Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Maryland Bishops Get Illegal Immigration Wrong

Appearing today in my church bulletin was this statement about illegal immigration from the Maryland Catholic Conference, the leftist lobbying arm of Maryland's Catholic bishops in Annapolis.

The major point of the document is a good one: whether immigrants are here rightly or wrongly, they deserve compassion as individuals. Point well taken. But from there, the document leaves much to be desired:

In the Church, a universal body united through Christ, all find a home. Illegal entry is not condoned, but undocumented immigrants are embraced.

Well, which is it? Since when does "illegal entry" not equal "undocumented immigrants"?

Today, like their immigrant predecessors, Latinos often are the objects of suspicion, intolerance and discrimination.

Mainly because they, by and large, are the ones coming here illegally, siphoning money from our economy, sending it back to prop up the economies of the countries they're coming from, demanding goods and services such as hospital E.R. treatment, demanding services in Spanish and refusing to learn English or otherwise assimilate into our culture, etc. I'd appreciate a comparison about how many Poles, Irish, Italians, etc. did this in the 19th century. And what an insult this has to be to Latinos who have come here legally!

And then the bishops really start grasping at straws:

Descendants of enslaved Africans continue to suffer the bitter fruits of slavery and segregation.

Accepting the begged question of whether the verb "continue" is appropriate, no one could possibly argue that slavery was a good thing. But there's no comparison between slaves and their descendants who were forced to come here, and illegal immigrants who are being urged by their home governments to come to the United States illegally.

Crisis Magazine has an excellent analysis of this document. As Deal W. Hudson puts it:

[. . . W]hen the two "rights" are in conflict -- the right to secure borders and the right of a person to have basic needs met -- the nations with the "ability" should respond with "generosity."

The problem with such an argument is simple: Who decides which country has the ability? Who decides what "basic needs" are and whether they are available in the country of origin? Who decides what "generosity" is? Clearly, this argument is a prudential matter and can be argued openly without insinuating any disrespect for the bishops or their teaching office.

My bishops, or, more accurately, the MCC staff, means well, but any discussion of illegal immigrants without looking further at the "illegal" part of illegal immigration is like discussing Hamlet without the prince.