Archbishop Chaput: The U.S. immigration problem is systemic. Attacking the symptoms — in this case, undocumented workers in a meatpacking plant — does nothing to address the root cause, which is economic.
Some 40 million abortions and billions of contraceptives later, Americans have a work-force shortfall. Why is anyone surprised?
Now that he’s got your attention…
Q: The United States gives out about 1 million "green cards" a year, yet more than 800,000 undocumented workers arrive illegally each year. Would it be fair to assume that part of the problem also lies with the economic and political situation in the immigrants’ home countries? What responsibility should these countries assume for the large numbers of citizens leaving their borders?
Archbishop Chaput: That’s an important point. Some people enjoy blaming the United States for nearly every problem, and, unfortunately, American policy has had a very mixed history in Latin America.
But until Latin American nations seriously reform their own legal and economic systems, they are co-responsible for the current crisis. Just pointing fingers at the United States isn’t going to work. One of the implications of a hemispheric economy is that both sides of the border need to cooperate. Both sides of the border have duties.
Q: The federal government is insisting on the need to control immigration for security reasons. The Church, among others, has criticized some of the measures taken, such as the wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, because of the human toll it takes. How can we reconcile the need for security with a more humane treatment for those trying to enter?
Archbishop Chaput: The Church is most effective when she reminds people that punitive force alone can’t work. For me, the debate over the border wall is really a debate over blunt-edged solutions.
The border wall is an icon for all sorts of other American contradictions. For example, we’re trying to fight a war in Iraq with an obviously inadequate manpower pool, but Americans have no intention of making the sacrifices that would enlarge that pool in an equitable way.
Have you heard anyone seriously calling for conscription or mandatory national service, or vastly increasing military pay to encourage volunteers? I haven’t. In a similar way, we want to "get tough" at the border, but are we really willing to militarize American life and spend the money it would take to shut down the immigrant flow? And what if we were? Have we really thought through the consequences for our economy?
At the same time, candidly, I don’t think all religious voices are equally helpful in the national debate. Accusing Americans of national racism, or prematurely threatening civil disobedience to immigration law, is unwise.
Sometimes common sense is more useful than "prophetic witness." The security concerns most Americans feel are very legitimate. Citizens have a right to be worried about disrespect for the law and the solvency of their public institutions.
If Americans are angry about the immigration issue, it’s not because they’re instinctively bigoted. They’re frustrated and afraid, and too many of our public servants have failed us by not really leading with vision — in other words, by following their polls and ambitions, instead of their brains and consciences, to find a solution.