Posted on the Feast of the Holy Family, according to the Novus Ordo calendar.
populus tuus populus meus, et Deus tuus Deus meus. (Ruth 1:16, Vulgate)
“Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.” (Ruth 1:16, Douay-Rheims)
In the debates concerning immigration, one request by the immigration restrictionists is that we curtail chain migration. Chain migration entails one person in a family immigrating to the United States, followed by much of the rest of their family. Because person A immigrates, his children, wife, parents, siblings, etc., get to immigrate. Then their spouses, in-laws, etc., until one immigrant potentially brings in dozens of people.
The argument against this is that it unnecessarily and imprudently multiplies entitlements. That first immigrant might make a great contribution to American society, but then dozens of people automatically qualify for immigration, without regard to their merits or the impact of their immigration on the American commonwealth.
The concerns of the restrictionists are several, some of which they find it politic to mention, some of which they don’t. Not all restrictionists share all of these concerns, but I believe you will find these concerns among self-identified restrictionists:
1.) Multiculturalism. Multiculturalism threatens American national culture and identity. Chain migration increases balkanization. One immigrant from Bangladesh (let’s say) gets a toehold in America, and soon his whole extended family is here. Multiply that across 150+ countries, with multiple “first immigrants” from each of those countries, and soon the entire world has a legal right to settle in America.
2.) Jihad. A moderate Moslem, or secular-leaning Moslem, migrates to the United States. Fine, but chain migration might entitle his radicalized second cousin or in-law of an in-law to arrive. Or, chain migration leads to a net increase of Moslems in the country, which inevitably increases the odds of jihadis being present among them.
3.) Bolstering Liberalism and the Democratic Party. Immigrants tend overwhelmingly to support the Democratic Party, which incarnates one branch of American Liberalism. This branch wants votes from immigrants. Chain migration keeps fresh immigrants coming.
4.) Economic protectionism. We already have large numbers of minorities who struggle to find work. Do we want to import more unskilled labor?
5.) The welfare state. Immigrants often rely more heavily on government programs than do native-born Americans. Chain migration ensures more willy-nilly immigration of individuals without regard to their ability to support themselves, thereby bolstering the welfare state.
6.) Eugenics. Some of the scarier restrictionists are eugenicists. According to them, chain migration threatens to augment the “rising tide of color.” These folks typically look down on Third World populations as having lower IQ’s and greater propensity to crime, while the more industrious/higher-IQ peoples of East Asia and South Asia are seen as competitors against “core Americans.”
Again, not all immigration restrictionists share all of these concerns. In particular, a large number would disavow #6. A number of immigration restrictionists might share concern #6 at least to some extent, but wouldn’t be bold enough to admit it. My concern here is not to evaluate the legitimacy of these concerns, either from a factual or a moral perspective. Rather, I’ll turn to what a spokesman for the US Catholic Bishops has said.
First, to be clear, I have no idea who this spokesman was, or if he really is a spokesman, or whether he heard this from the Bishops, how many Bishops, which Bishops, on what authority, etc. All I know is that I had my TV on, and a person purporting to speak for the US Bishops purported that he was communicating on their behalf when he defended chain migration. For all I know, this was a hologram, or a dream. I’ll proceed on the assumption that what I saw was real, and that some Bishop, somewhere shares the concern of the hologram/dream/real person I saw (or thought I saw) on my TV screen.
This spokesman said that the chain migration policy preserves the unity of the family. If one person immigrates to the United States, we don’t want to separate him from his or her family, do we? Don’t we want to keep the family intact? So we should preserve the legal right of the other family members to come over to this country, too. You immigration restrictionists say you’re pro-family, right? Then how dare you treat immigrants as so many individualistic atoms. Social justice requires that we regard human beings not just as atoms, but as members of families, persons with relationships to one another.
That sounds like a legitimate Catholic concern. It certainly is an anti-Liberal concern. Can the immigration restrictionist answer it? I think so.
First, there’s an obvious, cheap, and not particularly striking response. It’s that migration laws should allow the first immigrant’s immediate family — parents, spouse, and children — and no one else. Then, if someone gets to come here because of a family relationship, they can’t also bring in their relatives. Meaning, let’s bring in the elderly parents of the first immigrant, but those elderly parents can’t then compel the government to allow in their other six children, etc. Moderation. Reasonableness.
In the end, the immigration restrictionist will end up drawing a line, and the line will likely end up allowing the very closest relatives of the first immigrant. But the Bishops’ spokesman would probably just keep poking, and poking, for greater latitude. Why? Because the immigration restrictionist has granted the spokesman’s stated principle (the value of family unity) without getting the spokesman to admit any countervailing principle in favor of restriction.
What I propose is this: defend the unity of America as a family. Point to all of the studies showing that chain migration leads to immigrants forming their own endogamous communities in First World countries. Three generations after their ancestors arrived in France or England, many descendants of these immigrants are still marrying only within their own communities. Chain migration leads to persistent endogamy across generations which leads to national *disunity* and banlieu-ization and de facto segregation. Is *that* good?
So, what would best facilitate integration of newly arrived immigrants into the American population? Exogamy — immigrants marrying into families of native-born Americans, or into immigrant families of other ethnic backgrounds whom they met in America. That would best preserve national and familial unity across and within the American population. Integration. By curtailing chain migration, you compel recent immigrants to integrate with other Americans in order to form new, American families. The Bishops’ spokesman errs by not seeing that America has plenty of families for the immigrants to join without the immigrants bringing their second cousin’s wife’s uncle. We should welcome the immigrants to join our families — and chain migration can be an impediment to that.
That, I propose is a way to address the Bishops’ spokesman’s position; show that it advances a Catholic principle, but without due regard for how it applies in reality.