My opinion on immigration

My opinion on immigration

Here’s what I think about the current immigration debate, not that anyone cares, but in order to avoid giving a false impression based on recent posts: I don’t know what I think.

I do believe that illegal immigration is a problem. I think that porous borders are a homeland defense nightmare. I think that turning a blind eye to illegal immigration creates an underclass of easily exploited people, those who are at risk of being trafficked and turned into slaves in this country. I think that an unwritten policy of turning a blind eye toward the law inspires contempt for the law. And I worry that immigrants, legal or illegal, are not assimilating, that more than any previous wave of immigrants—because of the advance of global communications and transportation—they maintain primary loyalties to their countries of origin and see the US as a temporary job, not a new home.

I also believe that immigration is a good thing. Without immigration our population rate would be abysmal and probably close to that of most of Europe. I believe in extending the American dream to as many people as possible and that, on the whole, immigrants bring new vitality and a strong work ethic to our nation. (Yes, some people show up and immediately go on the dole, but is that not a majority.) I think that the strains on our public institutions caused by illegal immigrants taking out of the system, but not paying in could be solved if we had a way of getting people into the system legally.

I also believe that it is important to give aid to the needy, legal or illegal, but in such a way that it doesn’t exacerbate the situation we’re in. I also think that the high-flying rhetoric and passion from certain bishops would be welcome if they addressed other important issues of the moment, like abortion or gay marriage on which they have been strangely muted.

In other words, I know that the immigration system is in need of reform, but I don’t know the best way to go about it. None of the solutions offered so far seem to offer a realistic chance for making things better, mostly because all sides seem to be pandering to one special interest group or another.

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Written by
Domenico Bettinelli
  • Haven’t illegals been used to further diminish the power of unions, once a bulwark of blue-collar Catholicism?  Considering the place of labor unions in Catholic thought and practice, I’m surprised that they haven’t been mentioned at all in the bishops’ push for immigration reform.

  • No offense, but you are right, who cares! Stick to the issues that really affect the church and let the state debate the other ones.

    Sometimes we orthodox Catholics tend to think all of our opinions are infallible. The hard line on immigration really makes us look cold and uncaring, while certainly that isn’t our intent.

    More so, I think we should follow Pope Benedict’s addvice when discussing politics. The life issues are paramount; everything else is debatable.

  • And some of most devout Catholics are those who are crossing the border from Mexico and some of you are becoming very uncharitable when talking about these Catholic brothers and sisters.

    You speak as if they aren’t even human.

    No wonder why Hispanics leave the church in such high numbers.

  • Well, yes those issues are debatable, which is why people are debating them

    If life issues are paramount, it doesn’t mean we are to put our heads in the sand about them or ignore them. These are important matters that our nation needs to deal with.

    I’m curious about one thing: what if the majority of immigrants weren’t Hispanic, but were Muslims, like in Europe? How would we or the bishops feel then?

  • And to all the good Catholics who read this blog:

    If we are truly going to evangelize the people, we shouldn’t worry as much about which language they speak but learn the language spoken.

    The Catholic Church can only gain from having Spanish speaking priests, religious and lay leaders. After all, it would allow us to reach so many more people for Christ and His Holy Church.

    So if Mark’s prediction is correct, we Catholics should get ready and learn Spanish in addition to English if we truly want to reach as many people as possible with the Good News of Jesus Christ and the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

  • Yes Dom the nation should debate them. But you are the editor of CWR and your views tend to be presented in the mainstream media as the views of your readers.

    I am one of those readers (and a fellow graduate from Steubenville) and I don’t agree with the majority of posts online here when it comes to immigration. And I wouldn’t want your views or theirs presented as mine.

  • DJP,

    You’ve been able to discern my views on immigration? That’s funny because my whole point in this post was to say that even I don’t know my own views on immigration.

    I would also say you don’t have to worry about my views being plastered on top of everyone else’s. Your estimation of my importance is flattering, but probably overstated.

  • ann,

    Please identify the “explitative big business interests”?  I keep hearing that “big business” wants illegal immigrants, and keep seeing undocumented workers busting away as bricklayers, gardeners, busboys, and housecleaners.


  • Certainly the big agri-businesses depend on plenty of migrant farm workers. I see them all the time in Maine working the potato harvest or down in the Delaware, Maryland, Virginia area on the farms around there. Plenty of them in the citrus groves of Florida too and in the big farms out in California.

  • David G: If the law is wrong, then change it. If not, then enforce it – simple.

    But that is the debate. Do we change the law or just enforce it as is?

    Chris K: Amnesty sounds like a good idea except we did that back in the 80s, I think. It didn’t solve the problem.

  • OK ann (and Dom),

    So we are pretty certain that Latinos work in the harvest of vegetables. 

    Do you have any idea what the wages are?  Isn’t it likely that these are acceptable wages for the workers, as they are travelling great distances to get these jobs.  I asked an undocumented worker laying bricks on my neighbor’s house.  He was getting $12 per hour.  Perhaps that is the optimal wage for this type of labor.

    I more and more convinced that people working hard for a competitive wage a huge positive force in the economy.  Surely, by lowering the cost of housing, the cost of vegetables, the cost of lawncare, then spending their earnings in a manner they deem appropriate, an immigrant is creating much more wealth than he is destroying. 


  • Why do I think DJP lives a million miles from the southern border?  Get a clue, sir.  The 11-14 million illegal aliens came here illegally, which is why they’re properly called illegal.  “Orthodox Catholics” typically do not knowingly break laws and then jump up and demand guest-worker visas (Bush’s lovely euphemism for de facto amnesty). 

    I live in Los Angeles, Mexifornia, and I see the human cost of this reverse hemorrhage every day, despite the happy face put on by Cardinal Mahoney, our leftist Latino Mayor, and their yes men in the media.

    Can you tell me how many hospitals in LA County alone were forced to shut down in the last three years due to the massive floodtide of illegals demanding free medical care?

    Do you know that Mexican criminals have a positive motivation to murder Americans—even cops—rather than merely wound them in the commission of a crime?  If they do the latter and escape to Mexico, they can be extradicted by the Mexican Government.  But if they kill, Fox’s administration has refused to extradict because the US has the death penalty. 

    These are two small examples.  And don’t get me started on “living wages” and “jobs Americans won’t do.”  Pfffft!  No, it’s jobs Americans won’t do *at those low wages.*

    Many in the GOP love illegals for the cheap labor and increased profit margins, just as the Dems love ‘em for their perceived reward in votes and the chance to appear nicer.  Cardinal Mahoney loves ‘em because, well, by heeding their plaintive cries he gains distraction from his very grave legal woes. Plus the Archdiocese is not opposed to the placement of much-needed additional pesos in Sunday collection baskets.

    I’m here in the United States on the good graces of a visa, as is my Latina wife.  We did it legally.  We filled out forms, we paid fees, and we stood in line.  America is worth it. We don’t wave the flags of our countries of birth demanding rights for us that don’t exist.

    DJP and his well-meaning ilk should hang out with more Latinos who came here as immigrants (the word used to describe people who come here legally).  He’d get an articulate earful.

    The solution is simple but politically difficult:  make employers pay a *heavy* fine for hiring non-US workers; and get that big ass border fence up already.

    That would stop the flood before you can say “misguided compassion.”

  • Ann and Kathleen,

    How is that cheap labor?  The market wants to pay a certain price.  If people will work at that price, then they make the transaction.

    I am more and more convinced that the country was built on the hard work of immigrants and can only continue to thrive if people work hard at market wages. 

    People demand low priced vegetables, carpentry, cleaning services etc.  So workers show up that can make these things possible.  Why should the entire country sacrifice so that a few carpenters and construction workers can make more money?


  • Heck, let’s bring back slavery. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and thing of how low we could those prices. It would be good for the entire country.

    Or we could consider the dignity of the individual human person and the right to a decent wage and humane working conditions. Yes, those people make a low wage, but they also get no benefits.

    What happens when they get injured? They go to a hospital, get treated, and the hospital or the taxpayer picks up the bill.

    Injured on the job? They end up on government or charitable assistance of some sort.

    That would be fine if they were paying into the system, but they’re not. All those fine economic benefits of slave wages (which is what $10/hour is for a family of four or more) go out the window. And if you think the employers of under-the-counter illegals are passing the savings on to the consumer, you’re being naive.

  • Hi there,

    Dom, people are travelling thousands of miles on their own volition to get these jobs. It is obviously not slavery.  Generally, these folks are escaping slave wages and poverty for the relative prosperity of the USA.  Given our all time low inflation rates for the last 15 years or so, it is quite clear that free markets really DO pass savings on the the consumer. (I agree the healthcare and education systems are a mess).

    Kathleen, I am a Liberal not a Libertarian.  I am firmly convinced that the teachings of St. Thomas Aquinas and Lord Acton lead us to allow people to use their own good sense to do the right thing.  Quoting Acton

    “Liberty is not the power of woing what we like, but the right of being able to do what we ought”

    Shouldn’t we let people do what they ought to do?


  • ann,

    No fooling. You can study all you like, but in practice, you are demanding a legalistic solution to insure special rights for very few at the expense of the masses of hard working immigrants and consumers.  Providing lifetime employment for $65/hour carpenters and $10/lb broccoli in not a moral crusade I want to join.

    If you really think that people should be allowed to do what they ought to do, then let them do the right thing and quit trying to make it illegal.

    I find Dom’s issue much more critical.  How (or why) should social services be provided to those outside the system? 


  • ann,

    I will stick with my fellow Catholics St. Thomas Aquinas, the Salamanca Scholastics, and Lord Acton; You can have Jim Sensennbrenner and Bill Frist.

    Nice quote here from Fred Bastiat and the WSJ:

    “The surest way to have the laws respected is to make them respectable.” Is our immigration law “respectable”? Need you ask?

    You defend wages of a few, vs prices for the masses.  If you want special priveleges for your favorite trades, just say it.  You don’t need to condemn hard working immigrants so that your favorite carpenter can get paid more. 

    We are at a historic low in unemployment rate and inflation, partially due to free trade and mass immigration.  Yes, the immigration system needs improvement, but why condemn those who are work hard and do the right thing so that we can pay more for turnips?


  • Nice construction of a straw man argument, John. That isn’t what Ann is arguing and you know it. Rather than address her actual arguments, you ridicule a position she isn’t even taking.

  • Dom,

    ann states “prices might rise” as if this is a desirable outcome.  If you are poor and trying to buy food and housing, I don’t think you really want higher prices.  If you think the USA should work for economic growth to benefit all people, I don’t think you really want higher prices.

    Call it a strawman if you like, but the benefits of hardworking immigrants cannot be ignored.  There are costs, to be sure, but on the whole having a competitive labor market is not one of downsides of immigration.


  • ann,

    In general, no.

    We are at an all-time high of number of people employed.  The Fed is doing a delicate balancing of inflation and interest rates, which is one of the factors keeping inflation low.  Record “illegal” immigration has been going on for years, all the while inflation has been nearly non-existent.  By all standard measures you are absoultely wrong.

    You do not need to duck behind the Pope and the Magisterium on this one. The Church tells us to use the gifts of God to assist mankind.  The market is such a gift.  We can use it to raise standards of living for a great number of people.  Or we can use the proceeds from our temporal bounty to hound down our Catholic brothers and sisters and deport them.

    You can cheer for impossible and immoral laws all you like.  Just don’t expect St. Thomas and I to be clapping in unison with you and Bill Frist.


  • Well-put ann,

    But I do not recall Jesus ever claiming anything like “Visit, we beseech you, doeth roundup the Latinos and have them deported, as they may compete for jobs with ann’s oh-favored Americans”.