Thursday, April 13, 2006

Knights' Recommendations on Immigration

See this article Knights of Columbus urge U.S. leaders to create immigration bill that embraces justice, charity
The board of directors of the Knights of Columbus has called upon Congress and the President to create immigration legislation that gains control over the process of immigration, but also rejects any effort to criminalize those who provide humanitarian assistance to undocumented immigrants.
There are three issues regarding immigration, and there are wildly divergent opinions on this. The Knights are taking the Catholic position. The issues are: control of immigration; status of illegal immigrants; and the duties and responsibilities of Americans regarding immigrants.

Control of Immigration

We have laws on the books controlling immigration, but there are millions of people who have entered the country illegally. We can assume that the immigrants themselves, and to a much greater degree, the smugglers, aren't worried too much about this.

There are plenty of influential Americans who also like this illegal immigration also. Intellectually, the Libertarians think that we need a free flow of both trade and people across borders, and that both should be unregulated. Libertarians are not too successful as a political party, but they have much support from both certain parts of the right wing and also from Bill Clinton's New Democrats. The Libertarian Cato Institute, in particular, is popular with both Republicans and Democrats and has gained much influence in Washington D.C. Libertarians also support the legalization of drugs like marijuana, and promote homosexual rights. There is a core intellectual argument for allowing free immigration, and even the European Union has embraced this free flow of persons within its member states.

Then there are those who may want immigrants in this country, but want to keep them illegal. Not being motivated by ideology or philosophy, these persons are motivated by greed. Those who believe that class conflict can lead to positive social change—socialists, mostly, but not exclusively—need new pools of disadvantaged, oppressed people to continue their political agenda. And if these classes don't exist, then they have to be manufactured, or in this case, imported. This is not compassionate, but instead grasping for power. Others want cheap labor, and no one is going to be cheaper than someone who is desperate not to be caught. The very fact that someone is illegal, not to mention often being unable to speak English, severely limits the types of jobs that he can accept, or the wages for which he will work.

Traditionally, Mexican immigrants have done agriculture work, but in recent decades have done more domestic duties. I recall back in the 1960s, when I was growing up, no one outside of the very rich had servants; even the idea of having servants was repugnant to most Americans. Homes then were smaller—often called 'efficiencies'—and women more often than not stayed home raising children. The Feminist revolution of the 1970s, with married women entering the workforce, meant that both domestic duties were being neglected, and that more family income allowed for larger homes. Perhaps influenced by BBC period dramas of magnificent English manors with many servants, the demand for domestic help has soared since the 1980s. Now the forces which first allowed, and then compelled, American women to enter the workforce applies across all social classes, with the result that women from lower-income families often took jobs as domestics. But it's still far cheaper to hire an illegal, especially when you can threaten to turn them over to the authorities if they don't live up to expectations. An offshoot of Feminism is the great increase of the hospitality industry, which also needs very cheap labor. Back when servants were just in the employ of the very rich, there was little incentive to lower wages, instead quality and polish were highly valued. Nowadays with the middle-class hiring servants, pressure to lower costs are much greater, again increasing the desire for illegal immigration.

It should be noted that as an ideology, Feminism is still mainly restricted to white women. Black women, in particular, often see it for what it usually is, an excuse to hire low-paid servants. They still believe in the concept of "standing by your man", instead of being in conflict.

Another factor is the increasingly sedentary nature of Americans, which coupled with low wages makes these kind of jobs just plainly unappealing. "Those are Mexican jobs", people think.

So there are plenty of people who like illegal immigration. We ought to be very troubled by this. A crucial requirement for a good society is that people will accept and obey the laws of the country, and peacefully, honestly, and cooperatively work for change if it is needed. So what other laws will people ignore? And if we can't trust people to follow the law, will we ultimately force them to obey?

The idea of allowing the free flow of persons across borders is based on either the ideas of "rights" or of efficiencies, neither of which are classical or Christian virtues. Although the concept of "rights" originally comes from Catholic Canon Law, and was initially quite restricted, now everyone claims novel and repugnant "rights", giving people potentially unlimited means to promote mischief, to the detriment of society. Efficiency, which was once only a part of virtue of Prudence, and which needs to be tempered by other virtues, has been elevated to the status of the greatest of virtues in itself, again to the detriment of society.

Massive immigration also disrupts society itself, as seen time and again in American history, and world history. Controls help a society manage its change well; those who don't care about this kind of change must think that they would benefit from chaos, which isn't Christian morality, but rather is the desire of the forces of darkness.

How many immigrants to accept, how to transport immigrants across national borders, and so forth should be decided by competent authorities based on reasoned debate, and should not be left to impersonal market forces, putative rights, or just be a free-for-all.

There is a possibility of a disturbing social trend, which is often discounted, but quite realistic, of reconquista or reconquest of the land gained by the U.S. during the Mexican-American War. Although this is mainly seen as being a joke from commentators on the left, perhaps we should take this more seriously, especially when Mexican flags are now being flown at American schools, at the insistence of illegals. Is this just? Would a major civil war or international war be justified to keep or change the status quo? Would giving it back be just, especially considering that Mexico is a corrupt, anticlerical, and unjust country?

The Catholic view is that people, including immigrants, should obey the law, and cooperate responsibly with each other. Wealthy nations, as a matter of charity and justice, should allow poor people to immigrate, but only within its means, while keeping an orderly society. Also, people should not remain in employment out of fear of retribution from their employers.

Status of Illegal Immigrants

"Round 'em all up and ship them back to where they came from." This is a popular idea, but this would be the most expensive and problematical social policy since Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. There would be a lot of people who won't want to go back, and who will go into hiding to avoid deportation: so would we have a massive secret police force, searching every house, interrogating every person on the street, opening every letter, and intercepting all electronic communications? Will children be told to turn in their parents? It isn't worth it. Would you rather have Mexican maids or heavily armed Stormtroopers inside your house?

Should we grant them all blanket citizenship? The Democrats like this, because they think that the immigrants will vote for them, but this is a horribly short-sighted view, for the Republicans think that they can win votes from them also. How will this disrupt society? If you don't care if it will disrupt society, can you justify yourself?

Europe is having severe troubles with immigration these days. While they have stricter controls of immigrants, they also are stingy with granting citizenship: they end up with vast numbers of immigrants, who have no rights of citizenship, nor no incentive to return to their home countries. How can anything but trouble come from this? Now Europe is embracing immorality with immigration: the largest segment of "guest workers" are involved with legal prostitution, and these women are working in near-slavery conditions, all with government approval.

The Catholic position emphasizes order, lawfulness, cooperation, and charity. Carrots are better than sticks. Clearly, a form of regularization and generous granting of work permits are needed, but this must be done based on reasoned debate by competent authorities. The law ought to be obeyed, so any changes should be attractive to immigrants, and they should be positively motivated to follow the law. Fear should not be a motivating factor for the vast majority of immigrants.

Duties and Responsibilities of Americans Regarding Immigrants

Some proposed laws would make it a crime to give charity to illegal immigrants, and put the burden of enforcing immigration law on employers.

Giving charity to only those who are deserving, is not charity at all, but justice. Charity, by definition, is an undeserved gift. Human charity, based on God's charity, is no respecter of persons, nationality, or immigration status. The argument is made that illegals take away resources from citizens, but this should be redirected into an argument for having more rational immigration laws and better enforcement.

Again, making employers enforce the immigration laws simply points out the fact that the federal government is not doing its job of controlling immigration. While businesses should, indeed must, follow the law, they should not have the duty of enforcing the law, especially when immigration is a natural governmental function. And I propose that secretly, many employers want to hire illegals, since they can pay a much lower wage, so this is a severe conflict of interest. Immigration is a national government problem, and needs to be handled at that level.

Is it America's duty to solve the problems in Mexico? The principle of subsidiarity suggests otherwise. We need to be concerned about economic development there, but we have a primary duty to ourselves first.

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