Mirror of Justice

A blog dedicated to the development of Catholic legal theory.
Affiliated with the Program on Church, State & Society at Notre Dame Law School.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

"Principled Immigration"

Prof. Mary Ann Glendon (Harvard law) has this essay, "Principled Immigration," in the current issue of First Things magazine.  Immigration is, as we have discussed on this blog several times, a hard, complicated issue -- one to which (in my view, anyway) our current political debates do not do justice.  Glendon's essay strikes me as reasonable, balanced, and clear. 

Among other things, she asks, "why isn’t the United States glad about Latin American immigration?"  To which she answers:

Part of the answer is the economic cost of large-scale immigration. American wage earners often fear that migrants will drive down wages and take the jobs that remain. This fear is sometimes exaggerated, but it is not unfounded: The consensus among labor economists is that immigration has somewhat reduced the earnings of less-educated, low-wage workers. Many Americans are also concerned about the costs that illegal immigration imposes on taxpayers, with its strain on schools and social services, particularly in the border states. The desire to protect the national security of the United States, especially after the trauma of September 11, has played a role as well.

There are also some in the United States who want to close the door to newcomers simply because they are outsiders. Over the course of the twentieth century, that attitude seemed to be fading away, but in recent years sleeping nativist sentiments have been irresponsibly inflamed by anti-immigration groups. A few years ago, I wrote of the financial and ideological connections among extremist anti-immigration groups, radical environmentalists, and aggressive population controllers. What unites that loose coalition in what I called an “iron triangle of exclusion” is their common conviction that border controls and abortion are major defenses against an expanding, threatening, welfare-consuming, and nonwhite underclass. (I never suspected when I wrote those lines that they would cost me a half-year’s salary. But on the basis of a promised grant from a foundation whose causes included environmental protection, I had taken an unpaid leave from Harvard. Shortly after my article was published, the foundation reneged on its promise. It turned out that their idea of protecting the environment included keeping out immigrants and keeping poor people from having children.)

This bit is also worth highlighting:

The five principles set forth in the 2003 Joint Pastoral Letter issued by the Mexican and U.S. bishops, Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, might be helpful in setting the stage for new approaches that could expand the pie for both sending and receiving countries. The letter asserts that (1) persons have the right to find opportunities in their homeland; (2) when opportunities are not available at home, persons have the right to migrate to find work to support themselves and their families; (3) sovereign nations have the right to control their boundaries, but economically stronger nations have a stronger obligation to accommodate migration flows; (4) refugees and asylum seekers fleeing wars and persecutions should be protected; and (5) the human dignity and rights of undocumented migrants should be respected.

To those five principles, a sixth should be added: a principle recognizing the need for a highly diverse, rule-of-law society to be careful about the messages it sends to persons who wish to become part of that society. And the bishops might have done well to note, as Pope John Paul II did in Solicitudo Rei Socialis, that solidarity imposes duties on the disadvantaged as well as the advantaged: “Those who are more influential, because they have a greater share of goods and common services, should feel responsible for the weaker and be ready to share with them all they possess. Those who are weaker, for their part, in the same spirit of solidarity should not adopt a purely passive attitude, or one that is destructive of the social fabric, but, while claiming their legitimate rights, should do what they can for the good of all.”


Garnett, Rick | Permalink

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