The debate on immigration reform continues to move forward in the U.S. Senate, and this continues to be an issue where I wonder what the problem is in coming up with a consensus. Most Americans, regardless of partisan affiliation or ideology, like legal immigrant and want to encourage it, while disliking illegal immigration.
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla) penned a thoughtful op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently, outlining all the tougher provisions in the Senate bill—the path to citizenship for those who broke the law is marked with fines and sanctions. The same goes for employers who undercut the market by employing those who broke the law and got in ahead of those who waited in line. Senator Rubio further invited people to express ways the security provisions could be further strengthened.
For those who are concerned about rewarding law-breakers—the roughly 11 million or so illegals currently here—Rubio correctly responds that we have to deal with reality that people are not going home. We can further add, that they’ve been here so long, many having children that mass deportations would be unjust, in addition to politically untenable.
It’s this focus that has rightly animated Catholic activists on the topic, all the way up to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and its leader, Cardinal Timothy Dolan. Legalization is the only way to ensure migrant workers aren’t exploited.
But in my view, pro-immigration activists have too often neglected the need for strengthened border security as an important prerequisite of any true immigration reform. Dealing with current reality is one thing—allowing the same conditions that created it to fester and doing this all over again 25 years from now is quite another. Furthermore, the very principle of what is just—something touched on by CV blogger Tim Shaughnessy in two good posts here and here—is hindered, when a system doesn’t reward those immigrants who wait in line and do things the proper way.
The following two paragraphs are extracted from the Catechism of the Catholic Church and effectively sum up the Church’s teaching on immigration…
#2241 The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants’ duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws (emphasis added) and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
I’ve emphasized the part about obeying the laws, because this is a facet of Church teaching that Catholic activists have too often overlooked—not contradicted directly, but seemingly passed over. It’s time for immigration reform to become a reality, and to take 11 million people and get them “on the grid”, so to speak. But it shouldn’t happen until we’ve taken the necessary steps to ensure this whole illegal mess doesn’t repeat itself. Upholding this facet of immigration laws is woven into Catholic doctrine and an essential part of keeping the whole intact.