Getting immigration right.

Author:Opderbeck, David W.
Position:Correspondence - Letter to the editor

Peter C. Meilaender's thoughts on immigration policy ("Immigration: Citizens & Strangers," May) are careful, balanced-and devoid of any biblical, prophetic passion for the poor strangers among us. Meilaender concludes we must "weigh carefully our obligations toward both current members [of our society] and outsiders, duties particular and universal." Our "particular" duties, Meilaender reminds us, are to our own families and local communities (as he puts it with more rhetorical panache, to "the aged father in need of regular attention, the cousin whose husband is away fighting in Iraq, the fellow parishioner who has lost his job").

Well, yes. And yet, in the "careful weighing" we are supposed to be doing before welcoming the stranger, Meilaender never explains why the proper metaphor is a set of scales that represents a zero-sum game. How does a broad and welcoming immigration policy detract from the resources available in our local communities? The reality is that immigration is a dynamic social and economic force that creates economic growth and enriches communal life. Not the least benefit of this dynamism is that many immigrants from the Global South bring with them a fresh and fervent religious vitality that we in the more prosperous North often leave behind in our zeal to preserve our social privileges.

David W. Opderbeck

Baruch College

New York, New York

Peter C. Meilaender warns that "discussions of immigration often oversimplify or distort the moral issues at stake" but forgets that over-complexifying does the same thing. So does obfuscation.

Like most pro-amnesty enthusiasts, he uses "immigrant" and "illegal immigrant" interchangeably and generally gives the impression of agreeing firmly with both sides of the question. In one paragraph, he says that "the moral arguments in support of an amnesty are strong," and in the next that "critics rightly argue that amnesty creates an incentive for future illegal immigration." Later he opines that "illegal immigration, after all, is something of a red herring." In the end, he finds deportation so obviously contrary to the "full moral complexity of immigration" that he doesn't even bother to make an argument for it.

All this rhetoric proves is that the faculty lounge is not the best perch from which to witness the havoc wreaked by illegal immigration. Given the harsh realities he omits, you'd think he was addressing the problem of guests wearing jeans on the golf course. But here in Southern...

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