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Monday, March 06, 2006

Illegal Immigration - A Moral Delimma In The Catholic Church

It happened. I knew it was coming. I knew the context in which it was going to be said. I did not want it to be said. I cringed at the thought of hearing it from the clergy of my church. But here it is: ‘The administration’s policy of stopping people crossing our borders is against the doctrine of our faith.’

So there it is. My church, ( and maybe it's just one SJ Priest) has come out and said that illegal entry into the United States is covered under the auspices of charity, justice, and scripture. Wrong!

The issue of illegal immigration is not one of anti-humanitarianism; this is a national security issue, and stopping illegal immigration is the only humane way to end the deaths of those that sneak under our wires, cross rivers, and hide in sealed compartments in trucks and cars. It would be logical for the members of my church to revisit this position as one of national security first and the humane and legal processing of those that want to live and work here legally second. Here’s why:

This is a political lobby rather than a representation of Christ’s teachings. Such a position is absent of historical perspective, it is substituted with a brief skeletal and superficial creed of historic confessions and lacks a concern with precise Christian doctrine which is highly averse to theology. This one-sided worldliness and reactionary position injects a lack of persuasion based on doctrine and tries to overturn, I think, by brute force guilt-pandering issues of national security disguised as moral teachings. And what I fear is that once viewed by those outside doctrinal thought, the American Catholic Church looks more like a political body rather than representatives of Christ’s teachings.

And in the wake of all the scandals that have befallen my faith in the last ten years, not making waves within its flock is the right course of action to take. I would be interested in hearing about how other faiths are treating the issue of illegal immigration.

Now you can call me a meanie (and plenty do), but that is not how I interpret the teachings of Jesus. Letting our country be overrun by illegal aliens is not carrying out God's will. Forcing them to stay in Mexico, stopping their brain drain, making them solve their own problems....that makes more sense. It follows the whole "give a man a fish he eats for a day, teach him to fish......." If their brightest, bravest and most capable workers come here (and that's what you have to be to succeed), who's taking care of their infrastructure? No one. So even if they send back money, the country continues a downward spiral. Mexico is a failing state sitting on plenty of natural resources. Mexico should be forced to pull up their own bootstraps. My kind of Christianity believes God helps those who help themselves. I believe in charity, but not blind, pointless charity. I am disappointed in Cardinal Mahoney. He is not seeing the forest for the trees.
Excellent points. When anyone asks me what religion I am, I make it a point to claim Roman Catholic - and sod the ACCBs! If I had my way, we would go back to the days of cavorting druids, death by stoning and the extension of slavery to anyone who did not have a Knighthood!
I generally declare myself to be Boston Irish Catholic. I have had cavorting druid days.......well to be more specific...cavorting druid nights.
You asked what position other faith traditions were taking. Speaking for many within the community of mennonites and anabaptists of which I'm a part, we'd agree with the Catholic position as you stated it. That is, we think this is a matter of justice and compassion to work on behalf of immigrants who are struggling to survive (in part, because of US policies, for instance, the war on terror and Free Trade Agreements).

You stated that the national security angle should be well considered, but there's just not much teaching in the Bible that tells us to worry about national security, or at least that's how we read the Bible in the anabaptist tradition.

Which is not to say that we are unconcerned about the possibility of some sort of attack. But rather, that we think our call is one of justice and compassion and that, perhaps the best way to security in an unsecure world, is by placing our fate in God's hand and doing justice and building God's kingdom. Or, put another way, we don't trust a big military and big walls to provide any real security, we think just the opposite is true.

Thanks for asking.
Hmmm..sometimes religion and politix dont mix too well...not all religious teachings are bout unwarranted mercy..some are about justice and to my minds eye..it is far from just to allow the illegal immigration epidemic to flourish!
Well said! Allowing the scourge of illegal immigration to continue is not helping anyone (except those that profit from trafficking in humans). It degrades our nation, which is a bright shining star in a sky of darkness. It puts undue strain on our taxpayers, puts us at risk of terrorist attack, and fuels the drug trade (to mention a few points). Religion? I'm with Maggie on the "teach a man to fish.." level. The only difference is that we don't need to teach them to fish; their own countries are quite capable if they sorted out their priorities.
"some are about justice and to my minds eye..it is far from just to allow the illegal immigration epidemic to flourish!"

Make no mistake, I think we have an immigration problem, too. The difference is, I think the problem is at least partially our fault.

By signing NAFTA (as well as other trade actions the US has taken), Clinton has caused poverty to increase in Mexico - more farmers in Mexico are not able to make a living now and are turning to the US to find jobs so their families don't starve. A reasonable decision if you are concerned about your family, yes?

I'm for changes in our policies that encourage FAIR trade, not "Free Trade" as has been defined by corporations. Once we've done so, Mexico may have a chance to improve their economy, farmers there may find they can make it in their own country (which they'd MUCH rather do - no one wants to leave their home and family just to keep them fed), and not feel like they have no choice but to cross the border.

In other words, if our policies are contributing to the pain and misery of others, the Mennonites and Catholics believe it is time to change our policies.

We'd do well to heed the prophets' repeated warnings in the Bible:

"Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice; correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow"

Or, at least that's what these two faith traditions are saying.
Glad to see you're back in the world Danny. I apprecaite the patronage.

In regards to NAFTA/CAFTA, even if there is evidence that poverty has increased in Mexico, spurious at best if figures exist, is the avalanche of illegals entering the US really our fault? Nope. The issue that is our fault is to not stopping the flow of illegal immigration and encourage those who wish to enter here legally enter legally. Why can't these people enter legally? And why can't the Mexican government stop them from doing so?

If the problem you describe is as abysmal as you have laid out, then the flow of illegals shold be in the tens of millions if there is no hope for Mexicans to earn a living.

So your Church and those in mine have glommed on to the idea that NAFTA and CAFTA is the issue? Hum? If that is the case, then where is the widespread misery and suffering in the US? There isn't any and those that were affected in the US can and ahve been absorbed into the economy in other vocations. And if this is the case, then why can't Mexico absord those whom you claim are victims of these agreements? Why is it the US's problem to attone for the failings of the Mexican Government? It is not the US's responsibility to take care of Mexicans. It is our government's responsibility to allow the flow of legal immigration and stop illegal immigration.

Trade legislation is not evil, governments are not evil. Defending the rights of those who seek to enter the US legally is about all we should have to support, faith or no faith. And at a minimum, encouraging people to risk their lives to sneak into the US is about the most un-Christian thing any faith can support. I just can't find anything in the Bible that says a government should encourage anyone to risk a life in the pursuit of a better living. Maybe I am wrong, but my Church's stance of encouraging people to kill themsleves to get here illegally is about the most uncharitable thing I have heard.
Then your church, my church and you all disagree. Of course, we don't even see it in the terms you're putting it (we obviously don't think it compassionate for folk to "kill themselves to get here illegally").

We see it as a rich and wealthy nation whose policies are contributing to (not outright causing, but contributing to) the misery of the poor and as we read the Old Testament and Jesus' teachings and the teachings of the New Testament, we see many warnings to the rich not to oppress the poor, not to get wealthy off the poor, to join in solidarity with the poor, etc, etc, and we therefore do feel this to be a justice issue for which we ought to work.

As to the questions about FTA's, I'd refer you to the National Catholic Reporter:


Or any number of other articles by folk from different faith traditions that adequately document the failings or at least the questionable nature of "free" trade as it's been sold to us.

I, for one, am quite glad for the Catholic Church's position in most of these matters. You are free to disagree, of course.
Were you this upset about Mexico's issue before NAFTA/CAFTA? Since you pin the plight of the poor souls down south to two pieces of paper, has your Church been this concerned for the Mexicans before these agreements were signed? And what was your position then...Mexico is suffering becuase the US is rich - NAFTA/CAFTA is making it worse. OK - If NAFTA was bad, why isn't the Mexican gvt screaming that CAFTA is worse?
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