The Pope's Real Message

The Pope’s comments to Congress on immigration have to be read in detail in order to understand what he’s saying. He’s not making specific policy statements -- you must provide a path to citizenship. Instead he’s defining the moral rules that should govern our actions:

Our world is facing a refugee crisis of a magnitude not seen since the Second World War. This presents us with great challenges and many hard decisions. On this continent, too, thousands of persons are led to travel north in search of a better life for themselves and for their loved ones, in search of greater opportunities. Is this not what we want for our own children? We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.

His most important point is that we must treat refugees and would-be immigrants as we would wish to be treated. That’s a moral statement, not a detailed policy prescription.

If we were fleeing for our lives, we’d want others to give us refuge, so we must provide refuge for those who are in danger of death. 

The Pope is not saying that we are required to make refugees citizens or to give them welfare for life, just as we could not expect to be taken care of for life simply because at one point in time our lives were threatened. Further, we would not expect that others should solve the problems of our homeland while we reside in safety; even the French refugees from Nazism formed armed units that helped liberate Europe.

Hence, providing temporary shelter for those fleeing ISIS makes perfect sense, but nothing the Pope said requires us to give all of those refugees citizenship or a permanent home.

When it comes to illegal immigrants -- those “in search of greater opportunities” -- the situation is very different. In a country where starting a business – i.e. searching for greater opportunities -- can be limited by any number of laws and regulations, it’s clear that the desire by anyone to better their lives does not compel society to change its laws.

If I am looking for work and go to a farm, does anyone think the farmer should lay off his own son in order to give me a job? Yet with historically high under- and unemployment in America letting in huge numbers of illegals is effectively laying off “sons and daughters” to give jobs to strangers. Given that minorities are the “sons and daughters” most likely to be abandoned, it’s clear that unfettered immigration is racist and hence the antithesis of “just”.

But at the same time we are compelled by our love of neighbor and the Golden Rule to see just what we can do for those seeking a better life.

No conservative, not even Ann Coulter, is calling for an end to all immigration. The debate is over which immigrants and how many of them the U.S. can absorb without hurting Americans.

Even the Pope pointed out that one of the responsibilities of the Congress is defending the American identity:

Yours is a work which makes me reflect in two ways on the figure of Moses. On the one hand, the patriarch and lawgiver of the people of Israel symbolizes the need of peoples to keep alive their sense of unity by means of just legislation.

Clearly, bringing in millions of lawbreakers who choose to not assimilate would violate the Pope’s injunction to “keep alive their sense of unity”. 

While America’s identity is complex and somewhat fluid, at the core it requires an acceptance of individual responsibility. While most of our ancestors were immigrants they came and either thrived or died based on their own efforts; there was no public “safety net” paid for by the hard-earned dollars of taxpayers.

Programs that allow lawbreakers to come into the country and become wards of the state paid for by the work of others threaten America’s belief in individual responsibility. 

A man who believes that he deserves to be supported by the work of others, even though he could support himself, is an oppressor no matter how poor he might be, and those who must work to support others who do not wish to work are slaves, not free men.

If enough Americans decide that they are not responsible for themselves, our country will become just one more tyranny where the powerful rule in return for providing bread and circuses for the population.

That’s why limiting immigration, especially illegal immigration, is fully consistent with the Pope’s call:

We must not be taken aback by their numbers, but rather view them as persons, seeing their faces and listening to their stories, trying to respond as best we can to their situation. To respond in a way which is always humane, just and fraternal.

Conservatives agree that we’re called on to address each immigrant as an individual; an illegal who does not take taxpayer money is very different than an illegal who lives off taxpayers. Even the left’s shibboleth Trump argues that we should allow the “good” illegals back.

On the other hand it’s not “just” to let in an illegal who will steal from Americans by getting free medical care and free schooling at the expense of hard-working Americans.

If liberals truly cared for illegals instead of exploiting them as cheap labor, liberals would contribute to private charities that would pay the medical and educational costs of illegals. It’s not just to demand that others, under pain of imprisonment, pay for every illegal who comes into the country.

Similarly it’s not just, in a country with 92,000,000 Americans out of work, to bring in more workers to artificially drive down wages and deny Americans hope.

All sane people agree that America couldn’t bring in every poor person in the world. The question then we must ask is just what is “respond[ing] the best we can”?

The Pope does not, and cannot from a Catholic perspective, provide any infallible guidance as to what specific policies are beneficial or required.

What he does say is something we should all agree with -- that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. Yet what liberals ignore is that those who object to massive illegal immigration also believe that they themselves are not entitled to “a better life”.

How many Americans would love to have a mansion in the DC area; but if they were to simply move into some liberal’s domicile that liberal would call private security to eject them in a heartbeat. Yet those same liberals tell us that if someone wants to come up from Central America they’re entitled to all the privileges of a hard-working American, including that American’s job.

That’s the real core of the debate, because liberals are by their nature takers who expect to be taken care of by others while not realizing that that requires them personally to reciprocate. Hence when a liberal hears the Pope invoke the Golden Rule, the liberal thinks that means that society has to take care of illegals because the liberal thinks society has to take care of liberals. When a conservative hears the Pope, the conservative expects the illegal to take care of himself because the conservative believes that conservatives have an obligation to take care of themselves.

The Pope’s message then, is consistent with saying that if we don’t think Canada owes us a free ride if were to sneak in it’s fine to think that we don’t owe Central Americans a free ride if they sneak in.

As is usually the case when one reads the totality of what the Pope said, rather than the MSM chosen excerpts, one finds a call for moral clarity that few could object to.

You can read more of tom’s rants at his blog, Conversations about the obvious and feel free to follow him on Twitter