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But Alt! The Church Says Nations Have a Right to Control Borders!

But Alt! The Church Says Nations Have a Right to Control Borders! June 23, 2019

right to control borders
Berlin Wall; image via public domain

 

And interlocutors have the duty to avoid logical fallacies like straw men; I know Church teaching and have not denied it. The USCCB has a good overview of Catholic social teaching on this topic.

It cites three “basic principles,” and here are the first two:

  • People have the right to migrate to sustain their lives and the lives of their families.
  • A country has the right to regulate its borders and to control immigration.

So let’s look at some more detail on this second one. The USCCB says that a nation may restrict immigration “for the common good.”

Catholic social teaching is realistic: While people have the right to move, no country has the duty to receive so many immigrants that its social and economic life are jeopardized.

That’s true, and it’s a fear many have; though many politicians also exploit this fear against a particular disfavored group—such as, at one time, Catholics.

One must be careful. This second “basic principle” is not a veto of the first. The Church defines infallibility, but not so as to give Catholics permission to disregard the rest of Church teaching. In a like way, the Church says nations may control their borders, but not as a veto on the duty to welcome the stranger.

For there is a third principle, and it is this: “A country must regulate its borders with justice and mercy. The USCCB explains:

  • A nation may not simply decide that it wants to provide for its own people and no others. A sincere commitment to the needs of all must prevail.
  • Under the harshest view, undocumented people may be regarded as undeserving of rights or services. This is not the view of Catholic social teaching. The Catholic Church teaches that every person has basic human rights and is entitled to have basic human needs met—food, shelter, clothing, education, and health care.
  • Current immigration policy that criminalizes the mere attempt to immigrate and imprisons immigrants who have committed no crime or who have already served a just sentence for a crime is immoral. In the Bible, God promises that our judgment will be based on our treatment of the most vulnerable. Before God we cannot excuse inhumane treatment of certain persons by claiming that their lack of legal status deprives them of rights given by the Creator.
  • Immigration policy that allows people to live here and contribute to society for years but refuses to offer them the opportunity to achieve legal status does not serve the common good. The presence of millions of people living without easy access to basic human rights and necessities is a great injustice.
  • It is the position of the Catholic Church that pastoral, educational, medical, and social services provided by the Church are never conditioned on legal status. All persons are invited to participate in our parishes, attend our schools, and receive other services offered by our institutions and programs.

So let us review what’s been happening.

  • Chlidren, even as young as four months, are being separated from ther parents.
  • They are being denied basic needs like soap and beds and toothbrushes and clean clothes.
  • They are not permitted the opportunity to bathe.
  • For days and weeks they are kept in standing-room only conditions.
  • They are being denied adequate medical care. One woman was covered in her own breast milk. Another was wearing clothes covered in snot. And some, lacking diapers, piss and shit in their pants.

These horror stories go on and on, and the news articles about them this past week have gone on and on. Here is one. Here is another. And here is a third.

And according to this article, the justice department argued in court that migrant children don’t need such luxuries as toothbrushes or soap. The judge was incredulous:

Are you arguing seriously that you do not read the agreement as requiring you to do anything other than what I just described: cold all night long, lights on all night long, sleeping on concrete and you’ve got an aluminum foil blanket? I find that inconceivable that the government would say that that is safe and sanitary.

Whatever else you call that, it is not treating migrants, including very young children, with either justice or mercy. It’s treating them like you think they are animals and not people. And yes, it’s putting them in concentration camps. And it is not pro-life.

So yes. If you’re interested, I’ll cite the entire Church teaching on immigration:

“In the Bible, God promises that our judgment will be based on our treatment of the most vulnerable. Before God we cannot excuse inhumane treatment of certain persons by claiming that their lack of legal status deprives them of rights given by the Creator.”

And on that day, he will say to those on his left, “I was filthy and you did not bathe me. I was sick and you did not treat me. I had no place to lie down and you did not give me a bed. For indeed, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.” And he will send them to eternal punishment.


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