regarding the recission of DACA and all the terrible excuses being made for doing so. I agree with every word of this:
So Pope Francis, in one of his freewheeling airplane interviews, has taken a shot at President Trump’s rescission of DACA, stipulating (correctly of course) that recognizing the importance of families staying together is part of being truly pro-life (read more: www.bit.ly/2y0unfU).
So now of course we have to weather another rehearsal of commentary on how *Actually* Trump hasn’t done anything at all, and nobody is being deported (yet), and besides DACA was unconstitutional, and so Obama is responsible for this mess, and Trump was right to rescind it, and we are a nation of laws, and nations have the right to control their borders, etc., etc.
Prescinding from meta-questions around what the president can or can’t do via executive action (which may be an important question in its own sphere but is not a moral question), let’s address some of the fundamental principles of natural law informing this topic.
The fundamental principle of natural law informing all discussion of migration, national borders, private property, theft, and legal and illegal immigration is the *universal destination of goods*.
The universal destination of goods means that God has created all the world’s goods for all the world’s peoples. More precisely, “God destined the earth and all it contains for all men and all peoples so that all created things would be shared fairly by all mankind under the guidance of justice tempered by charity” (Gaudium et Spes, 69). “God gave the earth to the whole human race for the sustenance of all its members, without excluding or favouring anyone” (Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 171).
The universal destination of goods implies the “universal right to use the goods of the earth” (CSDC, 172) or “the principle of the common use of goods,” which Pope St. John Paul II calls “the first principle of the whole ethical and social order” (Laborem Exercens, 19).
Principles like private property, national borders, and national citizenship are not themselves expressions of natural law. Rather, they are conventions that are subject to natural law, and, at their best, help to serve the demands of natural law, including the universal destination of goods and the universal right to use the earth’s goods. When that happens, justice is served.
Such conventional principles can, of course, also be abused to thwart the the universal destination of goods and the universal right to use the earth’s goods. When that happens, justice is thwarted.
When applications of private property, national borders, and national citizenship thwart rather than serve the common good, the laws enforcing them have no legal or moral force, and are not binding on human persons. Such abusive applications may justly be ignored, and those who ignore them cannot justly be punished for doing so.
The principle of subsidiary holds that the role of the state is to do for local communities only what they cannot do for themselves. Among these, of course, is the role of national defense, one of the primary obligations of the state. This is the fundamental rationale for the right of states to secure their borders: to defend local communities from hostile forces, including invading armed forces, terrorist attackers, violent gangs, those transporting items that are harmful (e.g., illicit drugs), etc.
The state’s right to regulate its borders is subject to limits. Citizens are not prisoners, and no state can lawfully deny emigration to any citizen who has not committed crimes worthy of incarceration. With regard to immigration, on the other hand, states do have some right of regulation, although these are not absolute.
Obviously states can deny entry to those who are reasonably deemed to be physically dangerous; on the other hand, they have a grave obligation to admit those who are in grave physical danger. Distinguishing between the two can be difficult, of course, but this is a logistical challenge that must be accepted for the sake of the human dignity of those in danger.
Likewise, wealthier nations may regulate, but cannot simply forbid, immigration from poorer nations. Those who migrate under economic pressure, like those who migrate under pressure from physical threats, have a legitimate demand on nations better off than their own. We do not have an absolute right to close our borders to those with less because we want to keep more for ourselves.
This gets complicated, I admit. Here are some fundamental moral principles that are less complicated:
1. Any state has obligations to all members of its communities, including those it designates non-citizens, and in particular including undocumented or illegal immigrants.
2. Border security is not threatened by individuals who have lived in this country long enough to build a life for themselves — those whom we might call established residents — however they came to be here, or whether they overstayed our prior permission to be here.
3. To break up families and deport established residents with no serious justification other than immigration law is unjust and indefensible. Even minor infractions of the law — misdemeanors or nonviolent offenses — will usually be insufficient to justify the harm to others inherent in taking a spouse and parent away from his or her family on a more permanent basis than whatever prison time their offenses would warrant, which deporting them would typically do.
4. Unless there is warrant to arrest or deport someone — which, again, the circumstances of an established resident’s entry into this country are insufficient to establish — their rights as a member of the community must be respected. They must be allowed to work, to rent or obtain housing, and in general to see to their own needs and the needs of their dependents.
Finally, and most obviously and urgently:
5. Established residents who came to this country as children or minors cannot morally be held to adult-level responsibility for any immigration violations in their entry in this country. They have the same moral claims upon society and upon the state as documented immigrants, or more so. They must be regarded as members of the community, not as a problem to be solved. To uproot them from their communities, their families, and their local lives, and deport them to a country they may not have seen in too many years to have meaningful memories of it, and where they may have no one and nothing, is unconscionable. No appeal to laws or border security concerns can justify such a thing. It is an affront to human dignity and to the God in whose image we are all created.
In view of these moral principles, I propose the following:
1. Whatever else DACA may have been, it must be regarded as an attempt to recognize and respond to this undeniable moral fact.
2. This may or may not be sufficient to justify the issuing of DACA by Obama, but even a dubious exercise of executive power that exists to vouchsafe a fundamental principle of justice deserves at least some benefit of the doubt (see the Emancipation Proclamation for another example).
3. If its rescission by Trump ultimately leads to the wrongful immigration arrest or deportation of a single Dreamer, no appeal to constitutional concerns will be sufficient to justify our collective failure to give justice to the vulnerable among us.
4. The understandable anxiety felt right now by countless Dreamers as they wait for something to replace DACA that is deemed to pass constitutional muster is an indictment of our collective failure as a society to give justice to the vulnerable among us.
5. If members of Congress choose to play politics with the rights of Dreamers by tacking on riders to some DACA replacement that they know will be controversial, in the hope that either they will get their special priorities approved or else that they will be able to blame others for the failure of DACA replacement, they will bear the guilt of our failure to give justice to the vulnerable among us.