Immigration Reform — What to Do Now That Senate Stalled

As promised, today we are beginning a new blog schedule: on Mondays we will post the video of my regular Sunday morning segment on FOX & Friends (7:45 U.S. Eastern); on Wednesdays, an editorial column; and on Fridays, your reactions to the Monday video and my Wednesday column.

In addition, such as with today's piece, I may offer a more in-depth explanation on the subject from Sunday's FOX & Friends segment.

Father Jonathan
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Video: FOX & Friends Segment One
Video: FOX & Friends Segment Two: Immigration Reform

Together with today’s video, I would like to add a few comments to help fill-out my opinion, as expressed Sunday morning on FOX & Friends, about the immigration bill that has been stalled in the Senate. I know ahead of time that whenever I speak out about immigration reform — perhaps the hottest domestic policy issue of our day — people will react passionately. In this light, I wasn’t expecting to make any friends with what I said on Sunday, nor am I hoping to win anyone over with what I write today. But I think the point I am trying to make is important and it can add something to the debate.

At the heart of my argument is a criticism of political pundits on both sides of the partisan aisle (mostly conservatives) who have rejected "out of principle" the most recent version of the compromise immigration proposal without offering a just and realistic alternative. They are saying, in effect, that they would prefer to continue with the broken system currently in place.

Out of principle, I must disagree with their reasoning.

I too have serious reservations about several elements of the bill as it now stands, but my apprehension is moderated by my conviction that legislative compromise is not always equivalent to moral compromise, and sometimes it is the most honorable way forward in a very imperfect system. I don’t buy the ethical argument peddled over the last few weeks by some that offering a realistic path to citizenship (yes, a form of amnesty) to the millions of people who have entered this country illegally is, under our current circumstances, "selling out on our core principles."

Some argue that immigration compromise is not needed because all we need to do is enforce the laws that already exist. They say employers would stop hiring illegals if they knew the consequences of breaking the law were severe. Enforcing the law, they argue, would dry up the incentive (employment) for entering or staying in this country illegally. With similar logic, others argue we should drop all efforts to regularize the legal status of those already here until we fix the problem at the border. Then, and only then, they say, should we focus on what to do with the millions who are on this side of the sealed border.

I don’t think I even need to get into whether these two proposals would be fair and just, because they are not realistic in the partisan world in which we live. Who really thinks such enforcement will happen during this administration, or in any administration in the coming years. Do you think any Congress would allow this to happen?

So what are we going to do? We must do something. We are in a better position today to move forward on immigration reform — as imperfect as the outcome may be — than we have been in many, many years, and arguably, better than in our foreseeable future. Any significant improvement will require legislative compromise, but it doesn’t have to imply moral compromise. Suggesting otherwise, in my opinion, is the result of misguided ethics.

Let me give you another example of the type of moral reasoning I am proposing. I am against abortion of all kinds and under all circumstances, but I think it is acceptable to vote for a bill that allows for abortion under some very specific circumstances, if the bill is going to limit abortions, and if there is no better option. In these cases, one’s object and intention is not approving some abortions, but rather taking a gradual step toward a more perfect legal system. The late and great John Paul II outlined this principle of incremental legislation in his encyclical letter "Evangelium Vitae," no. 73.

Shelving this legislation permanently is tantamount to approving the status quo, where the rule of law is laughed at, our borders are left unsecured, and where millions of people are subject to a two class system and used as economic commodities. I think we can do better than that.

God bless, Father Jonathan
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