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Can a Catholic oppose mass immigration?

Here’s an edited version of a usenet discussion I had on immigration in a Catholic newsgroup:

Ille: In the US the government is discussing new rules on how to keep THEM out of the US.

Ego: What’s with the “THEM”? Disagreement on immigration does not mean stupidity and malice.

Ille: The THEM is any group that is not ourselves. They can be from Bangla Desh or they can be from New Orleans.

Ego: Do you think there’s something wrong with distinguishing “us” from “them,” and looking after our interests more than theirs? To my mind it’s the same issue as private property. In some grand sense everybody’s responsible for everything, but to have a system that works you have to divide things up so that individuals and groups have something definite to look after.

Ille: I tend to consider private property rights as a different issue than the right to live in a country, which is more of a public right. I don’t think it is equivalent enough to be a good example for the case at hand.

Ego: I think private property rights are an excellent example. They’re not that private. Most law is about property rights. For that matter, Microsoft is based on private property rights. Public and private have infinite gradations. There’s me in my room (private), universal humanity (public), and a thousand things in between—family, kinship and friendship networks, business enterprises, civic institutions, ethnic and cultural groups, nations, civilizational groupings, and so on.

Ille: The general issue is many people are upset because too many of THEM are coming into the US. Usually they come to the US, both legally and illegally to take jobs that few of US would accept.

Ego: Well, yes, if there are lots of poor immigrants then there will be lots of employers offering jobs on terms only a poor immigrant would accept. You end up with rich people on top and lots of poor people down below many of whom don’t even speak the same language and so end up socially isolated and resentful. Not everybody thinks that’s a good idea.

Ille: I find the whole thing interesting. I wonder if those coming into the US looked and talked like the rest of the people in the US would they be so feared and hated?

Ego: What reason do you have to think opposition to mass immigration has to do with fear and hatred? It means people think things would go better if there were less immigration. “Fear and hatred” is an odd way to talk about that kind of judgment.

I’d imagine that if somebody proposed abolishing private property some people who opposed the change would say self-centered things. “You can’t use my car because it’s MY CAR.” It wouldn’t follow that the abolition of private property is a good idea.

Anyway, public issues should be decided by reference to the best arguments not the worst. So if somebody gives bad arguments the best thing is to ignore them and ask what the good arguments are. There are good reasons for wanting to restrict immigration. Do you think there should be no restrictions on immigration at all? If you do you should be ready for the poorer half of the population of Bangla Desh to move here. Would that be a good thing?

Ille: It may well be, IMO

Ego: Is a social structure like Brazil desirable?

Ille: I don’t know enough about the social structure of Brazil to say.

Ego: There’s huge distance between top and bottom, with masses of people at the bottom. Most people think that’s bad politically and socially.

Ille: But who decides (should decide) that it is a good idea? Is the the US or the THEM?

Ego: That’s the same issue that comes up in connection with use of property. The Americans possess America, it’s their country, which means that they are responsible for what happens there, the well-being of the people there, how its resources get used and so on. So it’s up to them who moves there. It’s up to foreigners of course whether they want to have anything to do with America or Americans.

Ille: You state as a given that the primary responsibility of a government is to its own people. I don’t accept it as a given. I would accept that it is usually practiced that way, but why does it have to be that way and should it be that way?

Ego: You’re asking whether it’s OK for humanity to be divided into a variety of groups of various sorts, each of which looks after its own concerns and interests more than those of others. I say yes. Some considerations:

  1. What’s the principle that says we shouldn’t? Would that pply to family life, so the father of a family should show no more concern for his own wife and children than for anyone else? To economic life, so the management of a company should show no more concern for its own shareholders, employees and customers than for anyone else?
  2. The reasons pursuit of group interest is legitimate include the following:
    • Knowledge. The world is complex. I don’t know much about your problems, how they came about, or how they can be solved. I can know much more about my problems and the problems of people with whom I have long-term cooperative relationships. Therefore it makes much more sense to take them as my special concern.
    • Organization. Simply wanting some good thing doesn’t do anything. Some definite organization is needed that people get attached to and the goals of which they view as their own. It’s a lot easier for that sort of thing to grow up and establish itself locally than universally. One of the ways institutions capable of doing things grow up is by “give a little get a little”—you stand by it and it stands by you and yours. If that doesn’t apply then people won’t have much loyalty to the organization and it won’t go anywhere. It won’t apply though unless the organization is more concerned with the interests of its members than those of other people.
    • Motivation. People are motivated more to solve their own problems and those of people to whom they have a continuing connection than those of people to whom they have no connection except common humanity. Social organization has to accept universal human tendencies or it won’t work.

Ille: I wonder how many of the people objecting to these people have grandparents who came to the US with few skills and poor English and faced some of the same attitudes? (My grandparents did.)

Ego: There’s no reason the pluses and minuses couldn’t sort out differently at different times. When there’s cheap land, a need for unskilled labor, and basically no welfare system then immigration likely has benefits on both sides. Otherwise perhaps otherwise.

Besides, it’s not obvious that the whole of my family history must have been a good thing. If World War II had never occurred I would never have come into existence. If my ancestors had never been able to come to America ditto. That doesn’t prove either was a good thing.

Ille: I wonder if the Native Americans felt the same way about the foreigners who could not speak their languages or could not grow crops over here?

Ego: I’m sure a lot of them didn’t like it. And in fact on the whole it didn’t turn out that well for them. If a Sioux Indian didn’t like the white men moving in and killing all the buffalo, and thought it would be a good idea to build a fence to keep them out, would that prove (assuming a fence would have been practical) that he was bad or stupid?

Ille: I wonder how many of the the religious right are backing these new laws and I wonder how many Catholics and how many of both groups have stopped to ask themselves what God would want?

Ego: I suppose God thinks it’s OK to consider points like these:

  1. Political self-government requires trust and mutual understandings and relationships that take time to build. Those depend on common hopes, loyalties, memories and so on. You aren’t likely to find much of that in a demographically unstable and multicultural society. So if political self-government and general social friendship are good then borders and stability of populations are probably OK.

    [Ille: Frankly I believe you will find a great deal of exactly that from immigrants. They may lack some experience, but from those I have spoken to, they make up for it with enthusiasm.]

    [Ego: I live in New York and don’t see that. Individuals can be enthusiastic and public spirited but that’s true with or without immigrants. In government how groups act is also important and groups don’t trust each other when background, habits, attitudes etc. are quite different. Politics becomes a matter of group payoffs and trying to defuse group conflicts. When that happens the public interest becomes harder to agree on and the situation becomes easier to manipulate.

    Immigration has never been good for self-government. Cities with lots of immigrants weren’t noted for good government. There’s the basic problem that the new people don’t trust the old, and they find it hard to cooperate because they don’t have habits of cooperating with each other so the way they do things doesn’t mesh. If you don’t like politics to be based on ethnic suspicion and conflict then ethnic instability of the sort mass immigration creates is something to avoid.]

  2. Lack of self-government has some specific bad consequences. Multiculturalism means we have too many groups with too little in common morally so we can’t be ruled in accordance with any particular moral tradition. Experts, administrators, judges, bureaucrats etc. step in and say “Well we have Muslims and Buddhists and Voodooists as well as Christians and a few Jews here. That means that if we let any sort of reference to religion or any particular moral tradition into public life that will be unjust and cause disputes. So we’ll insist on total public godlessness and we’ll insist on basing the moral aspects of public life on the idea of the individual who is subject to no moral tradition at all but just does what he feels like doing within limits of public order that we will set because we’re experts. And then we’ll train everyone to believe that’s the best possible moral outlook.” The result is that if you’re a Catholic who’s worried about abortion or mandatory training for schoolchildren in gay safe sex techniques too bad. You’re just trying to enforce your particular values on a multicultural society.

    [Ego: I should add: minorities support rule by experts like judges and bureaucrats—they vote for the liberal parties—because they don’t trust the native majority. The more immigrants (California, Toronto, New York, Boston) the more support you get for the rules now prescribed to us no matter how wonderfully Catholic and devoted to family values the immigrants are. If you want I could dig out a reference to studies (by an Italian immigrant) of the politics of Italian communities in Toronto. All the Catholic patriarchal family values immigrants from Italian villages vote for antireligious feminist pro-abortion multicultural parties because they think those parties will represent their interests over against those of the native English Canadians.]

  3. Immigration isn’t necessarily that good for immigrants and their children. Their inherited culture no longer gets public support and what they pick up are the most easily learned and so crudest aspects of American pop culture. That’s nothing to live by. You might look up the statistics for things like health, family stability and illegitimacy among children of Hispanic immigrants.

    [Ille: I am going to assume you did not mean it this way, but that argument I have heard many times before. 50 years ago people used that same kind of argument and others trying to tell African Americans that they did not want to live in white neighborhoods.]

    [Ego: Very likely some of the people presenting the argument were well-intentioned. It’s a mistake to assume that people who disagree with you on some basic social issue are simply bad people with bad motivations.

    You should look at statistics on the status and well-being of African Americans. The post-60s period has not in fact been good for them. They were making faster economic progress before the 60s. The long-term drop in their poverty rate for example came to an end in the late 60s. Crime, illegitimacy, imprisonment etc. rates shot up enormously. I think their illegitimacy rate is something like 80% today, and there are more young black men in prison than in college. As to general culture, I think jazz and even the Detroit sound show a much healthier outlook and way of life than rap and hip hop.

    I don’t think Condoleeza Rice and Colin Powell outweigh all that. How ordinary black people end up matters. So maybe there was something to what those people 50 years ago were saying. Man is a social animal, which means that he lives better if he lives in a definite community. You can’t form a community arbitrarily though, just by saying you want one to exist. To a very large extent you have to work with what you have.

    I should add: if you care about the well-being of African Americans and other people who often have trouble making a go of it and often rely on jobs that are not so high on the ladder, you might hesitate before you import tens of millions of competitors for those same jobs.]

  4. Mass immigration to the US is not necessarily that good for immigrants’ home countries either. The most capable and energetic people leave. People go elsewhere and send back remittances instead of solving their problems at home and developing what’s there.

Ille: I find diversity means more ideas, good ones, fresh approaches, wider choices.

Ego: Some diversity of some kinds in some situations means that. For things to work though you also need coherence. Anyway, “diversity” doesn’t just mean “immigration.” People have different family, regional, educational and class backgrounds. They have different abilities and native tendencies. Those differences mean different perspectives that are often quite productive. I doubt that immigration at least on any large scale really adds to that. Europe for example was much more creative culturally and no doubt in other respects pre-60s when there really hadn’t been that much immigration there since the 800s. And I don’t see how mass immigration has helped American creativity. We had more creativity before the 60s. On the whole mass immigration and multiculturalism suppress thought and discussion. To the extent immigration promotes productive diversity a little seems to go a long way.

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Comments

This article deserves consideration as the most instructive article to date. Although the content informs, the method shows how to inform, how to profess. The professor continually questions, as Socrates did, for example:

What’s with the “THEM”?
What reason do you have to think opposition to mass immigration has to do with fear and hatred?

And the professor does not hammer his pupil when the pupil changes the subject.

The general issue is many people are upset because too many of THEM are coming into the US.
Professor responds.
I find the whole thing interesting.

And the professor selects from his hard-earned knowledge the appropriate response:

What reason do you have to think opposition to mass immigration has to do with fear and hatred? It means people think things would go better if there were less immigration. “Fear and hatred” is an odd way to talk about that kind of judgment.

This is an extremely timely discourse considering immigration reformers are faced with some heavy lifting right now. To lay it on the line, the reformers cannot sit in their foxholes and hope others will win it for them; no, the British should have lost the Battle of Britain, but they refused to succumb and fought against all hope. Consider Washington’s troops at Valley Forge, Andrew Jackson’s troops in St. Bernard/New Orleans, and Admiral Nimitz’s carriers at Midway. These are a meager collection of samples as any student of history should know. Any one of these events could have gone against the U.S. in such a way that we would not recognize the world today. No time, I am tired, what’s the use are thoughts that burden us all. So get to contacting and supporting your representatives by the quickest and most forceful way possible. Don’t beat yourself up though; if you contact even one representative for the first time in your life, you are on your way.

Paul Henri

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

I forgot to mention the most important Website (besides this one) for keeping abreast of immigration-reform legislation and anti-reform legislation and for FIGHTING: FAIR, which Mr. Kalb thankfully links to. Subscribe to its action alerts FOR FREE. You will get alerts to contact committee members of all stripes. Don’t disregard Senators and Representatives you have no use for; their eyes will flicker as they know the support the reformists have. Here is the order of effectiveness: writing a letter, calling, and sending an e-mail or fax. (Volunteer your name straightaway, and be very polite.) Using your own words is best, and a paragraph is sufficient. (You know what irks you; say it. You need not construct a series of syllogisms.) A personal experience whereby the present immigration system has adversely affected you is pure gold.

Paul

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

Numbers USA http://www.numbersusa.com/index is another excellent Website for keeping abreast of legislation minute-by-minute. In addition, an excellent Website recommended by the eminent Lawrence Auster (http://amnation.com/vfr/) is VDARE, http://vdare.com/ .

Paul

Hey Kalb, here’s what the http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10291a.htm Catholic Encyclopedia has to say about the issue:

“The legal control of migration began when it ceased to be collective and began to be individual. Laws have been passed preventing people from leaving their native land, and also, by the country of destination, forbidding or regulating entrance thereto. Extensive regulation has been found necessary applying to transportation companies and their agents, the means of transportation, treatment en route and at terminal points. The justification of public interference is to be found in the right of a nation to control the variations of its own population. The highest necessity is that arising from war: on this ground nations almost universally regulate very closely the movements of population, forbidding emigration, that they may not lose their soldiers, and guarding immigration as a military precaution. Restrictive measures are also justified on grounds of health and morals, and on the general ground that a national family has a right to say who shall join it.

Can a Catholic oppose mass immigration? This entry seems to suggest that yes he can!

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

A single illustration of liberal lunacy, among the many in the quoted discussion, follows:

“I tend to consider private property rights as a different issue than the right to live in a country, which is more of a public right. I don’t think it is equivalent enough to be a good example for the case at hand.”

Why is it a different issue? The liberal does not know why. What evidence is there that living in a country is a public right? Again, the liberal does not know why. (This second question would surely bring out the nominalists.) To continue, why are private property rights not “equivalent enough,” which we must charitably translate into, “Why are property rights not equivalent” to the right to live in a country? Again, the liberal is clueless. The liberal does not argue; he relies on unsupportable, unprovable premises and appeals to emotion.

It is through careful consideration of what a liberal actually says that reveals his propositions are unfounded.

Paul

As usual, Mr. Kalb is sensible and realistic, while his liberal interlocutor is morally superior and full of accusation, even invoking “what God wants” (I suppose it goes without saying that God favors the liberal position, notwithstanding the myriad affirmations of nations and nationhood in the OT and NT).

To a liberal, the United States is either an employment mill or an unlimited box of goodies that we cannot justify keeping solely to ourselves. Liberals don’t understand that a nation is something ineffable and spiritual that must be preserved as such, and not a line on a map or the unreasonable assertion of territorial integrity. To a liberal, national self-preservation is grounded in “fear and hatred,” as opposed to mature citizenship and spiritual stewardship. Any distinction between peoples, based on sovereignty or citizenship or culture or capacity to assimilate, is illegitimate to a liberal, and a liberal is certainly being consistent in this position.

By its very nature, the consistent application of liberalism creates disorder, but liberalism, within itself, has no resources to deal with that disorder (other than more heavy doses of liberalism). Moreover, liberalism cannot recognize itself as the source of the disorder. Thus, disorder increases exponentially under liberalism.

As I wrote to Mr. Auster:

“The disorder will not increase on a linear scale. It will increase exponentially. Liberalism has no resources, within itself, to respond to disorder, other than more heavy doses of liberalism. Our liberal compassion will create, within our borders, a vast permanent underclass of social discontents and unassimilables, and which our liberalism will prevent us from dealing with as a source of social and civilizational disorder (just as in France).”

The liberal protests that liberalism will overcome any disorder created by mass illegal immigration, failing to mention the impact mass illegal immigration has on existing American minorities, such as Blacks, or upon the American middle class (who will be called upon to pay the bills and whose wages will be depressed by illegal labor competition).

I can only conclude that liberals defend open borders policies merely to congratulate themselves on their own superior compassion (and to align themselves with “what God wants”), while failing to take any responsibility for the disorder that their faux compassion creates.

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

A most informative post by MD. One can suspect that when rational people act against their own interests, they do so because they consciously or unconsciously have concluded there is a payoff. Being superior is a payoff, a strong human desire, and liberals are humans. Being superior includes, for example, winning, making more money, and being more compassionate. Imagine a World Compassion Federation that held compassion contests. Surely there would be rules, or contestants would be starving themselves to death to become the champion compassionator, as it were. The liberal ignores that there are limits even to compassion. Yet the liberal does not want to appear as a pious ass.

So the liberal has more conscious, acceptable—to him—reasons to co-opt compassion. He, the liberal, does not want all of the liberal agenda: abortion, sex without marriage, living together, redress for ancient wrongs, acceptance of homosexual expression, more money for arbitrarily chosen occupations, a takeover of the Southwest by Mexico, or mass immigration, to name a few examples. But each liberal is motivated by one or more of these things, and the liberals have banded together to justify or accomplish these things. It seems, therefore, a definition of liberalism must vary from time to time. A synthesis of these motivations is elusive, but it would be interesting to hear it.

After this post, I will ask questions rather than post ideas.

Paul

I must breach last night’s pledge because of important developments. Please take action because your country needs you. That exhortation got me going today, and I spent about six hours calling and writing Senators, despite important work that needed to be done. But we all have very important work, whether it is fathering or mothering, which should never be neglected; but I address others and parents with time. We are at a decisive point. FAIR and NumbersUSA did a great job timing my effort to help defeat the Specter amnesty bill, WHICH WAS A GIVEN a few weeks ago. It is dead. Here again are their links: http://www.fairus.org/site/PageServer and http://www.numbersusa.com/index . Their Websites are not user-friendly insofar as contacting Senators; so if you don’t have computer-patience, just use the old reliable, the phone directory. Get the Washington D.C. phone number or web address if you prefer, because the voting will take place in Washington in the morning.

I am e-mailing tonight and will call in the morning. Fight so we need not have a bloody fight in the future.

Your support is desperately needed to defeat the Hagel-Martinez compromise brokered by Senator Frist, whose more modest proposal was DOA, after the Specter/Bush debacle.

All you need to say is something like this: “Hello, I am John Doe, and I urge Senator X to oppose the Hagel-Martinez amnesty bill. In addition, I urge the Senator to vote for immigration enforcement-only bills.” Pause for the response, which will be, “I will pass along your comments to the Senator.” Then say, “thank you for taking the time to listen to me. Good-by.” So easy, and so powerful. No tired soldier wants to make an effort; but that is how wars are lost.

Paul

Surely some readers took action or we would not have defeated the cloture efforts (the arcane procedural device to cut off debate). Congratulations, you earned it. We face a two-week hiatus before the Senate resumes its thing. So rest and relax, but in about a week, start planning your efforts so you will not be stressed at the last minute. These senators are wily and, unlike us, are paid large salaries to be wily. So start early weighing in on the senators identified as fence sitters by NumbersUSA or FAIR or by me if you would like to e-mail me. Visit your ultra-liberal or ultra-conservative senators; their eyes will flicker. It is really very easy; just show up at his office and be very polite and succinct. If a staffer presents you with a conundrum, simply fall back on the ultimate argument: I am here to save my country from a takeover by foreigners. Don’t argue with the man. Say, “We disagree, but thank you for your time, and please express my views to the Senator.” Let the staffer remain ignorant, frustrated, and befuddled, not you. There is always a counterargument; but you set your priorities. In any event, the staffer is unlikely to argue. If he does, ask to speak to someone else or leave.

The logic is simple.

I broke the law by entering the U.S. without permission.
I am a criminal.
I am impoverished.
I work cheaper than Americanos have been working.
I care nothing for American culture.
I intend to take back the Southwest.

The solution could be onerous unless you take action. Read Colonel William Travis’ plea for support that is still pasted on the wall of the Alamo in San Antonio. “The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion otherwise the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken—I have answered their demand with a cannon shot, & our flag still waves proudly from the walls—I shall never surrender or retreat.”

So sad, but a cautionary tale.

Paul

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

The two-week hiatus our senators are taking is a golden opportunity to get your message out without relying on exhausting, last-minute barrages of telephone calls by a few. Here is NumbersUSA: “Unless Senators hear a steady drumbeat of ‘No Amnesty/Guestworker’ from their constituents while they are home on recess, we will be in exactly the same position we were in this morning in two weeks: staring down one of the largest amnesties in U.S. history.”

We are approaching one of the many hopeless battles General Washington undertook in his seven-year campaign to give us our country. (But like the General, we stopped what was considered a done-deal in the Senate just three weeks ago.) Write or call the local offices while your senators are not in session; when in session, contact their Washington offices. You need not be wordy or clever or erudite. Just tell your senator and congressmen (who have passed immigration enforcement-only legislation) what you think; concede nothing—leave that to the TV talking-heads. (In fact, do not be wordy; no legislator is interested in multiple paragraphs.) You are in a war. Just fire and keep firing. Forget timidy; it is silly when you consider we are at war. We sure as heck are not timid when defending our children from people; your country also needs defending. Multiple contacts would be best, but if you can manage one, you are to be congratulated because you are on your way.

You have two languid weeks to serve your country. You might not get another chance. (Thank you Mr. Kalb for allowing this post.)

Paul

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

How insightful is Mr. Kalb’s recognition that some people assume immigration reformists think a simple word—them—is averted to by reformists. Assuming it is averted to, how better to refer clearly to illegal immigrants in a debate over illegal immigration? Others? Mexicans? Others and Mexicans comprise merely a part of the illegals. So them is shorthand. Ironically, the them accusation in this context hurts the liberal cause.

Paul

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

Besides the many inanities, the poor fellow’s idea that the population of Bangladesh be relocated to the U.S. is inappropriate, a clear indication he could be suffering from a serious mental illness. Still, Mr. Kalb’s responses to the poor fellow’s assertions are informative because they are part of an excellent question and answer session.

Paul

Dear Mr. Kalb and Fellow Readers,

Pay attention to Ann Coulter at http://www.anncoulter.org/cgi-local/welcome.cgi. She was a clerk of a U.S. Supreme Court Justice; such positions are given exclusively to the most brilliant. Now to what she has said.

She appeared on Bill Oreilly’s TV show last week and completely dumbfounded Mr. Oreilly about the immigration debate. When Oreilly attempted to inject compassion into whether or not we should export the illegals already here, she asked: Where is your compassion for all the legals waiting in line? He looked down and had no response, to his credit, for a liberal would simply change the subject. She pointed out whether it is a Reagan amnesty or an Oreilly amnesty; the illegals will keep on keep on coming because of the amnesty. She also really charged the debate in response to Oreilly’s moronic idea that building a fence would be too expensive; she said hire Mexicans, who work cheap.

But Oreilly should be watched and supported because he is a devoted immigration reformer and deserves credit for continually addressing the issue.

Paul