There has been a huge discusion about the recently passed & sign bill in Arizona dealing with the failure of the Federal government to deal with the problems if illegal immigration. In the end my question about what is right or wrong is simple, what does the Catholic Church actually teach.
So I went to the 2 documents that would accurately represent the Catholic Church's teachings, the Catechism & the Compendium of Social Doctrine. While there are a few passages that have the word immigrant in them in lists of groups only 3 paragraphs actually deal with what the responsibilities of the government are to pass & enforce just laws as well as the obligations of those who would immigrate to the USA & what is expected of us once they are here.
All 3 paragraphs are posted below. But I would like to hilite a fewparts of those paragraphs that seem to have been ignored in the debate. Advance warning, this may make people on both sides of the debate uncomfortable to the extent that your stand doesn't line up. (Any emphasis will be mine)
1st I'd like to look at Par 2241 of the Catechism. It opens by saying: "The more prosperous nations are obliged, to the extent they are able, to welcome the foreigner " Later it says: "Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption,." In other words, a nation does have the right to put limits on the number of immigrants. It can require them to obey certain rules & regulations. These regulations are for "the common good". That common good includes both that of those immigrating as well as the society to which they are immigrating to. & it does allow the nation to require those immigrating to accept the responsibility of fulfilling certain duties, such as having a green card, having to meet certain requirements for citizenship etc. It also reminds all of us that "the natural right is respected that places a guest under the protection of those who receive him." In other words, we must respect everyone's basic human rights that are theirs under natural law, even if they are here illegally. As Jesus reminded us "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
On the other hand, the immigrants have the repsonsibility to be here legally & to obey every law. "Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens." Note that it starts by saying the immigrant must respect the material & spiritual heritage, but not merely respect it. It calls for an attitude of gratitude for the heritage that made it possible for them to come here for a better life. It also challenges them to become good citizens in every way, not merely to come here & take advantage of welfare etc.
The Compendium focuses on the work aspect of immigration & again puts certain obligations on everyone. Paragraph 297 describes the ongoing experience of immigrants over the centuries very well.
"In most cases, however, immigrants fill a labour need which would otherwise remain unfilled in sectors and territories where the local workforce is insufficient or unwilling to engage in the work in question." This accurately describes the experience of my maternal grandparents & greatgrandparents as well as that of the other Italiano as well as Mexican immigrants I knew growing up. & it is still true. As is pointed out earlier in the paragraph, they came here "looking for a better life" & they found it. & it is true they were often seen as a threat rather than welcome as they should. & finally, even though the rules & regs were much tougher back then, they all came here legally going through all the hoops because they knew that is what they had to do. I honestly do not remember any major complaints about what they had to go through. Some honest admissions of fear of being rejected & sent back did get mentioned. But I would have to say that I did see a uniform gratitude for what America offered for them if they were willing to work for it. My grandfather, Giovanni Stasi couldn't read or write. 1 of the proudest moments of his life was when he saw his 1st grandchild, me, graduate from college. He saw that the sacrifices & work he did all those years did pay off.
"Institutions in host countries must keep careful watch to prevent the spread of the temptation to exploit foreign labourers, denying them the same rights enjoyed by nationals, rights that are to be guaranteed to all without discrimination." This puts an onus on businesses to not encourage illegal immigration so that they can hire them & get away with not paying them a fair wage, etc. & it means that the country must enforce laws to ensure these businesses do not do that very thing. The meatpacking plant raid in Postville. IA a couple years ago is a prime example. While there were many illegals there, the main blame falls on the owners & management of the plant who took advantage of those people who, in many cases were just looking to better care for their families. This is not to absolve all blame on the illegal aliens, just to make it clear that, IMHO, the bigger sin was that of the people who hired them to exploit them.
"Regulating immigration according to criteria of equity and balance is one of the indispensable conditions for ensuring that immigrants are integrated into society with the guarantees required by recognition of their human dignity." Did you get that, the immigrants are to become integrated into society. Understandably, when people immigrate they usually seek a place where they are going to feel comfortable. That is why the "Little Italies" etc. came about. But they also knew that they had to become a part of the greater American society & culture. That didn't mean abandoning their food, language etc. It meant learning a new language & sharing with others what they brought. Look at America & the wide variety of ethnic cooking we all enjoy that has nothing to do with one's own heritage. Because of people like Mike & Anita Caballero, I grew up with a love for authentic Mexican cooking that I rarely find these days.
I also saw how isolated in some ways, that a person could be if she didn't learn the language. My great Aunt, Za Manina Stasi, never learned English. & us of the 3rd generation were often not taught Italiano as a 2nd language. (A big mistake, IMHO, although I understand the logic behind it.. So it was hard for her to communicate & she had to be totally dependant on her children whenever she went anywhere outside of our part of town. Which she didn't do that often. & as more of the older, 1st generation dies off, she became more isolated in some ways.
But there is more. "Immigrants are to be received as persons and helped, together with their families, to become a part of societal life. In this context, the right of reuniting families should be respected and promoted." Again, here I speak from family experience. My great grandfather, Frank Aiello, came over here & later sent for his family. When my grandfather & his brother came over here, they ended up in Oelwein because they knew my great grandfather. Grandpa later married 1 of his daughters. But it wasn't until he came here that he got to know her & fell in love. (Won't repeat the story ZiZi Tony told about how the his sister, Rachael, became my grandmother here.) So, I am all for any changes in the law that provide an equitable way for families to be reunited. Yes, there will be some that will take advantage of it. But if the other criteria above are met, it is less likely.
"At the same time, conditions that foster increased work opportunities in people's place of origin are to be promoted as much as possible." A POINT THAT IS OFTEN IGNORED COMPLETELY. Esp by those who oppose enforcing the laws in any way shape or form, but also by those who want the laws enforced as well. Why are they coming from, in this case, Mexico? & what can we do to help improve the conditions there so there is less need for immigration because people have a better life where they are currently living? These are questions that rarely get asked & ever more rarely are answered.
As I said to start this out, there has been much discussion about what Arizona did last week. I think Arizona was right to do something as the Federal government has failed in its duty to properly enforce the laws. Do, I think there are flaws in the law? Yes, to the extent it fails to respect the basic, innate respect & dignity we are required to show every human being. Breaking the law does not absolve us from that responsibility. I also think there are some aspects of the law that fall under the "prudent judgement" umbrella. In other words, there is room for debate on if this is the best way to deal with the problems. & I am not sure if some parts are the best way. I am sure that Arizona is right to do something, as I said. & many parts of that bill meet the criteria of Catholic teaching.
In conclusion, our entire system needs to be overhauled. & it needs to be done so in the light of what the Catholic Church actually teaches, not what people like Cardinal Mahony, who has shown his willingness to flaunt & disobey Catholic teaching, say. Nor should there be unjust limits either. We are an immigrant nation. We need to continue to welcome new immigrants & help them to become a part of the stew that is "Great American Melting Pot." That means helping them to become active, working contributing members of American society who share with us the gifts & talents they have, not merely take & not give back as some who come here do.Many are coming here for a better life & to help make the USA a better place. We need to welcome them with open arms.
We need to work to see that other countries improve their conditions as well. The fact that some countries have horrible conditions doesn't make all in their culture bad. But it should not automaticly be assumed that all cultures are equal. Some are better, some are worse because of how they treat their people. & while it is not perfect (the trash on TV, in music & legalized abortion are examples of where our culture needs to clean up its act), we have 1 of the best in the world here in America.
You can check out the text of the bill & see for yourself where it does & doesn't line up with the authentic magesterial teachings of the Catholic Church. (footnotes can be found in the Compendium)Catechism of the Catholic Church
2241 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.
Political authorities, for the sake of the common good for which they are responsible, may make the exercise of the right to immigrate subject to various juridical conditions, especially with regard to the immigrants' duties toward their country of adoption. Immigrants are obliged to respect with gratitude the material and spiritual heritage of the country that receives them, to obey its laws and to assist in carrying civic burdens.
297. Immigration can be a resource for development rather than an obstacle to it. In the modern world, where there are still grave inequalities between rich countries and poor countries, and where advances in communications quickly reduce distances, the immigration of people looking for a better life is on the increase. These people come from less privileged areas of the earth and their arrival in developed countries is often perceived as a threat to the high levels of well-being achieved thanks to decades of economic growth. In most cases, however, immigrants fill a labour need which would otherwise remain unfilled in sectors and territories where the local workforce is insufficient or unwilling to engage in the work in question.
298. Institutions in host countries must keep careful watch to prevent the spread of the temptation to exploit foreign labourers, denying them the same rights enjoyed by nationals, rights that are to be guaranteed to all without discrimination. Regulating immigration according to criteria of equity and balance  is one of the indispensable conditions for ensuring that immigrants are integrated into society with the guarantees required by recognition of their human dignity. Immigrants are to be received as persons and helped, together with their families, to become a part of societal life. In this context, the right of reuniting families should be respected and promoted. At the same time, conditions that foster increased work opportunities in people's place of origin are to be promoted as much as possible.