The Long View 2007-06-15: Jesus, Mahony & Neuhaus on Immigration; Tradition Unmasked Again!


The Neuhaus-Mahony argument preserved here is much like the current Caplan-Jones argument.

Jesus, Mahony & Neuhaus on Immigration; Tradition Unmasked Again!

The immigration issue has gone from disturbing to weird: the leadership of the Senate really is going to try to revive the abolish-the-border immigration bill. (Perhaps that characterization seems like hyperbole, but there is no other way to characterize a bill that gives provisional residency status to everyone on both sides of the border before taking any special measures to close it.) For coverage of this increasingly surreal process, you are not going to find a better running digest than The Kausfiles.

Meanwhile, National Public Radio has been broadcasting a series of reports on day laborers:

NEW YORK, NY June 15, 2007 —While lawmakers in Washington debate this and that detail of proposed immigration reforms, suburbs all over the country continue to grapple with the changes undocumented immigrants have brought to their towns. Some longtime residents blame day laborers for economic difficulties in their town centers.

Day Laborers: Part 1

That's the case in Brewster, New York, where every morning dozens of Guatemalan men wait outside for work as landscapers or builders. In the second of WNYC's reports on how day laborers are dividing communities, Marianne McCune takes us down Main Street.

When we go down Main Street we find, in addition to hardworking Guatemalans, prospering merchants who are pleased to sell the Guatemalans snacks and dry goods. There are some other interviews, some with longtime Brewster residence who explain that they are reluctant to let their daughters go downtown any more (where do reporters find these people?). The gist of the report, however, is that the new immigration revived a town center that had been semi-abandoned after the coming of shopping malls and big-box stores to the area.

The town had, no doubt, been hoping for revitalization for some time, but we cannot help but note that this is a case in which the new incarnation is worse than the first. I am inclined to be sympathetic to day laborers: I remember going to hiring halls once or twice myself during summer vacations. However, the transformation we see in Brewster of the labor market, and indeed of public space, is something different: it's the return of the proletariat in the pre-industrial sense. We see this kind of world in the Bible, particularly in the Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard:

Matthew 20]
20:1 For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man [that is] an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.
20:2 And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard.
20:3 And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
20:4 And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way.
20:5 Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise.
20:6 And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? 20:7 They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; [[and whatsoever is right, [that] shall ye receive.]]
20:8 So when even was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them [their] hire, beginning from the last unto the first.
20:9 And when they came that [were hired] about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny.
20:10 But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny.
20:11 And when they had received [it], they murmured against the goodman of the house,
20:12 Saying, These last have wrought [but] one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.
20:13 But he answered one of them, and said, Friend, I do thee no wrong: didst not thou agree with me for a penny?
20:14 Take [that] thine [is], and go thy way: I will give unto this last, even as unto thee.
20:15 Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? Is thine eye evil, because I am good?
20:16 So the last shall be first, and the first last: for many be called, but few chosen.

What I find incomprehensible is that the newly opulent diner-owners and landscape contractors of Brewster imagine that they will be able to live indefinitely in their McMansions in the 21st-century manner while the first century is going on a mile down the road on the town square. "Indefinitely" is the key question: under the open-borders system, the first century will never end. If they are not simply to be overwhelmed, the McMansioners will have to build the walls, keep the guard dogs, and buy the police that allow such divisions to persist in other parts of the world.

* * *

Speaking of the Bible, Father Neuhaus at First Things critiques Cardinal Mahoney's claim that the social doctrine of the Catholic Church requires open borders:

Cardinal Mahony offered a comprehensive account of the Church’s position on comprehensive immigration reform at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia. ...We are clearly given to understand that he is not merely expressing his own views or speaking in his capacity as the archbishop of Los Angeles but is speaking for the Catholic Church...[The cardinal asks] "The question is, Who belongs in the household? Is God’s good household roomy enough for all? Or who precisely is the we in we the people?” At points in his presentation, it seems that God’s household is the Church....“As a Christian,” says the cardinal, “there are no prior commitments that can overrule or trump this biblical tradition of compassion for the stranger, the alien and the worker.” “These scriptural and theological foundations can be applied to the current debate on immigration in our country.” ...“Thus, to restore order to God’s household, we must ensure that all are welcome to the table.” ...If I understand him correctly, the distinction between the outlaw and the law-abiding is, at least with respect to immigration policy, morally irrelevant.

A ... difficulty with the cardinal’s lecture... is the facile move from Bible quoting to public-policy prescription. That move is less characteristic of Catholic social thought than of the habits of biblical fundamentalists. The cardinal’s position is devoid of respect for what Pope Benedict repeatedly stresses as the role of reason in rightly ordering the sphere of the “authentically secular.”

But most striking and, I believe, unfortunate is the cardinal’s conceptually confused but unmistakable attack on the nation-state, both in its domestic responsibilities and in the international order. Such an attack has no warrant in Catholic social doctrine. The cardinal correctly says that the question is “who precisely is the we in we the people?” To which, as the current immigration debate has underscored, most Americans respond, in accord with the preamble to the Constitution, We the people of the United States. Cardinal Mahony says that he speaks for the Church. Fortunately, and while he is undoubtedly an important voice in the Church, that is not true.

It would be awkward if the Church cautioned against massive Muslim immigration to Europe but demanded unlimited Hispanic immigration to the United States.

* * *

Amidst all this excitement, the Massachusetts legislature decided this week that the gay-marriage issue would not be presented to the voters in a constitutional referendum. This has the effect of leaving in place the 2003 ukase of the state's supreme court that mandated gender-neutral marriage. It's slightly embarrassing to have to keep repeating this point, but the immigration and gay-rights issues are not unrelated. The business community is keen for massive immigration because birthrates for the past few decades has produced too small a native workforce; the birthrates are so low because of cultural changes regarding gender and marriage that the gay-marriage movement did not cause but which it does reflect.

Again, we could debate what God thinks about these things, but Darwin uses terms like "transitional" and "ephemeral."

* * *

Some of you thought I was mad, mad! when I went on at such length about the subtle but pervasive influence of Guenonian Tradition on contemporary culture and religion. Now a brave correspondent has sent absolute proof that John Tavener, Prince Charles, and Frithjof Schuon are in cahoots.

But it's too late to do anything now.

Much too late.

Copyright © 2007 by John J. Reilly

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