What is the Catholic Response to the Illegal Immigrant Children Crisis?
Something tragic is happening in this country of ours. Tens of thousands of children are pouring over the border and our president has done nothing at all to stop it. In fact, while it happened, he fundraised. And fundraised. And fundraised some more. I’m pretty sure he’s not planning on using the revenue to help the situation, though.
The tragedy is not the illegal immigration or the massive group of foreign-born children who’ve crossed our border. It’s what we’ve done to them. In the weeks this story has been unfolding, there have been disturbing pictures of these kids rounded up by the hundreds and dumped in confinement camps, in cramped quarters, with doctors who are not allowed to discuss their health problems, including dangerous viral strains not seen in America in decades, with the public. Senators have been turned away from the door by soldiers tasked with keeping scrutiny off their treatment. Professional politicians have used these plighted kids as convenient prop pieces for heart-string manipulation. “I wish I could take all those children home with me,” said Nancy Pelosi, not commenting on whether she would try to perform post-natal abortions on them all. Who is she kidding? Pelosi knows she can’t take any of them with her, which makes it all too easy to pretend to care about them when she’s made it clear through her policies that she cares nothing about human dignity. These children have been used by liberals to re-engage the bleeding hearts. They’ve also been used by conservatives to blame the man in the White House who, in truth, ought to secure the border to discourage the coyotes (immigrant smugglers) who dangerously contribute to this problem in the first place. Conservatives have also used them to contrast Obama’s seeming concern for the illegal immigrant children with the unattended suffering of the military veteran population. Obama is wrong on both his immigration policy and his veteran policy, but that’s not the point.
The point is children are suffering.
I’m going to take a note from George Will and Glenn Beck and say that the USA should welcome these illegal immigrant children. It’s the Catholic thing to do, though you wouldn’t know it by having a conversation with most orthodox Catholics.
Immigration is encouraged by the Church. That’s not to say we can’t place legal safety measures on it, such as border fences to keep out drug-peddling thugs, but in general it is to be maintained and not restricted. First, let’s take a look at the issue through the lens of justice. Call it a part of our Catholic preferential option for the poor, for those less fortunate that seek refuge on our shores. Plenty of Catholics, especially orthodox ones with a strong sense of justice, point to the fact that these immigrants are breaking laws, but that’s a somewhat mistaken claim. Perhaps they’ve broken civil law in crossing the border illegally, yes, but they haven’t broken moral law. The moral law says that we should follow civil laws when they are just, and may – or even must, depending on circumstance – disobey civil laws when they are unjust. All human beings, including illegal immigrant children, have the right to life, which extends as a right to those things essential for life, food, water, shelter, clothing, etc. If they do not have the means to live in their own country – and evidently these abandoned youth have even less means than the oft-impoverished adults in their countries of origin – then they have a fundamental right to seek out what sustains life. If they can find it in America, then their fundamental right to life trumps civil immigration law, provided they truly need to immigrate and do so illegally. I think anyone who takes a look at the immigration process in America should see that its timetable and requirements aren’t exactly suited toward child refugees. As another matter of justice, why exactly should we be punishing orphaned and abandoned children for trying to make a living in a land they’ve always heard touted as a paradise? Even if they have been used, as some conspiracy theorists are claiming, as pawns in a Democrat vote-rigging scandal, why should the children be punished for the sins of their parents and politicians?
Beyond justice, however, there is a matter of charity. America was born as a Judeo-Christian nation. It’s a heritage that makes most conservatives proud. Yet the average conservative defies the Judeo-Christian sense of justice outlined above in the case of illegal immigrants. Further still, the average conservative, in his outrage over the border crisis – and again, we should be angry that our border is insecure in the first place – overlooks a simple yet profound message of the Gospel: “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name receives me” (Matthew 18:5). We conservatives overwhelmingly identify as Christian. How can we overlook our faith for our politics?
What would happen if Christian homes with the means to do so opened their hearts and their tables and their doors to illegal immigrants? Christian families would be enriched by the addition of a second culture. Their hearts would be stretched, their love exercised, and their souls made more holy in generosity. These children would receive better homes than they had ever seen. Healthcare, education, and a decent job would await them; even if all of these are substandard in the USA, they far exceed the standards of most countries south of the border.
That in itself should be enough, but if the conservatives need another reason to take in these children, it’s this: children tend to reflect the politics of their parents. You can have them raised as wards of the state and see them become big-government liberals or you can have them raised in Christian homes and, by and large, become conservatives. The aforementioned conspiracy theorists should take note: if these children are a liberal voting time bomb, you have the means not only to defuse it, but to turn it on those you hope to defeat. Justice and charity should provide ample support for amnesty for these children, but failing that, even the Machiavellian strategies so popular with politicians these days should suffice.
Barack Obama has been more derelict in his duties than any president in history. He’s failed to secure the border and allowed this crisis to unfold. Both parties have neglected to pass meaningful immigration reform that would streamline the process for the poor and refugees like these children. Now the president plans to push through amnesty in the wrong way, by means of yet another dictatorial executive order. The American political machine shows no signs of stopping this corruption. It will continue as it sees fit. But Christian love can take away the harm it might do to these kids. Can Catholics continue to look the other way?