Hear! Hear! Dr. Mirus!

Hear! Hear! Dr. Mirus! June 21, 2013

Talking sense from the Tradition instead of nonsense from the dogmas and shibboleths of the Thing That Used to Be Conservatism:

“Illegals” are not “Immorals”: A Persistent Immigration Fallacy

Whenever the USCCB dares to advocate policies which provide for easier immigration and naturalization (e.g., here), a few of our readers shout an argument which I devoutly hope never again to hear from anyone claiming to be Catholic: “We don’t owe illegals anything!”

Many Americans, especially conservative Americans, tend to be selective legalists. Despite their recognition of the falsity of some anti-life laws, they hold that the law confirms a sort of territorial moral exclusivity on citizens. This is one of many values which can arise from being culture bound. It typically creates a huge blind spot on immigration.

There are two false assumptions here. First, there is the assumption that those who have come earlier rather than later to a particular region, and have established a government over the region, and have developed a kind of society in that region, somehow have an exclusive claim to that region as their own. This is typically applied self-servingly; it is rarely upheld for peoples who may have occupied a territory prior to “us”. But in any case, the idea that one group of people can morally set a broad region to be off limits to other groups of people is absurd.

Where would such a moral right come from? Our God-given understanding of the universal destination of goods is sufficient to demonstrate its falsity.

In addition to being wrong and utterly unrealistic (deport 12 million people?) it is monumentally crazy for conservative Catholics to treat as enemies a huge number of fellow Catholics who share their values, are socially conservative, and who just want to make a better life for themselves and their families. US immigration law is essentially the paperwork of man, not the law of God. Sort of important for record-keeping and money-handling. But such laws are made for man, not man for the law.

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  • wlinden

    The Indians should have had stricter immigration laws!

  • Marcel Ledbetter

    “Illegals” are not “Immorals” – no, certainly not. Hopefully they will continue to preserve their souls from sin by not telling a lie to get across the border, or to get a job.

    “…it is monumentally crazy for conservative Catholics to treat as enemies a huge number of fellow Catholics who share their values, are socially conservative, and who just want to make a better life for themselves and their families.” Yes, that is crazy. Glad we’re able to avoid that.

  • BTP

    “First, there is the asumption that those who have come earlier rather than later to a particular region, and have established a government over the region, and have developed a kind of society in that region, somehow have an exclusive claim to that region as their own.”

    Yes, what an odd assumption to make, backed merely by the universal experience of the human race for the last 7,000 years or so. Interesting to read someone casually wipe away the concept of the nation and have Mark imagine it is consistent with Tradition.

    • Bill

      Well, to draw it it its conclusion Dash, therefore let’s get out of here, move back to Italy/Ireland/the UK/Germany etc. and let the Iroquois, Sioux, Navajo, Hopi, Seminole, Creek, Cree, et. al take it back.

      • Matthew

        Dash: the concept of a territorial nation as we understand is relatively new in history. For centuries we had tribes and tribal regions – the notion being the people and not the land. The concept of citizenship is even newer. Think of most of human history: in the Roman empire or pre-modern Europe many people were free to move around and as long as they obeyed the local laws and paid the local taxes no fuss was made.

        • The Deuce

          Yeah, right. People have been defending territory against invaders (which implies that they see the territory as theirs) since time immemorial. As for the Roman empire, well, note that word “empire.” The situation was the result of the whole territory being conquered and owned by a single empire.

          • Political ownership of the land is one thing; as I understand it, the Roman Empire still allowed people to move in and out across its borders. I don’t think the Empire had any kind of an immigration policy limiting who could live within its territories.

        • In fact Hadrian’s wall, I was surprised to learn- had gates in it specifically for the purpose of trade.

        • BTP

          I don’t think it’s a new concept at all. The Egyptians certainly had it in a highly-developed way 5,000 years ago. Libyans: out. Nubians: out. What they called “miserable asiatics”: out.

          If it is erely an assumption, it is one with an extraordianarily long history. Oh, and also one lacking in an explicit contradiction from the Church.

      • BTP

        Well the Powhatan, in Virginia, certainly supposed that the land was theirs — not subject to be used by people from outside. Thus the raids on the earliest English settlers. They were quite successful in the early years. Was their viewpoint morally incorrect?

  • Momof11

    What is the definition of immigrant? If immigration is to come to a new place with the intent to stay permanently, eventually becoming a citizen, that is one situation and I would like to see us allow anyone with that desire to reach it (open immigration, no quotas) If it is referring to anyone coming to the country for whatever period of time they desire, with no intent of becoming a citizen, yet wanting to have a job and send the money earned out of our economy….it gets complicated. It is the job of government to promote the welfare of the citizens of the country….. As with so many issues these days, definition of terms is key to understanding the issue. I am not sure I really do.

    • Complicated yes, but we still have a definite duty to the “stranger in our land”.

  • Do a people have the right to the home they have built for themselves? To preserve their culture and traditions? To pass on to their children and grandchildren roughly the same country that they themselves inherited?

    If so, then not only do they have the right to admit whom they choose, and not admit whom they choose…but they have a positive duty to so choose, and to choose wisely, lest they squander following generations’ inheritance. As Mirus rightly says. it is “obvious that a government has an obligation to protect the common good of all within its territory”.

    This is blindingly obvious to people when we’re talking about, say, the Yanomami. But when we’re talking about Americans or Swedes? It’s somehow immoral for them to stick up for themselves and their cultures…if we admit they even have cultures (which some of the most advanced thinkers now deny).

    And Mirus makes an assertion that I hope is merely thoughtless, rather than disingenuous, when he claims that:

    “This is typically applied self-servingly; it is rarely upheld for peoples who may have occupied a territory prior to ‘us’.”

    Not even close to true. I’ve never met an immigration hawk who didn’t believe that Mexico has the same rights and duties that the United States has (which the Mexican government, by the way, can be quite ruthless about, even as it lobbies us to do otherwise). Nor have I met many open-borders enthusiasts who dispute that Mexico has those same rights and duties…they only dispute that the United States (along with other western European and Anglosphere countries) does. For most of them, then, the precise opposite of Mirus’ statement applies.

    • Another thing that deserves consideration is how the current immigration situation helps enable oppression of the Mexican lower classes, both north and south of the border. Even if some individual families wind up better off, it’s a seriously mixed bag for each society as a whole.

      • One of the things that began to change my mind from being anti-amnesty to pro-path-of-citizenship was noticing that very few families or even individuals wind up better off. It usually takes a few generations.

    • The Deuce

      The thing is, if Americans were demanding a right to permanent entry and citizenship in other peoples’ lands, without regard to their culture, heritage, and social fabric, none of the people who denounce the right of Western nations to limit immigration would fail to recognize it as unjust to their citizens. None of then would claim that those countries had no right to set their “region to be off-limits” to us as they deemed necessary.

      • I wonder what would happen if several million of us petitioned Rome for political sanctuary?

    • There is nothing wrong with wanting to preserve your culture, but there is something wrong in not letting anyone else into your country because they have a different culture.

      “This is typically applied self-servingly; it is rarely upheld for peoples who may have occupied a territory prior to ‘us’.”

      “Not even close to true.”

      Maybe I’m misunderstanding you, but this comment has nothing to do with what rights countries today have to enforce immigration laws similar to ours. Rather, it is about the fact that those who are anti-immigration tend to ignore the fact that they themselves are descended from immigrants. Given how many Americans in the past made no attempt to respect the original inhabitants of this land or allow them to preserve their culture and way of life, it seems colossally hypocritical to now complain about the newer people coming in.

      • CJ

        “tend to ignore the fact that they themselves are descended from immigrants.”
        Well, the Indians fought like hell to keep them out and lost; look at them now. Unrestrained immigration is detrimental to the established population, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone when that population attempts to defend what they have.

        • Not all American Indians fought to keep the immigrants out — some where perfectly willing to share the land, some had no problem with immigrants in unoccupied territory, some only fought in response to aggression from immigrants. That’s another thing we have to be careful about — assuming all American Indians are alike.

          • CJ

            Yet another thing to be careful of is the inability to distinguish between general and particular statements. No, not every Indian fought the whites, but there were enough of them that did to ensure that our history books refer to things like Indian Wars and Buffalo Soldiers.

            • What can I say? I used to be a lawyer, I thrive on particular statements.

      • Stu


        Given none of us were present then, I think that is a stretch.

        Do you have a general point? Yes. But I don’t think we can claim that people are necessarily being hypocritical.

        • Culturally hypocritical, sure, especially if there is no acknowledgement of our immigrant past, and no attempt to explain the current need for strict immigration laws other than “immigrants are ruining our country!”

          I remember in the 80’s one politician explained that American expansion was okay because the land was unoccupied and there were no people we displaced or mistreated.

          In my home state I saw a lot of prejudice against Latinos by Irish-Americans, who seem to have completely forgotten that they experienced the very same thing less than a hundred years ago. So yes, I think it is true that often “it is rarely upheld for peoples who may have occupied a territory prior to ‘us’.”

          • Stu

            Not hypocritical at all. I don’t know anyone who is actively attempting to dilute the culture of another nation all while attempting to stop the same here in the States. Do you? Who are these people?

            • The Deuce

              Come, Stu, stop trying to reason. What you should have said is “How dare you offend me with your stereotype!!”

            • I’m not sure what you mean, or what you are asking for. I do unfortunately know some people who do want Latinos for example to be “less Latino,” so to speak. Is that what you are getting at?

              • Stu

                Hypocritical means to profess one thing all while doing another. For an individual in this era to want secure borders, even with their ancestors coming in at a different time with no restrictions, in no way makes them hypocrites.

                • Ok, I get that, I guess my point is that such an individual could be hypocritical nonetheless depending on the attitudes and reasons surrounding his desire for secure borders (and what he means by secure borders). That was what I was getting at in my first paragraph about not acknowledging one’s past.

                  • Stu

                    I still think hypocritical is the wrong word.

                    Inconsistent might be better.

      • The Deuce

        Given how Americans in the past made no attempt to respect the original inhabitants of this land or allow them to preserve their culture and way of life, it seems colossally hypocritical to now complain about the newer people coming in.

        I’m amazed that people so often use this in order to argue *for* unrestricted immigration, since it so clearly demonstrates exactly what they’re trying to argue against. Does anybody want to argue that the rapid immigration from other cultures, and their failure to prevent it, didn’t turn out badly for the Native Americans and their culture? Does anybody believe that they weren’t justified in being worried, and in trying to prevent the predictable fate that befell their citizens and their culture?

        This isn’t really an argument against the harmfulness of unlimited immigration so much as an attempt to shame people into accepting that harm, ie “Your ancestors did it to others, so now it’s your obligation to take it on the chin.”

        • And you’d have a point if I were in favor of complete unrestricted immigration. Or if I were arguing that it would be totally ok for new immigrants to kill citizens to take their home and lands.

      • I’m sorry for the confusion. I was focused not on the specific “prior to” point–which perhaps I ought to have addressed separately–but on the more general claim that immigration hawks are insisting on rights that they would deny to others.

        Regarding the “prior to” question: it seems more like misdirection to me, than a serious argument. I was born in this country, as were my parents, as were my grandparents. If I call for deporting some portion of the illegal-immigrant population, am I supposed to be willing to “return” somewhere myself (and where?), in order to prove I’m not “self-serving”?

        Or perhaps the idea is that because my ancestors did something and gained from it–in this case, immigrated to the United States–I’m not allowed to take a position against anyone else ever doing that same thing. (We’ll set aside for now the question whether legal immigration and illegal immigration are “the same thing”.) This would be an especially intriguing proposition if we also applied it to the descendants of slaveholding plantation owners.

  • The Deuce


    …are socially conservative…

    That’s not really true: http://www.pewhispanic.org/2012/04/04/v-politics-values-and-religion/

    The only thing it’s even *a little bit* true of is that Hispanics are somewhat more anti-abortion than the rest of the population. And even that is only true of 1st generation immigrants. Every generation after that is *MORE* pro-abortion than the rest of the population. And regardless of their stated views, Hispanics live more socially liberal than the rest of the population. They have more family breakdown and out-of-wedlock births, and they get more abortions.

    And apart from that one thing, Hispanics are basically social liberals across the board (and on all economic issues, they are hardcore leftists).

    • Well thank you for telling me how I live and what I believe in!

      • The Deuce

        Are you disputing Pew’s findings, or are you pretending not to be able to distinguish between general and particular statements so that you can have an excuse to act offended?

        • Well, in general, statistics (even from Pew!) are not necessarily the be-all and end-all, and a lot of nuance gets lost. I’m generally offended by the way all Latinos everywhere are lumped into one group, and the way no allowance is made for socio-economic, educational or cultural differences. I am offended that your restating of Pews findings appeared to generalize all Latinos (heck, even just inserting the word “most” would have helped). I REALLY object to the implication that we are more immoral than white people. (And, fyi, some Latinos ARE white, some are brown, some are black, some are Asian, some are some/all of the above.)

          And lets be real — if were ever stupid enough to say “White people are …” or “white people believe …” I’d be eaten alive by conservatives.

          • Stu

            So the generalization that hispanics are “socially conservative” is also untrue and offensive?

            • Stu, Stu, Stu. You’re forgetting one of the primary laws of politically-correct discourse.

              Stereotypes that are unfavorable to a Designated Victim Group are evil and racist.

              Stereotypes that are favorable to a Designated Victim Group are compulsory.

              • Stu

                I know. I just like seeing it demonstrated.

            • It’s untrue. I don’t think “socially conservative” is an inherently offensive term (just as I don’t think “liberal” is either, and I consider myself liberal on most issues). if Mark had gone into more detail about morally wrong behavior, I would have been offended.

              • Stu

                Not offensive to you. But I am confident it is offensive to others.

                So generalizations are okay if you are not personally offended.

                BTW, as a Scot, I will affirm that we are very thrifty (cheap.)

                • OH MY GOD I cannot be responsible for every phrase that any person anywhere in the world might be offensive. I was offended by Ian Bibby’s generalizations about all Latinos, and spoke up against that. It is a battle I’ve been fighting my whole life — the erroneous expectations people have about Latinos.

                  • Stu

                    And I think your being offended at a research poll that actually asked people questions to be misplaced. My questions are aimed to show that your position on this is simply unsupportable.

                    • No, my offense is not in the research poll itself but how it is used.

                    • Stu

                      To refute an offhand generalization?

                    • With another offhand generalization.

                    • Stu

                      So the research poll is a generalization?

                    • Well yes, isn’t it? It generalized all Latinos of all backgrounds into one group, and then restated its findings in general language (take the statement about whether abortion should be “mainly legal” — I imagine among the 43% who agreed with that there would be disagreement about what “mainly legal” meant specifically).

                      Also, again, my objection was to the statements that “Latinos are …” rather than “x% of Latinos are …” Or “most Latinos are …” etc.

                    • Stu

                      Well, then I suppose everything absent individual views is just a generalization. But generalizations are not necessarily wrong. And to use that poll, which clearly contains some rigor, to demonstrate that Mark’s premise may be off is a completely valid use of the data.

                      I still fail to see why anyone would be offended.

                    • But that’s why I prefer words like “most” or “some” or a specific percentage — doesn’t that get at the findings of the study and show support for the idea that Mark’s own generalization was inaccurate or wrong, without implying (deliberately or unintentionally) that all people fall into that statement?

                      Tell me honestly, I’m not trying to be facetious here. If someone wrote “White people are racist,” would you be offended even a little bit by that statement*, or bothered by it? Would you immediately think “Not all are!”? What if you had spent a lifetime hearing that statement?

                      *Yes, I am assuming you are white, I’m sure you will correct me if I am wrong 🙂

                    • Stu

                      No, I’m not offended by such statements when they are clearly wrong or don’t pertain to me.

                      And yes, I am white. And I am married to a Hispanic woman. And we both raise our children not to get caught up in such nonsense.

                      It was implied that Hispanics are socially conservative. This was countered by a research poll that demonstrated that such a generalization isn’t accurate and it’s more of a mixed bag. Yet you are offended because you think that is a generalization.

                      That just doesn’t make sense. Exactly what I steer my children away from.

                    • The Deuce

                      Btw, East Asians are even more socially and politically liberal in their views than Hispanics. I must hate my wife.

                    • Stu

                      Her math skills make up for it. 🙂

                • Stu, I spent some time in Aberdeen…and even by Scottish standards, folks there have a bit of a reputation. Hence the joke:

                  An Aberdonian and a Glaswegian are travelling together. They stop in at a pub, and the fellow from Glasgow orders a pint.

                  “That’ll be 2p”, says the barman.

                  “You mean two POUNDS, right?” says the Glaswegian.

                  “No, two pence. You see, today is the 100th anniversary of the opening of this pub. As part of the celebration, we’re selling beer for the same price as the year the pub opened.”

                  “Fantastic!” The fellow turns to his friend. “So, a pint for you too, then?”

                  “No thanks,” says the man from Aberdeen.

                  “What?! Why ever not?”

                  “I’m waiting for Happy Hour.”

                  • Stu

                    SPOT ON!

                    Most people don’t realize that “Scotch Tape” is a bit of joke about Scots being so cheap that they will tape everything back together.

                    I’m so offended!

              • The Deuce

                In other words, you’re basically saying what Goliard said. The truth doesn’t matter. It’s all about how offended you are. False favorable stereotypes are okay, but true unfavorable ones are verboten.

                • No, that’s not what I’m saying at all. “Positive” stereotypes can be just has harmful as negative ones, as any Asian who’s been asked if she’s really good at math could tell you. Moreover, Mark’s comment about being socially conservative was a very minor point that I didn’t think was worth addressing.

                  • “‘”Positive’ stereotypes can be just has harmful as negative ones, as any Asian who’s been asked if she’s really good at math could tell you.”

                    So similarly, we could say that the “positive” stereotype that black Americans have better rhythm than white Americans is “just as harmful” as all the negative stereotypes about black Americans?

                    Good luck with that.

                    • “CAN BE.” And boy, I can’t win — if I say positive stereotypes can be harmful, I’m wrong. If I ignore positive stereotypes, I’m wrong.

                    • The Deuce

                      No, the reason you can’t win is your preoccupation with stereotypes and their “offensiveness” in the first place, at the expense of the truth.

                    • If it “can be”–often enough for the claim to be a useful statement of general truth, as opposed to an observation along the lines of “kittens CAN BE born with two heads”–perhaps you could think of a better example than the one mooted.

                      Because I can’t think of a single negative ethnic stereotype that isn’t obviously–screamingly obviously–worse than being asked if one is good at math. (Or do I just have an impoverished imagination?)

                    • The Deuce

                      FWIW, my wife is Japanese. She’s good at math. Most Japanese are.

                    • Poor Ian. Don’t you realize that empirically-established fact is never a valid defense in this area?

                    • The Deuce

                      There you go again with your stereotypes. I’m offended on behalf of empirically-established facts everywhere.

                    • Look, all I can tell you is that I know some Asians who really really hate that assumption and have in fact suffered in some way because of it. It was the first one that popped into my head.

                    • Well, okay. We’ve probably gone far enough down that rabbit hole as it is.

                      I do appreciate the good-faith efforts at responding, and am sorry you’ve been ganged up on a bit in places here. I also apologize if some of my remarks were directed less towards what you were actually trying to say than they were refutations of some of the less-reasonable people I’ve encountered in the past.

                      Peace, and thank you for the discussion.

                    • Thanks to you too, you gave me food for thought.

                  • The Deuce

                    Oh, okay, so only “offensive” stereotypes are bad, not just “negative” ones. Positive ones can be bad too, if they’re “offensive.” And by “offensive” we mean “offends Beadgirl.”

                    And again, truth is irrelevent. If Mark speaks a false stereotype, that’s okay, as long as it’s not “offensive.” But if I correct that false stereotype by pointing out the truth of the matter, well I need to be shamed out of such heresy, if the true generalization happens to be “offensive.”

                    • Stu

                      Rube Goldberg couldn’t even keep up.

                    • You are willfully misreading me at this point. I give up.

                      And my genuine apologies for misreading you. I see now that your original post was not as harsh as I first read it.

          • The Deuce

            I’m generally offended by the way all Latinos everywhere are lumped into one group, and the way no allowance is made for socio-economic, educational or cultural differences.

            For the purposes of the immigration debate, the statistical generalization is what matters. It’s not only socially conservative Hispanics immigrating, or only Hispanics of a particular socio-economic, educational, or cultural strata, but Hispanics as a group.

            That *some* of them may be socially or economically conservative doesn’t change the fact that on the whole, their mass immigration can be expected to make the country’s overall demographic more socially and economically liberal.

      • The Deuce

        And if, for some reason, you’re offended by general statements about groups that don’t necessarily describe every single member of the group… then shouldn’t you have been offended at Mark saying that Hispanics are socially conservative in the first place?

  • Jared Black

    Goliard’s got it right. Mirus’ argument proves too much: just try
    to come up with a working definition of “society” that
    doesn’t implicitly involve what Mirus cynically describes as “one group of people can morally set a broad region to be off limits to other groups of people”. It’s common sense that a family cannot have a “household” in any meaningful sense
    of the term unless mom & dad have some rights to decide who lives in
    their home and who doesn’t. If we really believe that the family is the
    fundamental unit of society—in practice, that means that the purpose, rights and duties of a society can be and should be extrapolated from what we know of the family—then larger units of society up to an including a nation logically must have similar moral rights.

    • Stu

      I agree. I’m generally sympathetic to the notion of allowing almost anyone to immigrate to this country and I don’t get worked up at the thought of the current group of illegal immigrants being naturalized. But there is nothing wrong with wanting secure borders as a matter of good order for all involved.

    • AnsonEddy

      Yeah. I found that argument of his confusing as far as how it would be applied to private land ownership as well. My neighbor might be able to enhance his own life and the lives of his family members by building a tannery in my backyard. But I would certainly object on the grounds that I hold that I have a right to put that ground to whatever use I deem appropriate and to be off limits to him to put to use no matter how productive. I’m not sure why I have the moral right to declare my backyard off limits to others, but a nation state does not have such right.

      • Where the household analogy is most apt is here:

        It can often be a laudable act of Christian compassion for a family to take in a stranger and let him live in their house. In some circumstances, in fact, this can even be a moral imperative.

        That does not mean, however, that it’s always a good idea. Sometimes, the very same act would be a reckless effort at misguided charity, gravely endangering the family taking in the stranger, and quite possibly harmful to the stranger himself.

        Nor does it mean that it’s right to take the decision of who should live in the house out of the hands of the family.

        And it certainly doesn’t mean that laws against trespass are unjust, or can licitly be ignored by anyone who finds them inconvenient.

    • jcb

      “It’s common sense that a family cannot have a “household” in any meaningful sense
      of the term unless mom & dad have some rights to decide who lives in
      their home and who doesn’t. If we really believe that the family is the
      fundamental unit of society—in practice, that means that the purpose, rights and duties of a society can be and should be extrapolated from what we know of the family—then larger units of society up to an including a nation logically must have similar moral rights.”

      No. That’s the fallacy of composition — illicitly inferring a claim about the whole from claims about its parts. There are all kinds of things that are true of families that aren’t true of nations, so you can’t infer that a nation has some moral right from the fact that families have that right.

  • The Deuce

    But in any case, the idea that one group of people can morally set a
    broad region to be off limits to other groups of people is absurd.

    It’s frankly absurd (and shocking) to say that it’s absurd. That “absurd” notion is essentially the very concept of property itself!

  • CJ

    Ugh. This is perhaps the one issue where I just don’t get Catholic teaching at all. You can’t have a nation state if you can’t (or won’t) control your borders and by extension, who will have a claim on your finite resources and the right to participate in your political life. Is the Catholic church opposed to the very idea of nation states?

    This open borders defeatism (“we can’t deport em all”) has real costs: there’s an article out today (haven’t had a chance to read it) that purports to show that increases in immigration are tied to a decrease in African-American employment. Frankly, it seems to me to be another facet of messianic statism ,as if the US has an endless bounty of manna for everyone who wants to come here.

    • The Deuce

      Indeed, not that the race should matter (though of course to liberals it does), but the further depression of wages and destruction of employment caused by this bill ( http://dailycaller.com/2013/06/19/senate-bill-allows-46-million-immigrants-by-2033-says-cbo/ ) is going to fall primarily on poor black citizens, who are the primary competition for the job markets that unskilled immigrants are flooding (and undercutting by being able to work under minimum wage). This will, of course, further grind into the ground the black family unit, which is already nearly an endangered species.

    • wineinthewater

      I think a big part of the problem is that immigration is a classic case of people reading Church teaching through political lenses. Church teaching does not hold that the borders must be completely open. We have to take a step back and remove the political knee jerks.

      The Church clearly teaches the universal destination of goods. The goods of creation belong to all mankind, not just those who have managed to take possession of them. This means that we cannot withhold from those in want in order to maintain our prosperity. Which also means that we can’t simply keep people out of our country.

      However, I think the thing that is often lost is that the Church also teaches about the common good and the states obligation to ensure the common good. A wide-open border policy would be disastrous for the common good. Even American prosperity would be taxed if everyone in want came here.

      So the two must be harmonized and balanced in our immigration policy. But the reality is that right now, the universal destination of goods is being severely compromised by current policies. Our immigration policies are unjust and deprive those in want their just claim to the goods of God’s creation, and not in the name of preserving the common good, but preserving the common prosperity.

      From a Catholic standpoint, the borders can only be closed enough to protect the common good, no more. Right now, our borders are far more closed than the common good demands, therefore, Catholic teaching would require for *more* open borders and more access to America. But Catholic teaching Church would not require unfettered borders.

      The problem is that Catholic thinking on this looks more like liberal thinking than conservative thinking, and therefore often gets condemned along with liberal thinking. The other problem is that Cafeteria Catholicism is just as present on the Right as it is on the Left, it is just less obvious. So lots of Catholics dissent from Catholic teaching about the universal destination of goods.

      But the reality is that our current system and most plans to make our system even more closed are incompatible with Catholic teaching. Our faith is hard.

  • bob

    I disagree that deporting people because there are too many is an argument for allowing their continued crime. Do traditionally minded Catholics suggest that since (far more than 12 million) lots of Catholic believers use artificial birth control that the rules on that should be changed?

    • I don’t think that is a good analogy, given the moral weight of using ABC is very different from the moral weight of entering the country without the necessary paperwork. For one thing, the first arguably follows from natural law, the second is a creation of secular administration. For another, ABC is not illegal in this country but it is considered immoral in the Church, where as entering a country without paperwork is illegal but not inherently immoral in the eyes of the Church.

  • Jacob

    I still find myself trying to square a circle when it comes to the immigration debate. On the one hand, I certainly agree that the illegal Mexican immigrants are, on the whole, just trying to make an honest living for themselves and we should encourage them to assimilate rather than deport them – even though we are perfectly within our rights to do so (as an aside, people say “You can’t deport 12 million people!” Why not?)
    But on the other hand we have to acknowledge the very real negative consequences of illegal immigration – depressed wages, increased unemployment, and the creation of a near permanent underclass. I believe the last is the worst, and increasing the number of unskilled laborers we import from Mexico means that that underclass will have to compete even harder for jobs that pay illegally low wages. What is our plan for these people when they cannot find work?
    Until we can prove that we as a society can help these immigrants assimilate and move up, I think we have a moral obligation to stringently limit the number of unskilled laborers we import – otherwise we are taking advantage of desperate people in a way that ultimately will harm our own society.

    • There are absolutely negative consequences to illegal immigration, but there are also negative consequences to deporting 12 million people. Aside from the harm that would do to many many families (including children who have been raised here and know no other way of life or language) and the administrative cost, it would also have a huge effect on our economy. Whether we like it or not, and whether it is moral or not, we as a nation rely quite a bit on cheap immigrant labor for fruit picking, construction, housecleaning services, nannying, and so on.

      Illegal immigration may depress wages, but it’s not as if, should all these illegal immigrants disappear one day, citizens would leap to fill in those jobs. In Alabama and Georgia, for example, after very strict immigration laws was passed, farmers and factory owners have had a very hard time finding enough workers.

      • Jacob

        I never meant to suggest that we should deport the entire illegal immigrant population, I only question the statement that we aren’t able. In any case, I find it completely unconvincing that we have to use sub-minimum wage illegals in order to fill jobs. Yes, the agricultural industry would certainly have to adapt, but it isn’t hard at all to find workers in the present economy – just difficult to pay them $10 an hour. Incidentally, what sort of factories aside from meat processing plants employ illegal laborers? Mostly my experience is that factory jobs pay moderately well.

        • I know, my point was simply that illegal immigrants are intertwined in our economy, which needs to be taken into account but is often ignored. And I think that sub-minimum wage, for anyone, is wrong. I definitely do not like the way undocumented workers are exploited because of their status.

          I think it was chicken processing factories, I’m not sure. And for what it’s worth, the farmers did find documented laborers, but most of them left after a week, a day, or even half a day, because the work was so physically demanding.

          • Jacob

            I don’t doubt that a lot of people today would rather not work so hard for minimum wage – but when 99 weeks of unemployment runs out, some would do it. Even if I’m wrong, I bet the big planters will not simply give up if they don’t have such a big supply of cheap labor anymore. They might simply be forced to offer farmers a more attractive wage – which is precisely why Cesar Chavez wanted restrictions on immigration, in order to protect the wages of the poor farmers who were already here.

    • Kristen inDallas

      Being here illegally does carry with it some of those problems… but allowing people (once they are already here) to correct that by going through the propper channels to become legal, helps to elliminate most of the problems. Once a citizen, they have th right to demand minimum wage and pay taxes on it. Unemployment rates actually go down. And for anyone inclined towards a criminal lifestyle (I’m not supposing any more than we get natural born criminals, but there will be a few) – “bad guys” are easier to track down when they are already in the system.
      Also, just FYI – goods and resources are “imported” people immigrate, this may seem like a picky gramatical point, but the implications are pretty severe: People are subjects, not objects, and I think that’s something we should always bear in the front of our minds.

      • Jacob

        I used the word “import” somewhat intentionally – I think our current policy of letting droves cross the border in order to work sub-minimum-wage jobs is in fact an attack on human dignity. And of course, you are right, once they are here legally (don’t have to be citizens, just have work status), illegals will indeed have the right to demand the legal minimum wage. Whether they will get it or simply lose their jobs is a different question – it would probably depend on whether the employment of future illegals is as easy as it is now for the current illegal immigrant population.

  • Stu

    I also believe Mirus misreads some of the angst by those who are seemingly against giving the illegal immigrants a break. Oh sure, there are certainly some that have a rather narrow understanding of “help thy neighbor” but I believe many are really just frustrated with the situation. We have had two rounds of amnesty with promises to “fix the border” and understandably people are skeptical that the politicians will deliver. Is it right to completely blame the illegals? Certainly not. But they do personify the problem.

    I actually believe that for the most, the illegal immigrants are a “good bet” for having here. Yes, there are “bad apples.” We “grow” them here too. But for a person to leave his homeland in such a risky manner to come here is a demonstration of guts in my mind and the kind of person I want in my workforce. And counter to what the Warren Buffets and Bill Gates think, if as a country we aren’t growing, then we are dying. Properly focused, these immigrants help to
    grow the economy.

    Now on the flip side, I see nothing wrong with holding fast to the notion of securing the border even with more open immigration laws. It will never be perfect but we can do much to make sure more people “use the front door” when coming into our home. Better for us in terms of knowing who comes in and better for the immigrants who are preyed upon by rogue elements at the border.

    It could be really easy. But neither political party seemingly wants it done the correct way. The GOP likes this as an election year issue (thought that might have run its course) and the Democrat party likes to buy off the illegal immigrants with government sponsored social programs in exchange for illegal votes. And both parties listen to their Big Business donors who like the cheap

  • Michele

    The bottoms line is this: Do we respect the rule of law or not? If we respect the rule of law then everyone should follow the law when wishing to come to this country. My mother and grandmother did. My sister-in-law and her family did. They respected the laws of this country and followed them. I assure you that they are very unhappy that people who did not follow the legal process for entry are getting amnesty. it is fundamentally unfair that the law is not being applied equally.

    • Stu

      Sure it is unfair. But where does all of the culpability lie? As a Nation we decry illegal immigrants all while “winking” as we employ them.

    • The Deuce

      I can tell you that after the labyrinthine hell DHS put me and my wife through to get her into the country as a permanent resident (had to postpone the wedding three times due to their incompetence and lack of communication), I tend to look askance at the tearful handwringing over how “unjust” it is not to immediately legalize people who just disregarded the law and came on in for free.

      • Stu


        I think that is an understandable feeling. Heck, I get torqued at Walmart with their self-service check out line which is completely mismanaged. But at the end of the day, does the BS that you had to go through, change because as a nation we have to fix the mess we created with a bad system and in doing so give a pass to some who simply didn’t follow the correct path?

        I honestly believe that if the border was secure and orderly that most people would quickly forget another round of amnesty. But yet, there is so much inertia against it. I can’t understand why but it makes me believe they don’t want to solve the problem which is why I put more blame on our leadership and ultimately us.

      • Kate Cousino

        Funny, my similar experience left me with a great deal of empathy for people who, lacking any of the education or resources I had, and being far less ‘desirable’ in many ways, chose to enter in the manner they understood and could manage.

        And you (and I) are talking of family sponsorships, by far the simplest, quickest, and least complex manner to obtain legal residency in the US. Many illegal immigrants would be limited to either short-term work visas (for unskilled labor, a formula that invites exploitation and poor treatment-in practice, it can look a lot like a kind of modern serfdom), or the lottery…which really is a lottery, with about the same odds as your local state jackpot.

        So, no. You can’t accuse people of ‘butting in line’ if they were never going to be allowed a place in line in the first place.

    • wineinthewater

      Laws can be unjust. And that is the problem, our immigration laws are unjust. They are incompatible with Catholic teaching about the universal destination of goods. Just like our abortion laws are unjust and incompatible with Catholic teaching about the dignity and sacredness of the human person.

      Catholic moral theology makes a very clear distinction between breaking a just law and an unjust law. Those who come here illegally, especially out of desperation, are not the same as those who break just laws.

      The fact that others in the past successfully navigated an unjust system does not justify penalizing those who failed to successfully navigate an unjust system. The unfairness is not being caused by those who might get amnesty, the unfairness is created by the unjust system itself.

      • michele

        Then we can work to fix the system. You don’t just get to ignore the law because you deem it “unjust.”

        • wineinthewater

          Then we must simply pay for contraceptive coverage when the law requires it. And when the law establishes “bubble zones” to keep us away from abortion clinics, we must simply abide. And when the law required the martyrs to offer sacrifice, they should have just committed sacrilege instead of refusing and dying in witness of their faith.

          Catholic teaching holds that unjust laws are no law at all (see Aquinas) and do not hold the force of law. The obligation is on us, as the supposed true power in a democratic republic, to change the unjust law, not on others to obey it.

  • BigBlueWave

    I think the Bible does show that regions are exclusive to Nations. Acts 17:26 says: “From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole
    earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the
    boundaries of their lands.” I could be wrong, but the idea that nations don’t “own” their country does not seem biblical. Individuals have the right to migrate, but it seems to me common sense that a country has the right to protect its language and culture from mass illegal invasion, not to mention all the crime and social dysfunction that accompanies it. This is not about locking out a few people. This is about stopping millions of people from acting lawlessly without any due regard for the country they’re entering. If 12 million Canadians illegally entered the US, there would be a stronger case for amnesty, as they are culturally more like Americans, and their levels of criminal activity are much lower. I mean nobody’s ever heard of French Canadian drug gangs wreaking havoc in Vermont. I’m open to the Magisterial teaching, but Jeff Mirus’ article is unconvincing.

  • wlinden

    All generalizers beat their wives!
    (Awaiting angry complaints from generalizers everywhere.)

    • Stu

      When did you stop generalizing about your wife?

      • wlinden

        Favorably or unfavorably?

        • Stu

          I suppose that characterization is up to her and can change without notice or reason.

  • Steve Kellmeyer

    I wrote this seven years ago.
    It applies all the more today.

    Forget about lawn care or construction or toilet cleaning as “jobs Americans won’t do.” Whether Americans will or won’t do those jobs doesn’t matter at all. There’s only one job that matters, and we CLEARLY won’t do that one.

    We refuse to bear and raise children.

    Instead, we pay immigrants to come here and have our babies for us because we don’t want to be bothered with kids. If you want the nation to continue, SOMEBODY has to have the babies. We won’t. The immigrants will. They will do the work we won’t, so they and their children will inherit the country.

    It ultimately doesn’t matter what anyone thinks about immigration. As the American citizens alive today age out, die and refuse to replace themselves, others come in to replace them. Nature abhors a vacuum. We have vacuumed ourselves out.

    • jpaYMCA

      You’re wrong about Malthusian population trends. Read the latest data: it ain’t looking good for Latino illegal immigrants and birth control. Remember, it’s something covered in new healthcare too … “freer” is better, right?

      • Steve Kellmeyer

        The Pew Social Trends link *IS* the latest data.

        Sure, illegals use birth control. But they’re still younger and they’re still having more babies than most Americans are.

        Half of American Caucasian women are post-menopausal.
        Demography is destiny.
        This is going to be an Hispanic country whether you like it or not.
        They’re the only ones willing to have children – the blacks abort theirs and we don’t even bother to have them. Not enough Asians to make a difference – that means the Hispanics win.

  • BillClintonsShorts17

    Beadgirl – As the husband of one Bolivian immigrant and sponsor of two others I think I can safely say I have not one gram of anti-latino prejudice within my mushroom white gringo soul. I object to illegal immigrants for the same reason I object to people cutting in ahead of others in a line. It is rude and despicable behavior. And as is the same with most things in life, all is not wine and roses. I love many things about latin culture. Many things. And some things I don’t like very much at all. Do we really want to import to our shores a social convention which would have the poor and destitute going up to the ‘patron’, hat in hand, to ask for his favor? Do we need the magical notion that blowing the horn on your car will make the traffic jam disappear? The traffic jam often being a working out in life of the philosophy of ‘Viva Yo’ [long live me]?

    • My position is that our immigration laws need more compassion and that many of us need to be more understanding of the position undocumented immigrants are in. And, again, I do not, in fact, support a completely open border with no administrative control over immigration at all.

      I do disagree with the claim that crossing the border illegally is “despicable” — I can think of several scenarios where that would be the last word to describe it (like fleeing the horrific violence of the cartels).

      (If you think blowing horns in bad traffic is something only Latinos do, may I invite you to spend some time in NYC? or Boston? or a bunch of other places?)

      • BillClintonsShorts17

        I guess drivers in California and Texas are just more disciplined. No experience with NYC or Boston. And surely you would agree that fleeing danger is far different than sneaking in ahead of someone who is already in line? The first is understandable. The second is despicable. As Daffy Duck would say.

        • Stu

          Say it. Don’t spray it.

      • BillClintonsShorts17

        Are you OK with the popular advocacy organization ‘La Raza’? [‘The Race’]. Do you agree with me that this is exceedingly racist?

  • Sean

    Why isn’t this a rational solution:
    Secure the border and then let as many legal immigrants in as deemed necessary. Put a fence up and hire more people to handle the paperwork for legal entry. Nothing immoral about that. Why do Mexicans and central and South Americans have more of a right to immigrate than any other ethnic group? Build a fence!!!

  • tobin nieto

    I always love when white guilt rears it’s ugly head. And for those who advocate for an open border, put your money where your mouth is – Take the doors and windows off your home ,and if anyone wanders in, no matter what they do, let them stay.

    • wlinden

      For those who advocate “secure borders”, put your money where your mouth is – leave the country and go back to where you “really” belong.
      (See, I can do it too.)

  • Harry Seldon

    “Social conservatives” who vote overwhelmingly Democrat. Nice try.

    • chezami

      Social conservatives who vote to defend their families from people who want to exploit them economically while denying them citizenship and who want to deport them and their familes back to Mexico after they have lived here for decades and their children have been raised here. Defense of the family is practically the definition of social conservatism. The GOP makes super clear that they regard immigrants as enemies. Weirdly, immigrants get the message and vote for people who *don’t* treat them as enemies. And the GOP wonders why its losing.

      • Stu

        Unfortunately, part of the way they “*don’t* treat them as enemies” is by making illegal immigrant de facto citizens immediately with plenty of federalized assistance and pathways to vote right away. they buy them off. So they might not be “enemies” but they aren’t being treated with dignity either.

        I can’t speak for the GOP, but I don’t believe they see all immigrants as “enemies.” I don’t agree with the extreme talk in dealing with illegal immigrants one bit but I think it important to draw the lines correctly. Interestingly, I listened to a segment of Larry Kudlow last weekend with some of his GOP guests and they were extolling the virtues of increased immigration as a means to grow the economy.

        • merkn

          The Wall Street journal and many “conservative”voices have consistently favored relaxed immigration laws. There are 4 Republican members of the so called “gang of Four” which is proposing liberalized immigration legislation opposed by many other on the right. By contrast many labor unions and some bishops have in the past opposed more liberal immigration because it depresses wages. So this nonsense about a monolithic right is really a straw man argument. The fact of the matter is it is a complicated issue that needs to be addressed item by item without demagoguery. You won’t find that here.

  • Tony

    Mirus is absolutely wrong about what Catholic social teaching says about this matter. As are most of the United States bishops when they start braying on this.

    First of all, Catholic doctrine is clear that nations DO have the right to limit immigration, this is a fundamental right of nations. They have the right to restrict immigration on at least 3 grounds: (1) not admitting those who are a danger to the state or to safety (terrorists, anyone?). (2) not admitting people whose social practices, customs, language, religion, or other characteristics would be disruptive of the existing customs (such as those who practice polygamy). Pope Benedict explicitly stated that nations have a right to retain their OWN culture and customs. The necessary conclusion from this is that they have a right to restrict immigration in order to properly assimilate and change over new immigrants whose strange customs have already put a strain on the culture. (3) Not admitting so many all at once as would cause labor and financial disruptions, for this would undermine part of the reason the immigrants want to come here to begin with – a better prospect. If everyone came here, nobody would be better off by coming here.

    Given these basic legitimate reasons for nations to have for putting restrictions on immigration, nobody can say that at the barest root, US immigration law, which certainly allows immigration under quotas, is fundamentally an immoral or unjust law. (Certainly those laws may be put into force in an unfair manner, but that’s a different question). Since the law is not fundamentally unjust for putting in place restrictions or quotas, it is absolutely out of order claiming the mantle of “it is OK to disobey an unjust law” for illegal immigrants. If they come here in violation of the law, they have no claim that they are doing something that is fundamentally just even if it is against the law.

    No potential immigrant can possibly have sufficient information that his own immigration is so important that his need overrides not only our general law (which in principle is a just law) but ALSO the needs of other immigrants who would be able to come here if he did not illegally “jump the line”. Maybe the quotas would be increased if there were not 300,000 illegals last year, and maybe some other person who has been in line for 2 years has a better claim than he has. In actual practice, most illegals come here without ever considering clearly whether the law is a just law, they intend to break it whether it is just or not. When Mirus says illegals are not immorals, he has a tough time backing that up in any principled way, because they (well, most of them) know that they are not conforming themselves to the law, and they don’t know that it is an unjust law, and that is one form of immorality.

    • chezami

      Not just wrong but *absolutely* wrong. The cafeteria is wiiiide open.

      • SM


        “Not admitting so many all at once as would cause labor and financial disruptions, for this would undermine part of the reason the immigrants want to come here to begin with – a better prospect. If everyone came here, nobody would be better off by coming here.”

        This comment reveals a shocking lack of understanding of how economies work.

        “In actual practice, most illegals come here without ever considering clearly whether the law is a just law.”

        Most? Did you poll them?

        • Tony

          “how economies work”. You mean, it isn’t true that farm workers get paid less than they might command in a fair economy because some farmers can hire illegals and pay them peanuts instead? Or that the illegals’ use of emergency rooms instead of regular doctors skews the health care economy? The only thing we need to know about the ILLEGAL part of the illegal-alien economy is that it would be much better for our total economy if all of them who are gainfully employed and not doing other illegal acts were all legal, above board, and on the books for their work. There is nothing that is accomplished in the economy fruitfully and fairly that could not be accomplished legally.

          “Did you poll them”? Counteroffer: do you have any serious (i.e. based on evidence) basis for thinking that a majority of the illegals here performed a morally serious examination of conscience on the question of whether the law is a just law that is authoritatively binding on them? That they took appropriate steps to inform their consciences? Including the ones who can’t read and wouldn’t know 4/5 of the issues needed to appropriately analyze whether the law is a just law?