Monday, May 24, 2010

The Christian Response to Illegal Immigration

There has been much passionate debate of the immigration law that was recently passed in Arizona. I do not have much knowledge on the specifics of the law, but to my understanding the two most controversial elements are that law enforcement will now be able to request legal documents anytime someone is in suspicion of breaking the law, and law enforcement can be sued by anyone for not enforcing the law. This law has stirred quite the controversy, and people on both sides of the issue are very passionate. I find myself stuck in between the two groups. I don’t think that this law is the best solution to solving the immigration problem, but I also don’t think it is as bad as some think. I don’t think that the law itself is as much the problem, but the assumption of how the law will be enforced. I am not going to debate the law recently passed in Arizona, but I would like to take a moment to examine what I believe to be the proper Christian response to illegal immigration.

It should be pointed out that several Catholic bishops have made public statements on the issue of immigration. Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on Migration recently outlined the bishops’ position on the issue. “We urge members of both parties to begin a process toward introducing and enacting bipartisan legislation which affirms the rule of law and basic human rights,” Bishop Wester said. The USCCB has been talking about the need for immigration reform for years. I found the following public comments from Archbishop Chaput of Denver, which he made a couple years ago. “The Catholic Church respects the law, including immigration law. We respect those men and women who have the difficult job of enforcing it. We do not encourage or help anyone to break the law. We believe Americans have a right to solvent public institutions, secure borders and orderly regulation of immigration.” … “We urgently need the kind of immigration reform that will address our economic and security needs, but will also regularize the status of the many decent undocumented immigrants who help our society to grow.”

The USCCB is requesting two elements to the immigration legislation; affirm the rule of law and basic human rights. I think that people on both sides of the aisle should be able to agree with those two elements. However, the difficulty in getting everyone in agreement with immigration reform legislation is in the details. It seems that every piece of legislation has political implications and several people are more concerned about the political effect on legislation rather than on how it will solve the immigration problem.

Many of the legal and illegal immigrants from Mexico are Catholic. This is a fact. The religious affiliation of the immigrants should not be a factor in the decisions of rule of law. I only mention this because we must be conscience of the situation and how many from the outside may interpret our position on immigration. I believe the USCCB’s motives for immigration reform are sincere; however we must be prepared for people to make an accusation that they are only for immigration reform because most of the illegal immigrants are Catholic. These accusations will be made to try to discredit the statements made by our bishops on immigration, and to prevent or slow any real immigration reform. It should be pointed out that the Catholic bishops in Mexico have echoed the sentiments expressed by the USCCB in regard to immigration reform.

Firstly, I want to make clear that immigration to the United States is not the primary problem, but illegal immigration. The country’s immigration policies may contribute in some ways to the problem of illegal immigration, but immigration itself is not the problem. In order to provide a potential solution to the illegal immigration problem we currently face, we must address and confirm what the actual problem is and what it entails. The United States shares a northern border with Canada and a southern border with Mexico. The primary area of concern lies along the southern border with Mexico. This will be a little bit of an oversimplification of the situation, but basically several Mexican citizens desire to migrate to the United States. Most of these people have this desire because they believe that the United States provides them the opportunity to achieve a better life either economically or socially. The problem we now face in this country is twofold: how do we prevent illegal immigration and what do we do with the undocumented immigrants who are already living here illegally. Now that we know in general what is happening, let us examine some of our immigration laws and procedures for becoming a US citizen.

If you are a Mexican citizen and you want to become a US citizen, what must you do to legally become a US citizen and how long does this process take? Because immigration law is too complicated and detailed, I won’t go into the specifics but you can read about the immigration process HERE. In summary, you can become a U.S. citizen by birth or through a process called Naturalization. A quick summary of gaining citizenship through Naturalization can be found HERE. A more detailed guide can be found HERE. Permanent residence in the United States for 5 years is the general minimum requirement before a person applies for citizenship through Naturalization. There are some exceptions to this rule, but around 90% of people becoming a citizen through Naturalization have resided in the United States for 5 years. That begs the question, how do you reside in the United States for 5 years without being a United States citizen. The answer is that you must receive a “Green Card,” which is generally acquired through a family member who is a United States citizen or through a job offer.

In summary, in order to legally become a citizen a person must first acquire a green card. Once a green card is acquired, the person must primarily reside in the United States for 5 years. At that time, they are to apply for Naturalization. This person must pass a test. If they fail this test twice, they must live in the United States for an additional year before reapplying. Although this is a generalization of the process, it gives you a good idea of what is required to become a United States citizen. It is a long process. It is a complicated process. It is probably not the best process, but it is the current law of the land. Now that we know the process of legally becoming a United States citizen, I will give my opinion on why several people are entering the country illegally and how we can limit illegal immigration, what I believe we must consider when thinking about how we deal with and treat illegal immigrants, and what I believe are essential elements to any potential solution to the illegal immigration issue.

I do not know any illegal immigrants personally, but I have spoken to some Hispanic immigrants that are concerned about the immigration policy. From my brief conversations and based on some other stories I’ve heard, it seems as though they find that becoming a citizen is a painfully long and sometimes stressful process. In many cases, these people have family members living in the United States and have no criminal history, and yet it takes them over a decade to become a citizen. I believe that many immigrants enter the country illegally because they don’t have the patience to endure the long and stressful process of becoming a citizen. I am not justifying their actions, but I think that I can at least understand their actions. I believe that our national security requires that we do a thorough background check on those immigrants who want to become citizens. I do not believe that we must allow any and all people to become citizens. It is not a God given right for all people to be a United States citizen. That said, I think that for those people who pose no security threat to the United States and simply want to become a citizen so that they might have a better life or so that they can join family members who already live in the country, there needs to be an easier and much quicker process for them to become citizens. There must be some form of immigration regulation, and not everyone who desires to become a citizen should be granted citizenship based on desire alone, but there must be a very real and justifiable reason to deny someone citizenship. I think if the process of becoming a citizen is improved; the incentive to enter the country illegally will decrease.

When considering immigration reform, there are several things I think we must consider. Immigration is an issue of humanity, the economy, and national security. Let us first look at the human aspect. Any laws that we enact must be just laws. By a just law, I mean that the law must in no way dehumanize the human person and must respect the dignity and freedom all people deserve. If a law is unjust, enforcement of said law is immoral. This brings up a second requirement in immigration reform; the immigration laws must be enforceable. A law could be nicely worded, but if it is not practical in reality or if there is no possible way to sufficiently enforce the law it will largely be unsuccessful. Enforcement of immigration laws should be done in an ethical manner and discrimination or harassment should be avoided at all costs. While a gross majority of illegal immigrants are of Hispanic ethnicity and it would be irresponsible for us to completely ignore this fact, we must not make a generalization on all people of Hispanic ethnicity. We must not incriminate a whole group of people when only a small percentage is guilty. In drafting immigration laws, we must consider the perspectives of the immigrants and their families as well as the American citizens. Our laws should be compassionate to those immigrants who have a just reason to become a citizen. We must consider how citizenship or denial of citizenship affects the families of these immigrants. Because the family is one of the central backbones of society, we must see that our laws protect the family including those families of prospective citizens. We must not simply throw a person out of the country if it will damage and separate families. The well being of the immigrant’s family must be considered as well as the immigrant themselves.

Immigration also has an effect on the national economy and national security. One mistaken notion that many people make is that immigration hurts the national economy. This line of thinking is very much in line with those who believe population control will help the economy. These ideas have been refuted by several economic minds much smarter than me. What I do know is that many immigrants provide services that many others are unwilling or incapable of doing. Also, as the population grows increasingly older, more and more young workers are needed to help pay for social security. Catholic social teaching recognizes the right of an individual to seek work to support their family. While ideally individuals would be able to find this work wherever they live, it may not always be the case. While it may be true that an immigrant takes a job that otherwise may have gone to the American born citizen, the immigrant may also be able to create new jobs and stimulate the economy. Immigration also effects national security. The nation is more secure when we know who is in our country, and so ideally everyone who is living in this country should be documented. One essential element that will limit illegal immigration and protect national security is to strengthen the border security. If it is more difficult to enter the country illegally, fewer will even attempt to enter illegally. I will discuss national security in more detail in talking about the problem of undocumented immigrants living in our country.

Up to this point, I have focused on illegal immigration and how we might be able to limit illegal immigration. Now I would like to talk about our problem concerning what we should do about those who are living in our country illegally. The USCCB have made a strong case for the legalization of undocumented immigrants HERE. The number one concern I have about the legalization of undocumented immigrants is that it must not accept or encourage illegal activity. I believe that there should be a process for undocumented immigrants to become legal citizens, but those who are attempting to become a citizen legally must not be penalized. Justice requires some sort of penalty for those undocumented immigrants. Punishments may not need to be severe, but at least some sort of punishment needs to be present. Punishment for breaking just laws is not inhumane but in fact charitable and necessary in order to protect the validity of the law and the common good. If there is no punishment for breaking the law, what is the purpose of the law at all? Without justice, there can be no peace or security. Amnesty for illegal immigrants is not charitable to the countless immigrants who entered or are entering the country legally, and those citizens who abide to the rule of law. Punishment for illegal actions is a deterrent for bad behavior, and is charitable for the individual him or herself in that it encourages good behavior. It is also necessary to maintain order and peace. Assuming that the legalization of undocumented immigrants does not harm those immigrants who have waited to become a citizen legally and reward those who entered the country illegally, I fully support a process to legalize the undocumented immigrants. It would enhance national security in that those undocumented workers would come out from hiding and we would have a better idea who exactly does live in the country. It would help our economy because more people will be paying taxes and wages would increase since undocumented workers are often paid well below what normal wages would suggest reasonable. It would help keep families together and strengthen community bonds. Once all undocumented immigrants complete the process of becoming a citizen, once our immigration policies are greatly improved so that the process of becoming a citizen is not such a great barrier, once our borders are sufficiently secure so that illegal immigration becomes much more difficult and less attractive to immigrants, and once we have laws in place in the country that punish businesses that hire undocumented workers and offer unfair wages I believe that our illegal immigration problem will be greatly reduced if elimination of the problem is not possible.

I have learned a lot about immigration in recent weeks. Until only recently, I had never really taken any initiative to examine the immigration issue because I did not believe that it affected me. However, I was wrong. Immigration affects all of us, and we should all be concerned about the well being of our citizens and the dignity and respect of all people. I now believe that immigration reform is one of the most important issues in our country. It is important that we become educated in this issue so that we can properly form our conscience, so that we can make informed decisions when electing representatives, and so that we are able to provide insightful knowledge to those who know little about the immigration issue. It is important to have knowledge of the actual problem, because without this knowledge it is impossible for a positive solution to be achieved. As more and more people become educated on immigration reform, I believe we can enact and enforce immigration laws that will provide U.S. citizens safety and economic security, offer immigrants a humane and speedy process for becoming a citizen, and greatly improve the tension around the Mexican/United States boarder. I hope this post has helped educate you a little bit more about the immigration issue, I know that the research I did certainly educated me greatly. I pray for a quick and positive solution to illegal immigration in this country. God bless you, and God bless America!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reflections on C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity: Book 1 Chapter 3

The Reality of the Law

The Law of Nature as applied to stones or trees means only what nature does, but the Law of Human Nature does not mean what humans do. When dealing with humans, something comes in over and above the facts. In all the rest of the universe there need not be anything but the facts. C.S. Lewis found this distinction very odd. He says that it is so peculiar that we are often tempted to explain it away. Below are two of the most common arguments against the reality of the Law of Human Nature and C.S. Lewis’ refute to these faulty explanations of human behavior.

1.) When someone does something we say he ought not to do, he is doing something inconvenient to you like a rock that it not perfectly shaped so that it does not provide shade from the shining sun.

C.S. Lewis easily refutes this explanation because sometimes the behavior we call bad is not at all inconvenient to us. The example he gives is how we view a man who trips you accidentally versus a man who tries to trip you but is unsuccessful. We are not upset at the man who accidentally trips us, but we take more offense to the man who tried to trip us even though he was unsuccessful. The man who tripped you inconvenienced you, but you do not consider his action bad. However, the man who tried to trip you did not inconvenience you because he was unsuccessful, but we consider his action wrong. C.S. Lewis also points out that it is the same when we are talking about what we consider good. What we call good may not always be useful to us.

2.) Some say that it may not benefit you personally, but if it benefits society.

C.S. Lewis says that is all well and good, but why should you care about the benefits of society if it doesn’t benefit you personally? A person could argue that if something benefits society then it will also benefit you personally at least indirectly. However, when you ask how something can help you indirectly you will find that there is sometimes no explanation as to how it will help us personally either directly or indirectly. If the person argues that doing something good for society will benefit you because it will make you feel good about helping someone else, you can respond by saying why would that make us feel good? The very fact that being unselfish can provide us pleasure is only further proof that there is something over and above the facts when it comes to humans. There is something that is not observable or seen that tells us how we ought to act.

The Law of Human Nature is not simply a fact about Human behavior. Two humans in the same situation can and will make opposite decisions. Two humans could also make the same decision but for different reasons. Two humans could do the same exact thing, but one we could consider good and the other bad. A rock does not have the capability to make decisions. A rock does not have the ability to fall in a place so as to avoid injuring a person, it simply falls where nature forces it to fall. The Law of Human Nature is not a mere fancy, for we cannot get rid of the idea. There is a right and a wrong way to behave, and the right thing to do will not always benefit us personally. Nothing else in the universe behaves the way humans do and nothing else in the universe is as unique as the human person.

God bless!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Timothy Doherty Appointed Bishop of Lafayette Indiana

I couldn't find much information on the new bishop of Lafayette Indiana (the diocease of my hometown), but I did find this article. It sounds like he is well versed in health care ethics, obviously one of the most important issues of our time. It's a little sad to see Bishop Higi go, he is the bishop who confirmed me, but it's also exciting to get a younger bishop. I pray that he will be a strong and faithful leader of the great diocease of Lafayette Indiana.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Prayer Request - Grandma Duquaine

My Grandma Duquaine fell and is at the hospital. She
broke her shoulder and wrist. She also dislocated her finger and it was
cut pretty bad. She is going to have surgery on her shoulder.

Please keep my grandma in your thoughts and prayers. I know that she and grandpa greatly appreciate it. I love you grandma! Get well soon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Book Reflections: C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity - Book 1 Chapter 2

Some Objections

In order to properly defend and explain any belief, it is necessary to address serious objections and questions from outsiders. No matter what we do or think, there will be someone in the world that objects to our actions or thoughts. These objections may come from ignorance or simply a difference of opinion. If people can’t properly understand the foundational principals of Christianity, how in the world can we expect them to accept and live the Christian life? The purpose of Christian apologetics is to win the hearts and minds of those who do not know or understand Christianity and to give strength to those Christians who begin to doubt their own beliefs. A missionary, who ignores serious objections or concerns with the foundational principals of his faith, is like the man who builds his house on sand. Even if he is able to get someone to buy his house, the homeowners will eventually lose the house when a bad storm comes and they may very well drown themselves. With this in mind, C.S. Lewis immediately addresses some of the most common objections or questions to the foundational Christian belief in the Law of Human Nature and the understanding that we do not always live in accordance to the Law of Human Nature.

Objection or Question #1

Isn’t this “Moral Law” simply herd instinct that has been developed like our other instincts?

C.S. Lewis has a brilliant explanation and response to this question. Much like how Jesus often used parables to answer questions he received, C.S. Lewis most often explains by using real life examples. In order to answer a question, we must fully understand the question. By “Moral Law” they mean what we have described as the Law of Human Nature. An instinct is a strong desire to act in a certain way. A herd instinct is feeling a need to identify with a group. So the first accusation against the Law of Human Nature is that it is simply an instinct like our other instincts and that it developed from a desire to act and think like a the general population.

The second half of the first objection really ties in with the second half of the second objection, so I’ll address that later when I address the second objection. As for the idea that the Moral Law is simply an instinct, it is a flawed idea. C.S. Lewis explains the difference best. He highlights the difference between feeling a desire to help is different than feeling you ought to help whether you want to or not. The example he gives is when a person is in need, you will probably feel two desires: the herd instinct feeling a desire to help and a second desire which is to keep out of danger. Because these two instincts are in conflict with one another, you must make a choice between the two instincts. When two instincts are at odds with one another, we have a feeling of what we ought to do. This third feeling of what we ought to do is not itself an instinct because it is an analysis of two instincts and not a desire in and of itself. C.S. Lewis rightly notes that we are most conscience of the Moral Law when it seems to be telling us to side with the weaker instinct; in this case the instinct to help. Most often in this case we feel we ought to help, but we probably most often want to be safe much more than to help.

One last point C.S. Lewis makes that proves that the Moral Law is not just an instinct is that if Moral Law was an instinct it would always be good. However, we know that we must at times suppress our instincts. For example, we have a sexual instinct. In and of itself this instinct is not bad, but we must suppress this instinct if we have made a vow of celibacy or any time we are not married. This suppression often gets misinterpreted as limiting a man’s freedom, but in fact it empower man and grants him great freedom; the freedom to make choices. This free will is what separates us from other animals. If Moral law was an instinct, following your instinct would always be good.

Objection or Question #2

Isn’t Moral Law just a social convention, something we acquire from education?

The first objection or question implies that Moral Law is something that we develop and learn over time. The second objection follows this same logic. The person with this question believes that the Moral Law is something that we learn through teaching and that we believe because we want to be able to identify with the masses who believe in Moral Law. They may not be entirely wrong about being taught the Moral Law from parents and teachers, but because something is taught does not mean that it is a human invention. It also does not mean that because a belief is taught that the person learning this belief accepted only because they desire to be included in a group of those who believe. C.S. Lewis gives two examples of things we are taught: Mathematics and the rules of driving. The rules of driving are a human invention; different cultures have different rules for driving. The Law of Human Nature falls on the side of math for two reasons.

1. The Law of Human Nature is the same universally.
2. There is judgment between the differences in morality in different cultures

The second reason requires a little further explanation. For example, the vast majority of people believe that their moral ideals are truer than that of the Nazis. In order to make a judgment between two ideals of morality, there must be a standard. The very fact that people have different ideas about what is decent behavior is actually reinforcing the Law of Human Behavior or the Moral Law.
One final acute observation by C.S. Lewis is that people often do not distinguish differences in morality and differences of belief about fact. He gives two examples of this:

1. The witch trials
a. The difference between those that punished those believed to be witches and those who thought these people overlooking the witch trials were crazy did not have a difference in morals, but a difference of matter of fact. If a person does not believe in witches to begin with, it is not a moral advance by not executing them. If they truly believed the accusations being brought against the “witches” than they would likely seek the same justice as those who did believe in witches.
2. Setting a mouse trap or not
a. A person is not considered humane if he doesn’t set a mouse trap because he no longer believes there are mice in the house. Had he believed mice were still in the house, he may very well set the mouse traps.

After looking at a couple of common objections to the Law of Human Nature, C.S. Lewis strengthens the foundation of this principal by answering the objections in a very clear and easy to understand manner. This clarity is what makes him so brilliant. Moral Law is not an instinct but the standard by which decent behavior is judged. Different cultures may disagree on what is decent, but they all agree on the standard. I hope it is safe to say that we can now all agree that there is a standard behavior of living that we all ought to live by and that we don’t always live in accordance with this standard. This standard is not something of human invention, but something that we all know. We are one step closer to understanding Christianity.

God bless!