Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Disturbing use of logic, language

When an undocumented (read "illegal") worker takes off from their job without permission to march in a demonstration, then later declares when they are fired that they were only gone because they were "fighting" for their individual rights, then you know that events are cascading into territory we have not seen in many a year.

When some bishops of the Catholic Church declare that they will not obey proposed (or even existing) immigration laws in solidarity with the undocumented (illegal) aliens, you have to ask whether their position is based on Church teaching (in turn based upon the Gospels and the collective church wisdom of 2,000 years), or whether they have entered a political debate without considering all the issues at stake. There is a third possibility as well, and that is the media takes one portion of a bishop's statement and highlights it to the exclusion of others.

For most of us citizens, the legalities are simple: If you have entered this nation without permission, you have no expanded menu of rights upon which you can draw.

Our analogy: It's like cable TV. Some people have expanded cable, with digital services, high def, computer linkup, movie channels galore, etc. This would be your native-born or (legally) naturalized citizens. Some people, usually for economic reasons, have only basic cable. You got your news, weather, and the over-the-air broadcast stations that you get for free if you wanted to use rabbit ears but the cable signal is better. Undocumented aliens are like this group: they could stay home and work bad jobs for worse wages, but they choose to extend themselves into this country because the signal (wages) is stronger.

But that's not good enough. They see how other people have expanded cable and they want expanded cable, so now they are taking off work to march in the streets, wave flags and proclaim that they are fighting for their expanded cable rights.

If we knuckle under and give them expanded cable, we will a) wreck the cable company (in this analogy it would be U.S. society, and b) cheapen the meaning of those expanded cable rights of those who have paid the price. End of analogy.

Here's the reality: We agree with certain segments of our society - notably the Catholic Church - that even illegal immigrants have certain basic rights as human beings created in the image of God. These include humane treatment. Church leaders have jumped on the immigrant side of the debate because a pending House bill would make it a crime to help undocumented (illegals).

Here's a simple solution: modify the bill and eliminate the penalty against clergy. Christians are supposed to help the hungry, homeless, destitute, needy, naked, suffering and even imprisoned brothers and sisters of the human race. (If this isn't your brand of Christianity, we suggest you read chapter 25 of Matthew, stat!)

That's where our agreement ends. Even Jesus taught us that we had an obligation to obey the laws of the state. ("Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's ..." He said.) Well, dear people, the laws of the state insist that everyone entering the country either have a visa or a green card to work. You are supposed to check in when you arrive and check out when you leave, and you are supposed to leave on time. These are reasonable requirements employed by nearly every nation on earth. In fact, the United States has many fewer restrictions on visitors than do most nations, including Mexico. Thus it would be difficult to declare that our border laws are unjust, and as far as we can tell, they have not been declared unjust by any major religious group. This means that until proven otherwise in courts or congress, our immigration laws are just.

There are approximately 11 or 12 million "guests" who have decided that they want "expanded" rights on the cheap, and have ignored entry requirements and check out times. The proper Christian response is to make sure that the suffering among the undocumented have proper attention. However, it is not a proper Christian response to help them evade detection, or to encourage their countinued refusal to obey the law. It could be argued that to enable people to break a just law is a sin.

So the question really is whether this nation will enforce its existing laws or modify them (either relax the rules to reflect the reality of today's non-enforcement, or tighten the rules and demand enforcement). That's a legitimate political debate into which the church can and should enter.

Please do not waste your breath telling us that "Jesus was an illegal alien" when He and his parents, Joseph and Mary, fled to Egypt.

1. We do not know what the border laws of Egypt were at that time.
2. We do not know if Joseph and Mary formally sought asylum from state persecution.
3. Jesus, being God, is actually the owner of Egypt, and every other corner of the universe.

In other words, what sounds like a great argument is in truth an attempt to get around Jesus' clear teaching on obedience to legitimate authority through an appeal to emotion.

We have yet to hear an opponent to real immigration reform offer a solution to the following existing problems:

1. The Mexican government is using the United States as a safety release valve for its own refusal to expand economic opportunity for its citizen. In doing so it "piggy backs" on the American economy since billions of dollars are "sent home" by undocumented to their families. This relieves the pressure on the Mexican government to do anything.

2. There is a great deal of evidence that some within the Mexican government see an opportunity to destabilize areas of the southwestern United States through uncontrolled migration of people, the eventual aim to be the "reconquista," the reconquest of the lands once held by Mexico. This is why we are seeing protest signs declaring "Gringo go home" in downtown LA and Phoenix. "This is our land - you are the tresspassers." Regardless of how one feels about the legitimacy of their claim, only idiots and idealists would believe that a reconquest is going to take place peaceably. (As often as we complain about some of the laws of the United States, we must admit they are vastly preferable to the laws of the "Republic" of Mexico.)

3. Our porous borders allow the importation of illegal drugs and the trafficking of humans, increasingly involving Latin American gangs such as the infamous M-13. Sometimes with the aid and comfort of elements of the Mexican military. This is not healthy for the U.S. and often not healthy to the poor unfortunate immigrants who are dumped in the desert without sufficient water and shelter.

4. Control of the border, or lack thereof, constitutes a clear and present danger of enemies of America crossing over to hide among us and wait for an opportunity (or a signal) to disrupt our society and economy. This is neither good for the U.S. or Mexico. Both nations, quite frankly, are disappointingly nonchalant about the threat.

There was a more peaceful time when Anglos and Hispanics moved back and forth across the border, more or less at will, because after two or three periods of bloody skirmish in the 19th and early 20th century it became more or less accepted as an official border, and the modern terrors of dirty nuke bombs and bio-weapons had yet to be invented.

That time has passed, and it's time to revise the Civics textbooks. Thousands of miles of open borders, once a point of pride, are now an unacceptable risk.

If we need to increase immigration from Mexico, then by all means, let's take a look at it, establish the new number, and put it into effect. Then enforce it.

Let's treat immigrants in a humane manner, but let's also remember that it is not unreasonable for a nation to establish limits to the numbers of people it can readily assimilate in a given period of time. It is not inhumane to expect newcomers to learn and obey the laws of the various and united states, and declare that if they wish to become citizens they will respect its Constitution and its freedoms by being responsible.


At 11:45 PM, Blogger AWG said...

Great post, Dave. As a Catholic I'm exceedingly frustrated and angry with the bishops and cardinals who are being disobedient and ignoring the laws of the land. The Pope warned them not to engage in political debates of this nature. Keep it up, man.


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