Monday, April 10, 2006


A single word graces every coin ever minted by the United States of America. It is the name given to the feminine personification of our land, that which is given form in the New York Harbor -- the lady who would "lift my lamp beside the golden door," beckoning all who would live under her light.

How they get here is something else again.

I've already had to sit in traffic and watch high-school students take the afternoon off, presumedly in protest of national immigration policy. We might suppose they are moved in sympathy to those children of foreign nationals who sit in their classrooms.

It's a good idea to understand what this is, and what this isn't.

We as a nation think little of consuming a disproportionately high percentage of the world's natural resources. (According to the latest studies, for the rest of the world to live as well as we do would require the natural resources of six Planet Earths.) Yet we are astonished that others would stop at nothing to share in it. Be that as it may, the USA has the most liberal immigration policy of any nation in the world. This leader of the free world, this would-be police force of every mess created by a coup d'etat or dictator or restraint of trade (the subject of another essay), also has the least secure borders of any nation in the world.

Knowing the latter is unlikely to satisfy thousands of Mexican nationals in the southwestern states, who are claiming that lands acquired in the early 19th century in the war with Mexico, and a subsequent purchase of additional land, are all part of a region of their homeland known as "Aztlan." It seems they are already in their country; it's the "gringos" who are from out of town.

(It's a little late to complain, ain't it, guys? Besides, you got a good price for the last land grab. Gotta warn ya, the price has gone waaaaay up since then.)

The President recently said "America is a nation of immigrants, and we're also a nation of laws." In fact, the majority of us are not immigrants (as I, for one, would remember such as thing), although we are descended from them. But columnist Michelle Malkin explains that even the Founding Fathers endorsed a strict immigration policy, in a piece last month entitled "Bush's Open Borders Platitudes."

When we think of illegals, we think of those guys who stand near the convenience store, ready to run toward any pickup truck that pulls into the lot, in the hopes of jumping on board for a day's manual labor. In fact, for all we (or the white guys across the street with the cameras with telephoto lenses) know, most of them may have their papers in order, if not their English. Needless to say, this is not a fair portrayal.

(Speaking from my own experience, I have never met a man or woman of Latino origin with whom I could not get along. With Spanish as a virtual second language in the Washington metro area...)

Nor is it fair to assume that most or all of the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in this country came here illegally at the offset. An example would be the several million domestic and health-care workers of Filipino origin. Typically, one might arrive on a temporary visa, and upon learning that a lifelong dream might be here for the taking, gets a job working for a diplomatic family, either as a nanny or a driver. They will then receive a "diplomatic visa." In the event of termination of their services (often with little cause or prior warning), they are reported to the State Department within thirty days. Roughly half of all Filipinos in the USA live in California, where their ancestors arrived as Pinoy slaves on Spanish galley ships in 1600. It is there that they often find domestic or other service work. If they are lucky, their employer will arrange to sponsor them, particularly if they are nurses or nursing students; the USA has a critical shortage, and those from the Philippines are highly prized. On the other hand, some do in-home health care or other domestic work, payable in cash, or find other means to disappear into the system. Filipinos are very protective of their kababayans, and there is always someone who knows someone. (For the record, "Sal" is on the up and up.)

But these distinctions mean little in the eyes of the law.

It would be different if we made it easy enough for those who come here prepared to make an honest contribution, both to their own betterment, and that of their would-be homeland. But as Sal's compatriots will attest, they do not. Not even for those from a country we colonized for half a century (against their will, as is evident in the 1962 revision of their day of independence, eschewing our understanding of history for their own), and who returned the offense by fighting and dying alongside us against the Japanese in World War II. Reparations for those veterans is only now underway, and progress is sluggish.

But these distinctions mean little in the eyes of those who take to the streets.

They would have us let everyone in, without regard to our own safety. Never mind that of the nineteen hijackers of "9-11," nearly all were undocumented. Our founders never intended America to become the world's free-for-all, knowing that order and discipline were the minimum one could expect from a government of, for, and by the people.

Finally, in saying that "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness," we are applying the natural law with respect to our own raison d'etre for the benefit of mankind, hence implying an entitlement to what we provide within our borders. Our intellectual honesty demands that the "golden door" remain open to all who would enter, within reason. At the same time, that same natural law entitles those already contained therein, to that protection which can only come from a secure border.

In a nutshell, let them in, but watch the gate.

Oh, and for any bishop who can take a few moments from grandstanding to give a hoot, the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2241) has the following to say about immigration:
The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner in search of the security and the means of livelihood which he cannot find in his country of origin. Public authorities should see to it that the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him.

Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
If it's worth having, it's worth protecting.

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