully committing to help us build this free society.
Immigration, yes; colonization, no. The first prerequisite of any immigration policy, however, is to regain full control of the borders of the United States. Currently proposed legislation falls far short of what is needed to achieve this goal. Until and unless our political leaders put in place the tools and forces needed to achieve this control, responsible and moral Americans ought to oppose any measures that would signal our acceptance of the de facto colonization of our country.
President Bush’s guest-worker proposal is such a measure. It may serve short-sighted business interests intent on cheapening the cost of labor in our economy; it may serve the corrupt interest of Mexican and other foreign elites seeking to relieve the pressure created by their own policies of greedy exploitation. But it does not serve the common good. Such service demands policies that give preference in immigration not just to workers seeking jobs and money, but to those who seek liberty and the responsibilities of citizenship.