Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Christianity and Immigration: Cardinal Mahony Or Utah Republicans?

According to the Utah Republicans, Satan is behind illegal immigration. Yes, you heard right. Here is the quote from Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"Utah County Republicans ended their convention on Saturday by debating Satan's influence on illegal immigrants...Don Larsen, chairman of legislative District 65 for the Utah County Republican Party, had submitted a resolution warning that Satan's minions want to eliminate national borders and do away with sovereignty. In a speech at the convention, Larsen told those gathered that illegal immigrants 'hate American people' and 'are determined to destroy this country, and there is nothing they won't do.'...Illegal aliens are... trying to 'destroy Christian America' and replace it with 'a godless new world order - and that is not extremism, that is fact,'"
And here is Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles courtesy of Rocco Palmo:
"In Catholic thought, the human person should not serve the economy, but the economy should serve the human person, so that each person and his or her family can live in dignity and without want and can move, if needed, to find the place of hope... The current reality in our nation, however, is that we accept their labor, their separation from family, their taxes, and their purchasing power, yet we do not offer the undocumented population the protection of our laws. While such a system might meet our economic needs in the narrow measurement of monetary gain, it fails to meet the broad definition of oikonomia or the call of Scripture... Thus, to restore order to God’s household, we must ensure that all are welcome to the table. This means that we need to reform our immigration system in order to provide legal protection for those who live on the margins of our economy and are not invited to share in the banquet: the undocumented and future migrants who come to our nation, to work, to join family, or to support family at home....Any law that does not serve justice violates basic human dignity and human rights...Current immigration laws are, in a word, unjust....When convenient politically, we scapegoat the immigrant without acknowledging our complicity...In the area of immigration, the Church leadership argues that our country has a moral obligation to change the law because it violates the order of God’s household and undermines basic human dignity."
Now, which of the two views is more compatible with Christianity? Let me give you a hint:
""Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me.' Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?' He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.'" -- Matthew 25: 42-45 (NAB).
The position of the Utah Republicans reflects a secular nationalistic ideology, tinged with religious (Messianic) overtones. In particular, it violates the "Catholic principal", the idea that there should be no boundaries on who is and who is not our neighbor. Borders serve a practical administrative function, and should not be endowed with mystical qualities. By the way, this is not mere prudential judgment to be blithely dismissed, but a core component of the Church's social teaching. For much more on how Christianity should inform the immigration debate, see here and here.

6 comments:

paul zummo said...

Wow. A represenative from the local county Republican party introduces a whacko resolution, a resolution that was not passed in what was - it's safe to say - a predominantly Republican-filled room, and of course this resolution is represented to be the thought of Utah Republicans in general.

That's some hard hitting analysis.

Morning's Minion said...

Yes, this is the whacko fringe, but the issue remains that the opposition of the evangelical right to immigration stems from cultural, rather than economic, issues. 90 percent of polled Family Research Council members favor deportation of the 12 million or so undocumented workers. Tony Perkins talks about protecting the "cultural fabric". And Pew reports that 63% of white evangelicals view immigrants as a "threat to U.S. customs and values" compared to 48% of the population as a whole. Ted Haggard claims that Ango-Saxon protestants are better than Catholic Mexicans. Sadly, Catholics can join in too. Thomas Fleming, president of the Rockford Institute, said that "Whatever we may say in public, most of us do not much like Mexicans, whom we regard as too irrational, too violent, too passionate." Phyllis Schlafly talks about stopping "diseases and crimes".

paul zummo said...

There are those who do deserve to be blasted for their unwelcoming attitudes and overblown rhetoric towards immigrants, but for a larger chunk of us the matter is simply one of legality. In other words, what exactly is it about the term illegal immigration that people don't seem to understand.

Mahoney calls our laws unjust, but what exactly is unjust about them? As the catechism clearly states, nations have the right to define and secure their own borders. And as the Catechism also states, we should be welcoming to migrants, and I do think we should reform the immigration process so as to make it less onerous for those who want to immigrate lawfully.

Mahoney doesn't quite say, but does come close to saying, that we should just open the borders and forget about our pesky laws. Look, if people would like to come here, great. Maybe they could just take a second, respect the process, and notify us that they're coming. A more orderly, legal process is to the benefit of both the migrant worker and the nation. It protects the former from substandard working conditions and abuse, and the latter by more firmly securing its legal borders,

Yeah, there are a few quasi know-nothings like Lou Dobbs and others, and I will condemn them most heartily. But I'm also a little reluctant to buy into the rhetoric from ole Roger.

Morning's Minion said...

"A more orderly, legal process is to the benefit of both the migrant worker and the nation. It protects the former from substandard working conditions and abuse, and the latter by more firmly securing its legal borders"

I don't think Mahony would disagree with any of this. But this is not the system in place today. And there are clear injustices. Through friend who work for Catholic charities, I hear of awful cases of children being left behind when parents are deported. And the fact that the number of annual allotted work visas (H1-B) can disappear in a matter of days is a clear signal that the legal system does not work.

Also, an orderly immigration process that matches immigrant labor supply with domestic labor demand while guarding against abuse is most assuredly not the goal of the Tancredo wing of the immigration control movement. They want less "foreigners", especially those that don't speak English or share American cultural traditions. It really is about culture.

Anonymous said...

I find it quite fascinating that we, as a culture, espouse the free market, but in the immigration debate, we refuse to ackowledge the supply and demand equations of the job market (except to the extent that the anti-immigrant groups believe that undocumented take jobs away...at 4.5% unemployment, I don't think so).

As a Catholic and an American of Mexican descent, I see God working and present in all people. My compassion and prayers go out to all immigrants.

The bigger issue in my mind is that they are here. What's easier and better for our nation - to work on a path to citizenship, or to hunt down and deport every single undocumented person in the US, which in the process will divide families, cause hardship, illness or death?

Anonymous said...

What exactly triggered the sudden obsession last year with illegal immigrants? Was it just Lou Dobbs drum beating, or was it part of a political strategy aimed at distracting people from other issues (Iraq) by creating a new "THEM" to rally against?

Up in arms, Everybody!!! Illegal Immigrants are the new Gays!

I don't condone breaking the law but it does seem curious that this suddenly rose to fever pitch during an election year when it's been going on forever (to the benefit of many employers).