TAG | Immigration
The Economist takes a look at what America’s Roman Catholic church has been saying about immigration:
In America Roman Catholic ears are ringing from sermons supporting immigration reform. On September 8th, just before politicians returned to Congress after their summer break, several Catholic bishops spoke in favour of a bill passed by the Senate in June. The legislation would provide a bridge to citizenship for the 11m people currently residing in America without legal authorisation to do so (and also proposes $46 billion for border security measures). It followed on from vigils in August in support of reform of immigration policies (pictured). Prospects for the passage of any sort of immigration reform in the current legislative session are fading quickly, while the chances of the Senate bill passing the House of Representatives are currently low. But the Roman Catholic church is increasing pressure from the pulpit. Why is the church interested in changing immigration policies?
Well, some of it is ideological, of course, a religio-philosophical stance not too dissimilar from that which we heard the other day from the Pope in Lampedusa, and which was so rightly criticized by Theodore Dalrymple for its intellectually lazy “moral exhibitionism”.
But is there, wonders The Economist, something else:
Currently only 22% of Americans are Catholic (although almost a third of those in Congress are Catholic, making up the largest religious group). One possible reason why the Catholic church is keen to cultivate Hispanic migrants could be that, if some of the immigrants are more socially conservative, their voices could become louder on topics such as contraception and abortion, over which the church has clashed with the Obama administration. Welcoming more Hispanics into the country would also swell congregations, extending the church’s influence from pulpits to polling stations.
That could indeed be part of it, but I suspect that The Economist is defining the issue too narrowly (when it comes to social conservatism, the opinions of Latino immigrants may be less straightforward than the magazine imagines). Better, perhaps, to see this simply as a reflection of an old truth.
Numbers mean clout.
The leftist Catholic News Service reports:
Members of Congress may be out of town and immigration reform legislation may be stuck until at least this fall, but the summer recess has been time for Catholic activists to rally their forces and pressure elected representatives.
During the first weekend after Labor Day in some dioceses, priests have been asked to preach, celebrate special Masses or hold other events to educate about the church’s position on comprehensive immigration reform. Catholic colleges and universities are being asked to do the same the last weekend in September.
In addition, a conference hosted by the Catholic Legal Immigration Network, known as CLINIC, was scheduled just outside of Washington for late September. It will focus on the next step, offering help in planning for the process of mass legalization, a component of the Senate-passed immigration reform bill.
The Nuns on the Bus tour revved up again in May and June, taking religious women on a 6,500-mile trip through 15 states. Over the course of 53 events in 40 cities, stretching from the Northeast across the South and to California, the sisters and others who joined them along the way talked about the need for a comprehensive approach to immigration reform. Gatherings of as many as several hundred people were held in church halls, congressional offices, social service agencies and at a Mexican border crossing.
In a more localized pilgrimage for immigration reform, Sacramento, Calif., Bishop Jaime Soto on Aug. 12 blessed 11 pilgrims who were walking the 285 miles from Sacramento to Bakersfield, holding events along the way to talk about immigration. The 21-day Pilgrimage for a Pathway to Citizenship, planned by PICO National Network, a faith-based community organizing group, started at Sacramento’s National Shrine of our Lady of Guadalupe and has been making its way from one (mostly Catholic) church to another across central California’s agricultural valleys.
After talking to the public and trying to meet with members of Congress as they travel, the pilgrims planned to end their trek Monday at a rally that organizers expect will draw up to 5,000 people.
On the other side of the country, the Washington-based organization Faith in Public Life has spent the summer building coalitions at Catholic colleges and universities to work for immigration reform through letters, postcards and texts to members of Congress.
In July, more than 100 presidents of Catholic higher education institutions, joined by dozens more faculty members, wrote to Catholic members of Congress about the church’s teaching on migration in an effort organized by Faith in Public Life in collaboration with the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities and the Association of Jesuit Colleges and Universities….
Theodore Dalrymple is too kind in his assessment of the previous pope, a clever man, certainly, but one capable of thoroughly disingenuous argument, but that aside, this critique of some comments made by Francis, his successor, during the course of a visit to the Italian island of Lampedusa is a must-read.
Lampedusa is an Italian island of 8 square miles with a permanent population of 6000, which so far this year has received 7800 migrants trying to reach Europe across the Mediterranean from sub-Saharan and North Africa, that is to say more than 1000 a month. When the Pope officiated at mass on the island’s sports field, there were 10,000 in the congregation, two thirds more than the permanent population, suggesting that the migrants stay a few months at least on Lampedusa….
In effect the island has been transformed into a refugee camp, not necessarily with the approval or agreement of the original inhabitants. This was a fait accompli imposed upon them by political, historical and geographical circumstances.
Estimates suggest that about 100 migrants a month for the past twenty years have drowned during their clandestine passage across the Mediterranean towards Europe. This being the case, no one could possibly say that the migrants decided on the journey in a whimsical or light-hearted fashion. The attraction of Europe or the repulsion of their homelands, or both, must be very powerful for so many people to risk so high a chance of so pathetic a death. The Pope said that all his compassion went to the immigrants who had died at sea ‘in these boats that, instead of bringing hope of a better life, brought them to death,’ and this was right and proper. Surely someone must be lacking in both imagination and feeling not to sorrow for these poor people.
Compassionate fellow-feeling, however, can soon become self-indulgent and lead to spiritual pride. It imparts an inner glow, like a shot of whiskey on a cold day, but like whiskey it can prevent the clear-headedness which we need at least as much as we need warmth of heart. Pascal said that the beginning of morality was to think well; generosity of spirit is not enough.
In his homily, the Pope decried what he called ‘the globalization of indifference’ to the suffering of which the tragedy of the drowned was a manifestation and a consequence. Our culture of comfort, he said, has made us indifferent to the sufferings of others; we have forgotten how to cry on their behalf. He made reference to the play of Lope de Vega in which a tyrant is killed by the inhabitants of a town called Fuente Ovejuna, no one owning up to the killing and everyone saying that it was Fuente Ovejuna that killed him. The West, said the Pope, was like Fuente Ovejuna, for when asked who was to blame for the deaths of these migrants, it answered, ‘Everyone and no one!’ He continued, ‘Today also this question emerges: who is responsible for the blood of these brothers and sisters? No one! We each reply: it was not I, I wasn’t here, it was someone else.’
The Pope also called for ‘those who take the socio-economic decisions in anonymity that open the way to tragedies such as these to come out of hiding.’
With all due respect, I think this is very loose thinking indeed of a kind that the last Pope would not have permitted himself. The analogy between the two situations, the murder of the tyrant in Fuente Ovejuna and the death by drowning of thousands of migrants, is weak to the point of non-existence. After all, someone in Fuente Ovejuna did kill the tyrant; no one in the west drowned the migrants. Is the Pope then saying that Europe’s refusal to allow in all who want to come is the moral equivalent of actually wielding the knife?
By elevating feeling over thought, by making compassion the measure of all things, the Pope was able to evade the complexities of the situation, in effect indulging in one of the characteristic vices of our time, moral exhibitionism, which is the espousal of generous sentiment without the pain of having to think of the costs to other people of the implied (but unstated) morally-appropriate policy…..
Gleanings (“important developments in the church and the world”!) reports:
President Barack Obama is not the only one preparing for a heavy push on comprehensive immigration reform in the coming months. Today evangelical leaders launched fresh efforts to raise support as well, releasing a new video featuring Max Lucado, Bill Hybels, Richard Land, Leith Anderson, Samuel Rodriguez, and Joel Hunter, among others.
Take a look at the video. It’s a classic in its way. Support immigration ‘reform’ or burn in hell.
Or something like that.
But increasingly, Swedes are questioning these policies. Last fall, the far-right party — campaigning largely on an anti-immigration theme — won 6 percent of the vote and, for the first time, enough support to be seated in the Swedish Parliament.
But researchers have found that immigrants do face discrimination in jobs and housing. Malmo’s mayor, Mr. Reepalu, believes jobs and schooling are critical, though he notes with disappointment that as soon as a school has more than about 20 percent immigrants, Swedish parents take their children out.
I doubt the parents pulling their kids out of school can be attributed just to the 6 percent who voted for the right-wing party. Revealed preferences versus avowed I suppose….
While we are on the subject of national population development, this new Janet Daley piece from the London Sunday Telegraph makes some interesting claims. Here’s a key passage.
So now we know what Labour’s immigration policy was really about. The “open door” was not simply held ajar in order to admit a fresh workforce that would help to fill gaps in the growing economy. Nor was it just a gesture of hospitality and goodwill to those who were fleeing from repressive or inhospitable regimes in order to seek a better life. Both of those aims would have been credible – if controversial and not thought-through in all their consequences. And so would the longer-term view that dynamic, cosmopolitan societies are generally healthier and more productive than in-bred, isolated ones, or that immigrants who tend to be ambitious for themselves and their families could help to counter the passivity and defeatism that tend to be endemic in the British class system.
But as it turns out, the policy was motivated by something far more radical and fundamental than any of this. The full text of the draft policy paper composed in 2000 by a Home Office research unit – the gist of which had already been made public by a former Labour adviser – was released last week under Freedom of Information rules. Properly understood, it is political dynamite. What it states quite unequivocally was that mass immigration was being encouraged at least as much for “social objectives” as for economic ones. Migration was intended specifically to alter the demographic and cultural pattern of the country: to produce by force majeure the changes in attitude that the Labour government saw itself as representing.
Now what was it again that Bertholt Brecht once said about electing a new people?
French officials have denied citizenship to a man because he allegedly forces his wife to wear a full Islamic veil, the immigration minister said Wednesday.
“This individual imposes the full veil upon his wife, does not allow her the freedom to go and come as she pleases, and bans her from going out with her face unveiled, and rejects the principles of secularism and equality between man and woman,” Immigration Minister Eric Besson said he told Prime Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.
Tuesday’s decision came a week after partial ban on veils covering the face — including those from a burqa — was issued by a French parliamentary commission. If voted into law, the ban would apply in public areas such as schools, hospitals and on public transportation, CNN reported.
Six months ago, Sarkozy told lawmakers France did not “welcome” the Muslim burqa, citing the issue of women’s freedom and dignity, not religion.
A 2004 French law banned Muslim girls from wearing headscarves in state schools. It also banned other religious symbols such as large Christian crucifixes, Jewish yarmulkes and Sikh turbans.
In my mind one of the more shameful aspects of the American Right in the early 2000s was our denigration of our Western European allies over the Iraq War, in particular France. Sure, their motive wasn’t pure, but motives rarely are, and the French were right. The anti-French mania was represented by repulsive schlock such as Our Oldest Enemy: A History of America’s Disastrous Relationship with France. Granted, the relationship with France in many elementary school curricula is inversely childish, with the Marquis de La Fayette serving as a saintly personal representative for the French nation, with whom our relationship was always complex and to a large extent driven by situational conditions (not to mention that different portions of the American populace had opposite stances toward France on occasion, as during the French Revolution, when the South was pro-French and New England anti-French). But teaching materials for children tend to be childish and simplistic by their nature; what excuse does a conservative intellectual such as John J. Miller have? Instead of elevating his readership, in this case it seems he appealed to their baser inclinations, and that appeal will surely not stand the test of time.
In any case, I point to the French attitude toward particular types of Muslim religious garb as illustrative of the fact that they certainly are not “surrender monkeys.” In fact, laïcité tends to make Anglo-Saxons uneasy, with its aggression and disregard for liberty. But in this case the reasons are clear. One the one hand, there are practical rationales for why people should not expect to go about in public with their face covered; facial expressions are critical signals which our species relies upon. In pre-modern Muslim societies generally it was elite Muslim women, who lived segregated lives, who could engage in the luxury of the full face veil. Today middle class Muslim women who wish to have careers take up the veil. This is an innovation, and I think there are prudent grounds to object to it. A Muslim woman in the past who took up the veil as generally not a public woman. Today many public women are now taking up the veil. The personal has been made political.
That being said, the big problem here is Islam. If everyone was honest it might be feasible for Europeans to propose a “grand bargain”: Muslims can practice their faith however they want, so long as Europeans can block all further immigration from Muslim lands, or, by practicing Muslims. Non-Muslims the world over can tolerate small Muslim communities, but they fear the rise of large minorities. I will not review the reasons for the discomfort, they are not premised on delusion. But if Muslims were like the Amish or Hasidic, a peculiar people apart, but no long term demographic threat, then objections to the niqab or burqa would disappear.
Matt Yglesias makes an observation that many colored people I have known have made (including family members):
There’s often a kind of conventional idea on the left that the United States is an unusually racist society. And I think there’s also often a kind of image of Europe as a place where more of the progressive agenda has been achieved than in the USA. But I think that you’ll find if you look at Europe through the eyes of the liberal agenda that while the German left has certainly been more successful than the American left at securing universal health care, it’s been much less successful at promoting a tolerant, integrated, multicultural society. And allowing for the errors implicit in making any kind of sweeping generalization, I’d say that’s pretty generally the case across Europe. This Swiss People’s Party campaign poster would, I think, make Jesse Helms blush. And I’m not even sure which of the Northern League posters from Italy is the most egregious.
It’s not only on the Left, many Europeans think that the United States is particularly racist, until you point out to them that Americans are actually less anti-immigrant and more pro-diversity than most Europeans. This isn’t that unknown of a concept, years ago Jonah Goldberg argued for a pro-immigrant policy because it would dampen any tendency toward socialism. This sort of argument is to me a classic illustration of overemphasis on the power of the free market totally extracted and abstracted from concrete real world institutions and societies (and Goldberg isn’t even a libertarian).
Just a reminder to everyone on the Left and the Right that we don’t live in the world of Dr. Pangloss, there are trade-offs in this world.
Below, Art says:
Of course the Republican and conservative segment of the population is strongly anti-immigration …
They are strongly anti-illegal immigration. Most conservatives favor legal immigration, particularly skilled immigrants.
This is not really true, depending on how you interpret what Art meant. In fact, Americans as a whole want lower levels of legal immigration. In 2006 the Center for Immigration Studies republished a Zogby Poll on American attitudes toward immigration. I reproduced some of the responses to two questions below in a table.
I highlighted a few rows.
1) American Jews are outliers on immigration (though even among them there is a tendency to toward immigration skeptic positions).
2) No surprise that the highest income Americans are those who most agree that one needs immigration to bolster the unskilled labor force.
3) There are some peculiar numbers for “very conservative” individuals. 21% are “not sure” if immigration is necessary to meet the needs of unskilled labor in this country. I have two hypotheses:
a) A significant proportion of “very conservative” individuals are strongly influenced by economic libertarian arguments about the utility of easy flows of capital and labor in a global economy. So this is an empirical question for them which they will not offer an opinion upon if they don’t have the information on hand.
b) A significant proportion of “very conservative” individuals don’t see immigration as an economic issue at all, but rather one of race, ethnicity and national character. So these sorts of considerations are moot for them.
I know David Frum comes in for a lot of criticism from the conservatives. Sometimes I think this is justified, as I have found some of his methods objectionable. That being said, I am struck by the fact that Frum seems be injecting an immigration-skeptic voice into the discussion rather frequently. For example, How Will Great Recession Shape Youth?
Immigration policies that accept huge numbers of less-skilled workers, bad schools that fail to teach the children of those immigrants what they need to know, and very high dropout rates among the children of immigrants — these are the trends that led the Educational Testing Service to issue a warning: the American work force of 2025 will be less literate and less skilled than the American work force of 1995.
And this time there will be many fewer of the steady, if dull, jobs that provided security to the post-Depression generation: the blue-collar job on the assembly line, the clerical data-processing job. Life for people with fewer skills is becoming a lot harder and scarier at a time when there are soon to be a lot more of them
Of course the Republican and conservative segment of the population is strongly anti-immigration, and helped to block George W. Bush’s proposals from several years back. But ultimately it seems to me that it is too primal and inchoate to do anything more than serve as a rearguard action; the economic conservative elite is strongly influenced by the sort of open-borders thinking dominant at The Wall Street Journal. What needs to emerge for genuine immigration reform which adds solidity to the idea of the United States as a nation-state with a common culture is an elaborated alternative vision to the ultra-capitalist utopia of unconstrained action of markets, capital and labor. Basically, an intellectual conservatism which balances neoclassical and institutional perspectives.