Monday, February 25, 2008

Is This (Social) Justice? Part 1

In the midst of hearing details concerning the recent tragedy in Cottonwood, MN I believe we Catholics have had a thorny dilemma handed to us, as we are torn between our Church's direction to open our hearts to all immigrants, including illegals, while expecting them (and ourselves too of course) to obey the law of the land. I don't believe these elements of our faith as Catholics are mutually exclusive; in fact, they are complimentary.

If you don't know the story, here is one link to a local news outlet with some details that will explain what happened.

Bottom line: a woman apparently ran a stop sign at high speed, crashed into a school bus and killed four children, and injured several more and the bus driver and another vehicle's driver. This woman didn't have a license, used a name that was false, worked at a factory nearby and is most likely an illegal immigrant.

The CCC only has one paragraph (2241) that seems to wrap together the facets of illegal immigration and our response to it:

"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 and to assist in carrying civic burdens."

Children can be (and are) sadly killed by full-blown American citizens and legal immigrants on an all-too-frequent basis; that's not really the true issue at hand. The thorny problem we face is how to "welcome the foreigner" if it means overlooking the "juridical conditions" of their presence here in the United States? I will try to pull this together in Part 2, but I'd like to wait a couple of days and get others' thoughts on this question.


Germanicus said...

One can remain faithful to the teaching of the church and oppose opening the borders or amnesty. In fact I think that a more conservative approach is the more just of the options;

The church teaches that the governments of nations have responsibility to ensure the safety of its citizens. Open borders do not do that. Personal security [of both the immigrant and the citizen] is threatened by large scale unregulated immigration. Governments are obliged to prevent the kind of civil and social unrest that result from mass immigration because it does not promote the common good. It creates a hostile situation for citizen and immigrant.

Mexico needs a Lech Walesa. But, if there were plentiful jobs in Germany and a soft border a man like Lech would have been working. Instead he was forced to remain in Poland and cause trouble. The same will be true in Mexico.
The Mexican government will remain aloof and corrupt as long as Mexican men are working in the US sending back money which the government extorts from their unprotected families. There is no motivation to improve the common good. Close the border and the situation changes. The men are now at home to see how their families suffer. Civil unrest in Mexico is seething just under the surface but as long the men are able to leave and find work in the States the corruption continues and the Mexican government benefits. None of which benefits the common good.

J. Thorp said...

I keep thinking I have something to say, then deciding I don't. Here goes anyway.

My boss was headed to Marshall when the ID of the woman (or at least, her alias) broke -- and my gut said, "People are gonna jump to conclusion that she's illegal" -- sad -- "and they probably be right" -- sadder -- "and this accident will color their views on immigration and/or Latinos from here forward" -- saddest.

There are good people trying to get here to do good work. We need to recognize that. We also need to recognize that many immigrants of the past, like my Polish ancestors, arrived for the chance at a better life here, as American citizens. There's a different dynamic at work today, in many cases ...

Germanicus makes great points (and as a half-Pole, I love the Polish comparison). We need a functioning border and policy. Maybe a tighter border and greater unrest in these countries would drive internal change ..."The best way to show a stick is crooked is to lay a straight stick next to it."

But I also believe that our policies should ultimately accommodate our labor needs and the good people who want to work and live here as much as possible. And I hope that, as we work to secure our borders and develop a functional immigration and/or guest worker program, we continue to share the good stories about these people -- e.g., the illegal Mexican man who happened on a remote car wreck in which a boy's mother had been pinned in the car and severely injured. He found the boy, built a fire, and stayed with him over night, knowing that when they were found, he would be sent back. He said simply that he had kids, too.

Which is the exception, and which is the rule?