I’m not a regular reader of The Catholic Thing Blog. So cannot say how typical Brad Miner’s July 29 piece “Why the Catholic Bishops Are Wrong on Immigration,’ may be. I would not have known about it had I not seen it referred to elsewhere. So I draw no inferences beyond it. But I certainly can say that it is an appallingly weak argument for an appallingly bad position!
An example of the article’s poor argumentation is the implied comparison between the status of millions of undocumented immigrants and legal immigration and the implication of preference for Mexican immigrants over Swedish ones. The poverty of the author’s argument is captured in his silly question, “Are visas un-Christian?”
Now I have absolutely no idea how many Swedish immigrants come to the U.S. these days, and I certainly don’t know how many are legal and how many not legal. I remember that in New York City in the late 1980s there were lots of illegal Irish immigrants, for example. It’s a myth that all illegals immigrants are Latinos and that they all cross the border illegally. In fact, many illegal immigrants now in the U.S. are people who entered perfectly legally and then stayed after their visas expired. (Hence the absurdity of the over-emphasis on “border security,” which is really little more than an expensive stimulus program for certain constituencies).
Miner attacks the U.S. Bishops’ advocacy of immigration reform and their generally strong support for immigrants as a self-interested strategy to increase the number of Catholics. It is certainly true, of course, that the majority of Latino immigrants are Catholics and that it is in fact immigrants who have kept the Catholic Church at approximately one-quarter of the national population in spite of the loss of so many U.S.-born Catholics. It is, indeed, in the Church’s interest to encourage immigration and support immigrants once here. However, it is also the Church’s duty to look after its members, is it not? Moreover, the Church’s responsibility towards its poorer and politically powerless members is itself a subset of the Church’s larger responsibility to advocate for and assist our society’s poor and powerless, regardless of their religion. Two of the Church’s most noteworthy contributions to the quality of our civil society have been its impressive networks of educational and health care institutions. While historically the Catholic school system has served primarily the children of Catholic families (in the past primarily poor and immigrant), Catholic schools today often serve significant non-Catholic urban populations. And Catholic hospitals have always embodied the Church’s charitable mission to all people regardless of religion or other identities.
Miner may be right in suggesting that Latino immigrants provide the Church in the U.S a demographic boost in the short term. He may also be right that the long-term prospects may be less positive. He refers to studies that show that in 1980 ninety percent of Hispanics in the U.S. were Catholic, but that today just over two-thirds are, and that that percentage is expected to decrease further over the next two decades. All that is interesting and important. But far from arguing against advocacy for immigrants what it ought to inspire is more rather than less intense evangelizing outreach efforts on the Church’s part to its Latino members. None of that, however, diminishes the Church’s moral responsibility to be of assistance to immigrants (of whatever religion) and to advocate on their behalf.
You shall treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; have the same love for him as for yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the Lord, am your God (Leviticus 19:34).