Friday, June 30, 2006

Just what should we do about the immigration question?

Father Richard John Neuhaus who blogs at First Things discusses the situation in this country with respect to the status of 12 milliion or more illegal immigrants in this country, not to mention the tens of millions lined up waiting for an opportune moment to cross a border, or wangle a seat on a plane or boat. He doesn't have an answer.

But if you have pondered over the problem yourself, I suggest that you make a copy of his column today and take it with you to the beach on this extra long Fourth of July weekend when dribbling mustard and pickle juice on your copy won't be frowned upon.

To save you a bit of time, I'll tempt you with some of the "juicy bits."

[big snip] The other night, PBS showed a compelling documentary of brothers from a Mexican village who were determined to go north. One of the brothers died in the desert of Nevada, and there was powerfully affecting footage of his mourning family back in Mexico. The film said that more than three thousand people had died trying to enter the United States from Mexico illegally in the past decade since United States authorities started getting tougher on border control, thus forcing illegals to attempt riskier routes through the desert. The invited inference is that the United States should let up on enforcement, making it easier for illegals to enter the country. Or maybe the border, along with immigration laws, should be abolished altogether, letting additional millions enter the country legally. And why should only Mexicans and Central Americans have a right to unlimited entry?

One measure of America’s success as a society is similar to measuring the success of a Broadway play: People are lined up around the block trying to get in. In this case, however, they’re lined up around the world. I expect that, had they the opportunity, at least a billion people in the world would immigrate to the United States as rapidly as they could. Of course, long before we reached that number, America would stop being a successful society. Some might observe that, at that point, the immigration problem would solve itself, since people would not be attracted to a society in ruins. It is a solution that is not likely to win the support of many Americans.

In First Things, I have been critically appreciative of the urgings of Samuel Huntington (Who Are We?) and others who contend that at stake is whether the United States will remain a sovereign nation in legal and cultural continuity with its history. Such arguments may be overblown, but they cannot be dismissed as nativist or lacking in moral seriousness. Anyone who thinks a devotion to nation and peoplehood is incompatible with Catholic social doctrine should spend some time with John Paul II’s last published book, Memory and Identity.

Again, I don’t know what specific policies should be adopted. The choice should certainly not be between enforcement-only, on the one hand, and virtual amnesty that encourages yet more illegal immigration, on the other. But the hotting up of the immigration debate is turning my long-standing hunch into a deepening conviction that no immigration reform will be possible until Americans believe that the lawlessness of the past decade and more has been brought under a reasonable approximation of legal control. First Things

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