Immigrants Needed

Some readers took umbrage at our last editorial on immigration.

We hope that the immigration symposium in this issue can help clarify the immigration issue — and bring different perspectives to bear.

We said in our last editorial that we thought the Knights of Columbus had the right answer to the problem. We still think so, so we’ve printed their resolution in full on page 11.

But before explaining more of what we mean, we want to correct a couple of misimpressions.

Just because we are for immigration doesn’t mean we embrace the widespread protests that have taken place around the country, culminating on May 1. The demonstrations were very effective at getting the nation’s full attention — but they didn’t endear the movement to us.

For one thing, the day the organizers picked for the protest was the old, communist “International Day of the Worker” — a day that Pius XII transformed as the feast of St. Joseph the Worker. We love the fact that many of the immigrants are Catholic and proudly displayed the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but we saw far more Che Guevera T-shirts at the protests than signs of Catholicism.

One “Open the Borders” banner in Los Angeles bore the names of the Freedom Socialist Party, the Latino Liberation Movement, and Radical Women. “No More Borders,” said another sign. “Abolish the Flag,” said yet another.

When extremist modern Marxists organize a rally in them name of immigration reform, then use the platform to call for the abolition of a fundamental demarcation of the state, you can be sure that something other than concern for the plight of refugees has motivated them. The hatred for America and for the rule of law aren’t what most of the demonstrators were marching for. By opposing our nation and our laws, such displays disqualify whatever point they might be making about national policy.

So, what should be America’s immigration policy?

We’ll repeat what we said last time. For the sake of security, we must control who comes across our borders. But demographics don’t lie. America now needs and will continue to need plenty of immigrants in order to make up for the tiny family sizes and elitist work ethic we’ve indulged in for the past several decades.

As more Americans of the Baby Boom generation retire, the problem will be even worse. Without more workers our economy will stagnate and it will be impossible to meet our social security responsibilities.

In smaller countries, the dire consequences of low population growth show up more quickly. Economists will tell you that low birthrates played a central role in Japan’s transformation from an economic superpower in the 1980s to a country facing a severe economic crisis today. Corporations in Japan are actually paying mothers to have more children. Sweden is also facing a demographic crisis and trying to coax a higher birthrate out of its people.

To avoid following their road to ruin, the United States will either need a drastic and immediate change in our attitude toward family size or a continuing influx of immigrants. The drastic and immediate attitude change is unlikely. Immigrants are available in large numbers, both as a source of new adult workers and of families who are more open to life.

That said, we should be encouraging legal immigration, not illegal immigration.

How do we do that?

As one blogger put it: People don’t kill economies, stupid laws kill economies.

If you listen to the media coverage of the immigration debate, you hear from a lot of immigrants who “played by the rules,” “refused to skip ahead in line” and “stayed legal” until they were citizens. They describe an excruciating years-long legal process wading through complicated bureaucracies.

Instead of simply complaining about those who either can’t or won’t go through this arduous process, we ought to be looking for ways to make the process a little easier.

Are illegal immigrants unfairly swelling our welfare rolls? Then we should fix the unfair welfare laws, not keep them as they are and build a wall along the border.

The Church’s social teaching often turns out to be the best basis for answers to complicated political questions — and not just because it allows us to show Christian love. It does that. But it also makes the most sense for us economically.

The truth is like that.