Catholics and the DREAM Act

I am a member of a pro-life group in my parish which has regular discussions (about many different Catholic issues, not just abortion) via an email list. The discussion of the DREAM Act which Congress just rejected again has been fairly moderate and balanced (supporting the act only in conjunction with strict enforcement and opposing it as a stand-alone piece of legislation); because pro-life group members are more conservative than Catholics in general, this should not be taken to mean that Catholics in general are neutral, they mostly support the DREAM act. I wrote this:

This act is being misrepresented by news stories which focus only on
the most sympathetic class of illegal immigrants covered by the
legislation and imply that it is only about them. Actually it is a
fairly broad amnesty which will lead in practice to a much broader one,
both because of family reunification and because of colossal fraud.
Democrats resisted strongly all attempts either to narrow the scope of
immigrants covered, or to institute safeguards against fraud. Their
actions show that the bill is a Trojan Horse.

There is a great deal more to say about the issue of uncontrolled
immigration, and there are agendas involved which Catholics have been
slow to recognize and naive about. The main points I would like to make
are that
(1) Christians in one country do not have a political obligation to
vote or to support policies which allow mass immigration from a poorer
country in order to make the immigrants better off, no matter
what social and economic calculations indicate about comparisons
between how many immigrants would be better off and by how
much, compared with how many of the citizens of the destination country
would be worse off and by how much. At most, Christians have an
obligation to provide humanitarian sanctuary to immigrants fleeing
violence or catastrophe. A policy to allow mass immigration may or may
not be wise, but it is certainly not indicated as a necessary corollary
of Catholic doctrine, and those who pretend that it is should sit down
and shut up.
(2) Furthermore, in a society where citizens have indicated
over and over a concern that mass immigration may be a bad idea, only
to have the laws their elected
Representatives passed be blatantly non-enforced, the
encouragement given by some influential Catholics, both lay and
clerical, to lawbreaking and non-cooperation with validly elected
authorities is sinful.

Someone replied

I agree that the Dream Act is
not as narrow in scope as some have presented it, but to imply that
it would open the floodgates to uncontrolled immigration is
misleading. Most Americans are very concerned about the social and
economic consequences of immigration: according to a CBS/New York
Times Poll 74% of Americans think illegal immigration weakens the
economy and 78% think the US should be doing more to stop it; and a
Gallop survey shows that the majority would like better border
control. These social and economic concerns whether real or
preceived should not be ignored by elected representatives; it is
probably not a prudent time to introduce immigration policy that
favours any kind of amnesty without introducing further controls on
illegal immigration even if there are some who are sympathetic to the
plight of illegal immigrants who came to the US as children; according
to a Gallup Poll 54% of Americans favour granting legal status to
illegal immigrants brought to the US as children: “Americans are more
likely to say they would vote for than against a law that would grant
legal status to illegal immigrants brought to the US as children if
they join the military or attend college.” Church doctrine does not
mandate as a corollary *mass* immigration in order to make immigrants
more econmically prosperous or better off. (I’m not sure who is
arguing that!!!), but those of us who are immigrants and/or have lived
in immigrant communities understand immigrant issues on a personal
level; for they are a part of our own experience. Coming from
countries where one has little if any prospect of economic
prosperity doesn’t justify breaking the law or guarantee a right to
enter the US or a pathway to US citizenship, but I think we can all
understand why a person from such a country breaks the law and why
their children should not suffer the consequences of their parents
wrong-doings. While certainly a debatable question, one must consider
what immigration policies best serve the common good, and when so doing
one should take into account the difference between positive law and
those laws that are based on moral truth. I happen to support a policy
of leniency toward *some* illegals, but I understand the concerns of
others who do not support my view. These are not easy questions.

For those interested in a very thoughtful discussion about immigration
policy, I would like to suggest the Brookings-Duke Immigration Policy
Roundtable, “Breaking the Immigration Stalemate” William Galston, Noah
Pickus and Peter Skerry:
Breaking the Immigration Stalemate.

and I responded

The way in which mass immigration becomes a corollary is if the right
to work and seek a better life for oneself is interpreted, as many have
done, to mean the right to migrate to a country where prospects are
better. Too much of the debate has been framed in terms of “rights”
that are not merely protections against oppression, but claims
involving sacrifices by unrelated parties.

The DREAM Act would not “open floodgates” but it would have a major
impact, and the legislative chicanery surrounding it and the refusal of
its supporters to strengthen protections against fraud or limit its
scope indicate that greater immigration in and of itself is their
objective. (In my opinion, the movers behind the DREAM Act and other
amnesty legislation are motivated more directly by political
calculation about the benefits to them in particular of importing new
voters of a particular political tendency, or by economic calculation
about the benefits to them in particular of having more cheap labor,
than by humanitarian concerns.)

In the case most relevant, immigration of Mexicans and Central and
South Americans to the USA, the Catholic bishops in the USA have an
interesting dilemma. Since the immigrants are mostly Catholics, and the
Catholic church is a universal church, one can take a more global
perspective and say that *as Catholics* we should not mind people
moving from one diocese to another, and further that the cultural
consequences are not serious (as they would be in the comparable
situation in Europe where the influx is mostly Muslim), while the
economic betterment for the immigrants may outweigh the negative
economic impact on US citizens. But the part of culture that the Church
concerns itself with (Catholic culture) is not the problem, there are
major cultural and social effects associated with this immigration that
have nothing to do with Catholicism. Also, American politicians have a
duty to represent the interests of the existing American citizens and
should not be balancing a net harm to American citizens against a net
benefit to non-Americans which is arguably greater; Americans may
decide for themselves to restrict immigration, and (I cannot stress
this enough) the resulting situation is NOT AN INJUSTICE.

The use of the word “justice” is very dangerous in social contexts. It
would undoubtedly be true that if a person with 100 million dollars is
made to give 1 million dollars each to 50 random people, there is a
strong sense in which overall “happiness” is increased, but this kind
of involuntary redistribution is UNJUST. The existence of unequal
circumstances does not in and of itself imply injustice (the use of the
word “injustice” does the very important work of implying that a remedy
must be sought and that the situation should not be tolerated).

As Christians, we have an obligation to be charitable, but we may (and
indeed must) CHOOSE the beneficiaries of our charity, and should reject
claims from any would-be beneficiaries that we ought to sacrifice
something for them in particular, because nobody can give everything
everyone asks them to. In the context of the immigration debate, this
manifests itself as well-meaning Catholics telling other Catholics that
they “ought” to help the would-be immigrants not only in the sense that
it would be a good thing to do so, but in the sense that such help is a
duty it would be sinful not to obey. This must be viewed in the same
sense as other appeals to charity — it is sinful to be uncharitable in
general, but how much one gives and to whom is properly within one’s
discretion and nobody has a CLAIM on charity. If the immigration issue
were properly and honestly framed as an appeal to charity rather than
to justice, we would avoid a lot of improper guilt-tripping; since it
is framed (by Catholic immigration advocates) as an appeal to justice,
there is no natural limit to the resulting recommendations as there
would be in the case of an appeal to charity, because hundreds of
millions of would-be-immigrants are similarly situated with respect to
any claims of justice and one may not deny justice arbitrarily.

Furthermore, as an appeal to charity it would clearly not involve
conflict with or non-enforcement of existing laws, as might be the case
with an appeal to justice if the laws were unjust. In America in recent
decades, voters have absorbed the message that A taxing B to provide
for C is not “charity” on the part of either A or B, and have therefore
not, in general, been misled into supporting socialistic redistribution
on the basis of moral sentiments; in the case of immigration, where the
negative consequences for the citizens already here are not obvious as
they would be in the case of a tax, the manipulation of moral
sentiments (by framing freedom to immigrate as an issue of justice) is
still effective.

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10 Responses to Catholics and the DREAM Act

  1. rebelliousvanilla says:

    So 54% of Americans are insane(nothing new considering that most support the idiotic concept of civic nationality), but this is something related to what I kept saying:
    >> but those of us who are immigrants and/or have lived
    in immigrant communities understand immigrant issues on a personal
    level; for they are a part of our own experience. <<
    This is an anecdote related to what I told you related to Catholicism – that it began acting like a third world lobby to get more of its members inside the 'West'. Yet another reason why I could never be any type of Christian besides an Orthodox.

  2. Polymath says:

    There are still a lot of Catholics in America who understand this issue correctly. If I get any interesting responses on the email list I will excerpt them here.

  3. PA says:

    but those of us who are immigrants and/or have lived
    in immigrant communities understand immigrant issues on a personal
    level; for they are a part of our own experience

    I am also an immigrant, I even lived in a refugee camp in my early teens.

    And I’m an immigration-restrictionist because I don’t want to have to emigrate AGAIN because my new country has turned into a third world socialist shithole.

    Some immigrants, like me, are unapologetic about liking the old America being in some ways the best of Europe. And we want to keep it that way.

  4. Jehu says:

    Like I’ve recommended before—crank up the excommunication machine into high gear on the abortion issue. You’ll do massive collateral damage to the open borders crew that wants to destroy Euro demographic hegemony in the US as well. Last time I checked, there was plenty of water for baptisms and other sacraments in Mexico.

  5. Polymath says:

    The person I was replying to on the pro-life list responded as follows:

    I would say that some (NOT all) Americans (and not necessarily the illegal immigrants residing in the US) tend to view something that is needed as an moral entitlement based on right. I actually think it is very difficult for some Americans to understand that there are moral obligations to help others (e.g., those who are in difficult situations through no fault of their own) that are not necessarily based on entitlements and rights. Actually many immigrant communities in the US help newly-arrived immigrants in need while inculcating in those whom receive help a sense responsiblity and gratitude. Here’s a personal example: when my father came to the US from Ireland, he met a woman from Co. Mayo who owned a group of apartments. She told my father that she would let him stay in one of her apar tments for six months rent free; during that time he was expected to find a job that could support his young family and then pay her the back-rent. My father paid the back-rent and then some, and remembers this act of kindness with much gratitude. He would never say he had a right to free accommodation or the woman from Co. Mayo had an obligation to give him free accommodation! Newly-arrived immigrants tend to be more comfortable getting help from those in their community than from the gov’t, but it is not based on some notion of entitlement and right. It is perhaps more akin to your view of charity stated below.

    In short, I’m not arguing that every need of every legal or illegal immigrant should be met or that immigrants are entitled or have a right to come to the US in order to better their lives. But the fact is that America is very welcoming (especially compared to other countries) an d many immigrants like my father have a deep appreciation and respect for this – the same kind of appreciation that they have when people in their community help them out.

    I don’t doubt that some supporters of the Dream Act are more concerned about importing and enfranchising new voters to support their party, making Republicans look bad in the eyes of Latino voters, and by economic calculations; however, as I’ve stated before, many supporters like myself have more humanitarian concerns in mind, and if you talk to actual immigrants and those who live or have lived in immigrant communities, I suspect you’ll find the same thing. One must differentiate between principled and unprincipled arguments, and then consider them in light of what is the common good, which should not be reduced to a calculation or balancing act between good and harm of citizen vs non-citizen, but may invo lve some level of compromise as far as policy implementation goes. As regards to immigration policy there is both a public and private responsiblity to consider what is just and unjust, and questions of justice, in my opinion, are central to dicussions about the common good. When I use the word justice, I’m not equating it with happiness (certianly not with the kind of happiness to which you referred below!) or equal circumstances (immigrants no matter how well assimilated and successful are not and often do not feel the same as as native born Americans, but they would not in turn say that this is something unjust that should be remedied!). Public will and interest without proper and adequate moral reflection on the common good can, as we have seen historically, lead to bad legislation (e.g., the Jim Crow Laws). I’m not saying that this is the case in regards to recent immigration legislation (although I certain ly have some concerns about that legislation), but merely to underscore the importance of questions of justice in public policy debates on immigration. If such discussions lead to some misconceptions about what is just or what justice entails or false accusations, then we have an obligation to make corrections and try to get closer to the truth of the matter. We should not on the basis of misconceptions throw justice to the wayside. So too we should not dismiss the Dream Act on the basis of some who make unprincipled arguments on its behalf. This is why I responded to Susan’s post on the Dream Act. I simply wanted to state that some of us have the very best of intentions for supporting the Act. I happen to think that the Act should be part and parcel of comprehensive immigration reform legislation where both Democrats and Republican sincerely and honestly try to grap ple with some of the difficult questions surrounding immigration. I think the Brookings study that I linked to in an email below is a good example of such an attempt.

  6. rebelliousvanilla says:

    >>Actually many immigrant communities in the US help newly-arrived immigrants in need while inculcating in those whom receive help a sense responsiblity and gratitude. <<
    So Catholics are for breaking the law in order to feel good about themselves. I prefer the liberals, to be honest. At least they do it for mercenary reasons, not because they are fools. The more I read, the more I realize how right I was.

  7. Polymath says:

    That statement was referring to immigrant communities in general, not just the Catholic ones, and to legal as well as illegal immigrants. But you are right about Orthodoxy being better than Catholicism about this. Although the Catholic bishops officially oppose breaking the law to provide “sanctuary” for illegal immigrants, many have not done a good job of enforcing this in their dioceses.

  8. Doug1 says:

    I completely oppose the DREAM immigration amnesty act.

    The argument that children who were brought here illegally did nothing wrong, and hence shouldn’t be punished is pure dimwitted garbage. First if they remain after the age of entering college they have done something wrong. Second they didn’t do anything right by being brought her illegal as children and shouldn’t have any right to line jump in immigration status. Third we KNOW from experience that granting amnesty greatly increase follow on illegal immigration from that and other groups, and also more legal excessively extensive American “family reunification immigration”.

    I only want to let in smart immigrants, period, which means not many Mexicans or Central Americans that want to come here. Finishing a mere two years in just any ole bottom of the barrel college, which is all the DREAM act requires and all the large majority of DREAM act applicants will do if the bill were ever passed, just ain’t cutting it on this score either.

    Firm no, no way.

  9. Alvis Velthomer says:

    The funny thing is that I used to be Catholic, then I started going to a Protestant denomination, and now I don’t go to Church anymore. The 21st-century Christianity disgusts me in its near complacency toward modern depravity and even with many Protestant sects now embracing depravity in the hopes they will be accepted by the Regressives.

    There are some things I admire with the Catholics (such as there still being pocket vanguards of pre-Vatican II parishes), however, I feel Christianity as a whole has become a meaningless religion in the West, only worth labeling oneself as such to give a person a sense of moral self-worth. If Christians want to remain relevant they would consider themselves totally opposed to the status quo and society. That would mean wholly rejecting popular culture.

    I have taken out my cable, and I only see one movie a year (and only because it is a “family event”). I refuse to give one penny of legitimacy to the depraved sullen Regressives who have steadily ripped out the soul of everything that is holy or decent in Western society. Such action has surely alienated me from almost everyone in my generation, however, better to have truth and beauty than to cling to lies and ugliness.

  10. Polymath, this is great about Romanian Orthodoxism. I don’t know anybody who isn’t pretty much Romanian that is part of this religion, so Christians trying to funnel more of their own in Romania doesn’t matter, since they’d usually be of Romanian descent too. lol

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