The National Catholic Review

A couple months ago I wrote about immigration and the presidential contest at the website BustedHalo.com, where I touched on the DREAM Act:

The US Conference of Catholic Bishops went on record in favor of the DREAM Act, with Los Angeles’s Archbishop Jose Gomez writing:

The United States is a great country because it is a land of opportunity, family values, and compassion. Throughout our history, we have given newcomers the opportunity to work hard and be successful, to our country’s substantial benefit. We have also placed a high premium on the integrity of the family unit. And, we have refused to punish the innocent among us.

The bishops, speaking for the Catholic faithful, are clear in their support for humane and comprehensive immigration reform that respects the rights of the individual, the family, and the community. While recognizing that nations have a duty to secure borders to protect the common good, the bishops write:

Persons have the right to immigrate and thus government must accommodate this right to the greatest extent possible, especially financially blessed nations: “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.” Catholic Catechism, 2241.

Now, a prominent US bishop, Archbishop Thomas Wenski of Miami, has added his voice to the conversation about the DREAM Act in a letter printed in the Miami Herald. Republican US Senator Marco Rubio, whose name appears on many lists of potential VP nominees, has introduced a version of the DREAM Act that would eliminate the provision of the current bill that offers the children of undocumented immigrant a path to citizenship. Wenski questions the wisdom of this compromise, writing:

However, denying bright young people an opportunity to earn citizenship isn’t the right way to go.

Why create a more or less permanent underclass of people who, while enjoying a certain legal status, are unable to become fully American by accessing the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship?

These young people were brought to this country by their parents — some as infants. They are totally at home in America. They speak English, and many have excelled in school. Our country has already invested in them through public education. As citizens they can contribute to the common good of the only country that most know. They think and act like Americans, why can’t we allow them to dream like Americans?

As Rubio knows from the proud legacy of his immigrant parents and from so many of his constituents who are naturalized Americans, access to the America dream comes through citizenship.

Immigration remains an area where the Catholic Church must continue to offer prophetic witness, and Archbishop Wenski’s letter is encouraging.

Comments

Joshua DeCuir | 5/10/2012 - 2:37pm
"Straw man or straw argument?"

Neither; I think both positions are (a) rational and (b) defensible.  What IS a straw man is the dichotomy you set up in your comment: between those who accept your position and those who don't simply out of "fear, disdain and dislike" of immigrants.  It is the LATTER that is a strawman, and a patently unfair characterization of the argument.

In other words, I am willing to acknowledge that someone might not characterize the current immigration system as I see it; but I think most people (including supporters of the DREAM Act) agree that the current system is flawed, broken, etc. and I think one can reasonably argue WITHOUT fearing, disliking or disdaining immigrants that the solution to this is not to create yet another wrinkle in this system, but to fix the system. 
Tom Maher | 5/10/2012 - 12:50pm
Senator Rubio's plan does notihing to correct the chronic and out-of-control illegal immigartion that is politcally and economically desatbilizing the United States.  Effective measures to secure our borders are still being actively resisted by the Washington establishment and especailly the Obama adminsitration.   

Immigation reform urgently reqires that border security and effective immigration control be in place as the first order of business. Without effective border control we  have the chaos of a de facto federal open borders policy where anythings goes.  We do not need other policies reinforcing the baic failure to control our borders and control who is allowed to legally enter the United States.  . 

Immigartion laws are not being enforced in good faith by the Obama adminsitration.  States such as Arizona that attempt to act against the flood of illegal immigasts impacting their state fiancially and criminally are being sued by the Obama Justice adminstration.  The Obama State Departement has reported Arazona to the United Nations as a violator Human Rights becasue of its laws against illegal immigarnts.  The United Statres Supremen Court is currently deciding the Consistuionality of Arizona laws that defind itself from the criminal and economic impacts of illegal immigration whcih the federal governemnt of United States has little interest in doing.  For raw partisaqn reasons the Obama adminsitration is more concerned with the welfare of non-cictizens than the welfare and security of the citizens of Araizona. 

This is a fundemental question of equality under the law, the rule of law and the right of citizens to create and enforce laws and have self-goernement by the consent of the governed.  Citizens have a the exclusive right to self-determination.  Statea nd federal  laws matter.  Illegal immigarants are not above the law and they and their descendents should not benefit or be rewarded from their illegal entrance into the United States.  The taxpayers should not be made the unwilling slaves to the politcal and economic desires of illegal immigarnts forced on them by a partisan ioutside inteests such as the  Obama adminstration or the ACLU.  The rule of law under state law passed with the consent of the citizens of Arizona must be the  be the minimum basis in controlly illegal immigartion in their state with or without  effective federal enfocrement of immigration  law.  The Supreme Court is likey to rule in favor of this basic rights of citizens to determine and decided their own destiny.
Joshua DeCuir | 5/10/2012 - 11:24am
"Sen. Rubio attempted to write a compromise between people who think one, specific class of people is already American in all but name and, therefore, should be American in name, and people who dislike or disdain and fear all immigrants and especially immigrants who get an advantage they never got (even if they never needed it)."

Can you say "strawman"?  One asks a relevant question, and the answer is "you just dislike, disdain and fear immigrants"? Come on.

@Rick Fuego:

I agree, but making bad worse is also teh enemy of the good.
Rick Fueyo | 5/10/2012 - 11:20am
Josh:

The perfect is the enemy of the good.  Politics is the art of the possible.
T BLACKBURN | 5/10/2012 - 10:36am
Sen. Rubio attempted to write a compromise between people who think one, specific class of people is already American in all but name and, therefore, should be American in name, and people who dislike or disdain and fear all immigrants and especially immigrants who get an advantage they never got (even if they never needed it). The compromise between "yes" and "no" will never be satisfactory.

Where Josh DeCuir sees a new "confusing, unfair" layer of the law, the writers of the original DREAM act saw a simplification of part of the law. If something looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. If someone looks like an American, talks like an American and thinks like an American, he or she probably is an American. To tell him he is a Cuban would be like telling me I am the Eleventh Earl of Sandringham. To which the honest answer is, "Huh?" That honest answer is what the immigration law complicated and the DREAM act aimed at simplifying.
Joshua DeCuir | 5/10/2012 - 9:43am
"Your framing reflects a favorable political talking point, but not a reality."

I agree, insofar as I am responding to a comment that, I think, reflects the exact same thing.  The Archbishop made a point about Rubio's bill which is demonstrably inaccurate.

Insofar as I understand and agree that the existing path to citizenship is cumbersome, over-complicated, and unfair to certain groups vis-a-vis others, I think the question I asked remains: why is the solution to this problem to add yet another confusing, unfair layer to this flawed system than creating a simpler, fairer system to begin with?  I also think my question also reflects a reality: the immigration system is suspect in the eyes of many (both citizens and immigrants) because it is opaque, i.e. it appears at times to be rigged because it is not understandable.  A solution which adds to this opaqueness does nothing, it seems to me, to change this reality.
Bill Mazzella | 5/9/2012 - 6:38pm
According to the gospel those in front of the line should go to the end. So are we continually going to quote law over the gospel. Jesus said mercy over justice. We are an Easter people. Not a Roman Law people.
Rick Fueyo | 5/9/2012 - 6:38pm
''So, the question is why does the Archbishop and his supporters think there should be unique, or privileged paths for some children vis-a-vis other children who would like to earn citizenship?  I see no reason to create special paths, particularly when the group that would get the beneficial treatment would be in the position they're in because their parents broke the law. ''

You are misunderstanding the comparative effects of the different versions of the law. First, at a broad perspective, the law already provides very differential special paths, of which Sen. Rubio is a beneficiary, as he is of Cuban descent, which enjoys a privileged immigration status.  The legal path to citizenship varies greatly based upon the nation of origin and its political relationship to the United States. The numerical limitations on Mexican immigration are practically insurmountable.  Many Cubans are of legal citizenship simply because they are Cuban, not because they have done anything different or greater than their Mexican brethren.

 Second, all versions of the Dream Act provides some recognition of contributions to society in terms of education, service, etc. Already, many ''illegal'' immigrants served with distinction in our armed forces and many have given the ultimate sacrifice and had only been awarded citizenship posthumously.  So beneficiaries of the Dream Act are not cutting line; they are simply receiving recognition for other contributions outside of the bureaucratic arena.

Your framing reflects a favorable political talking point, but not a reality.

Michael Appleton | 5/9/2012 - 6:32pm
Sen. Rubio is attempting to propose a compromise which will improve the position of the Republican Party among Hispanics, but it is less a compromise than a half measure.  It commits the resources of the country to the education of the children of undocumented workers and to the cost of training for those who decide to serve in the military, but then places that investment at risk subject to the vicissitudes of immigration quotas.  In addition, I disagree that creating a special path for these children is a "reward" for bad behavior.  The children themselves have done nothing wrong; they are simply here.
Joshua DeCuir | 5/9/2012 - 5:54pm
In his statement, the Archbishop says: "However, denying bright young people an opportunity to earn citizenship isn’t the right way to go."

A quick Google search reveals that isn't the case with Rubio's bill at all.  Rubio is quote in a story on Politico:

"I think the key difference is it doesn't create a special pathway for citizenship and thereby leads to illegal chain migration," he [Rubio] said of the distinctions between his plan and the Democratic DREAM Act. "What it does it only puts them in the same position as any other holder of a non-immigrant visa, which is the opportunity to avail themselves of the existing legal immigration system whatever that system is at that time when they access it."

http://www.politico.com/blogs/on-congress/2012/04/spanish-media-runs-with-rubio-immigration-reform-idea-121179.html

So, the question is why does the Archbishop and his supporters think there should be unique, or privileged paths for some children vis-a-vis other children who would like to earn citizenship?  I see no reason to create special paths, particularly when the group that would get the beneficial treatment would be in the position they're in because their parents broke the law.  It's like rewarding people who already cut the line by putting them at the very front.  Treat all equally.
T BLACKBURN | 5/10/2012 - 12:46pm
"I also think my question also reflects a reality: the immigration system is suspect in the eyes of many (both citizens and immigrants) because it is opaque, i.e. it appears at times to be rigged because it is not understandable.  A solution which adds to this opaqueness does nothing, it seems to me, to change this reality."

The question you find relevant, Josh, is based on a) your - not everyone's -  suspicion of the immigration system, which you find "opaque" and I find complicated by political considerations and compromises, and on b) the proposition that the DREAM act will add to the opaqueness and confusion. I argued that b) is just plain wrong. Straw man or straw argument?