When the American Bishops virtually lined up last week to denounce President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency in order to build a border wall that was a signature campaign promise, it came as a surprise to exactly no one. “We oppose the use of these funds to further the construction of the wall” fulminated Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, President of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, stating that he and his fellow bishops were “deeply concerned about the president’s action to fund the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, which circumvents the clear intent of Congress to limit funding of a wall.”
Catholics in the United States have long become accustomed to these statements of moral outrage on the part of their shepherds directed at any voter or politician with the temerity to suggest that a sovereign nation should have enforceable borders and demand that immigrants follow the legal process to enter the country.
The traditional notion that even a “nation of immigrants” like the U.S. has a right to determine reasonable limits on numbers of immigrants based on the economic and social common good, to demand assimilation into a common national culture and language, and to insist upon a basic, bedrock adherence to certain minimal standards of behavior and conduct that make a functioning democracy possible is implicitly dismissed as antiquated nationalism and bigotry.
Far from an expression of bigotry and moral blindness to the needs of the less fortunate, building a wall at the Mexican border to curtail the steady inflow of drugs, criminals, and unskilled workers is the concrete embodiment of charity toward our less fortunate fellow citizens, which is precisely why our political elite (and the bishops, who act as their religious adjunct) oppose it so vociferously. It’s apparent to anyone who’s been paying attention for the last 40 years, that our political elite have not been interested in doing anything about massive illegal immigration, and that this policy has been immensely harmful to working class wages, to civic unity, and to the viability of our social safety net.
For justification of this eminently reasonable judgment, one need look no further than Pope Francis, whose comments on immigration policy have long been vastly more nuanced than hysterics from the USCCB.
Immigrants, said the pontiff last year, “must necessarily conform to the rules of the country offering them hospitality, with respect for its identity and values.” Sovereign nations, said Francis, “in the light of their respective political social, and economic situations, and their capacities and possibilities for receiving and integrating, have the primary responsibility” for deciding how they will accept newcomers. “Leaders have a clear responsibility towards their own communities,” he insisted, “whose legitimate rights and harmonious development they must ensure, lest they become like the rash builder who miscalculated and failed to complete the tower he had begun to construct.” Rashly welcoming new immigrants can invite “new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited.”
Previously, Pope Francis had warned that the attempt to western nations to harbor unassimilated immigrants can lead to a dangerous “ghettoization,” so rulers must use prudence when determining how many immigrants they can accept “because so many of them are coming that there isn’t time to settle them, find school, lodging, work, learn the language…. What is the danger when a refugee or migrant is not integrated? He is ghettoized, that is, he enters a ghetto. And a culture that does not develop in relation with another culture, that is dangerous.”
If one read these sentiments regarding immigration policy to our American bishops and attributed them to President Trump, they would perhaps denounce them as bigoted, racist, and opposed to the Church’s mandate to “welcome the stranger.”
In fact, they justify the very overhaul of our absurdly lax approach to enforcement on the southern border that Trump is pursuing. Vast popular support for Trump and the Wall demonstrated in 2016 that the political and cultural elites of both parties had lost touch with the economic interests of average Americans.
Now is the time for American Catholics to demand a more reasoned approach to immigration than the one-dimensional approach we’re getting from our shepherds today. Sorry, Cardinal DiNardo, we’re building this wall to protect people on both sides of the border — whether you like it or not.