From: "RR" [Email him]
I attended the “Immigration Policy and Catholic Teaching” lecture Thursday night at Seton Hall. There were about 70 to 80 people in attendance, mostly students. The first speaker, Donald Kerwin, reviewed the church’s central principles: reverence for life, equality of man, preferential option for the poor etc. He rejected the notion that the Catholic church was in favor of open borders and stated that the church recognized the right of countries to control their borders, but only with respect to the common good, which included helping illegal immigrants by his reckoning. He went through the typical litany of pro-immigration touch-points, and wound up by pointing out that the visa system was broken. He said it was just so unfair that immigrants are required to go back to their home countries to receive their visa once one had been granted, which precluded the issuance of the visa because most “undocumented individuals” reside in the US during their visa application, which is a no-no.
Jill Gerschutz-Bell was up next. She recounted her experiences in Afghanistan helping tribesmen mitigate the effects of yearly droughts and floods. I warmed to this part of the lecture. It seemed reasonable to me for Catholic relief organizations to help struggling people in their own countries. She went on to say that her organization embraced an “Authentic Development” program that was holistic. “Great!” I thought. “Could you keep doing the holistic thing over there?” She then said something to the effect that we should invite people in at a level we can afford. I sensed an opening.
Finally, Fr. Jack Martin spoke. He regaled the audience by recounting the “illegal” actions he had engaged in (talking on a cell phone while driving, parking in a reserved parking spot) just on his way to the lecture. Yeah, Father Jack was a real jokester. He implored the audience to “organize, organize, organize” and to fight for a “win-win”. I wanted to ask him if American citizens were to be included in this win-win, but unfortunately there was no Q&A.
There was a reception afterward, although the speakers left soon after the lecture was over. I did engage Ms. Bell in a discussion regarding whether the American people could afford the costs of immigration given the current economic climate. We tossed factoids at each other for a minute, and then she had to leave. I went over to Mr. Kerwin and asked that since it was OK for Pope Benedict to oppose Turkey’s entry into the EU, why wasn’t it reasonable for Americans to object to having our standard of living degraded by immigrants.
He asked “How are immigrants degrading the standard of living of ordinary Americans?” I felt myself getting warmed up and identified specific externalities that were borne by Americans due to immigration, but then Mr. Kerwin also had to leave.
The lecture was a disappointment. I guess it was designed to be more of a pep-talk for immigration enthusiasts than a concrete discussion about the merits of the church’s stance on immigration. Oh well. I did get to hear testimonials from “undocumented” students who were very disappointed that the DREAM act failed in Congress last year. For me, it was important to attach faces and stories to the effects of immigration enforcement. I felt bad for the kids, although their anger should have been directed at their parents for bringing them here illegally, instead of at New Jersey taxpayers.