May 30, 2024

Immigration = Assimilation

I’ve discussed illegal immigration at great length in my previous blog (from which my posts will, eventually, be extracted and published here). My position is essentially that:

  1. Immigration into the U.S. should be closely managed by our government
  2. The U.S. should provide a clear, orderly process toward citizenship
  3. We should have a well-defined and regulated guest worker program
  4. Illegal immigrants should not receive any kind of governmental assistance
  5. Immigrants who come to the U.S. should plan to “become Americans”

Pope Benedict XVI probably doesn’t agree with point 4, but he recently gave a speech in which he said:

“Only respect for human dignity for all migrants, on one hand, and the recognition by the migrants themselves of the values of the societies which host them, will make possible the proper integration of families in the social, economic and political systems” where they are now living.

That’s not exactly in line with my position. But it’s not an unreasonable position for a religious leader to take and, for a Catholic Pope, that’s about all one can ask for.

Illegal immigration is a burr under the blanket of American society for many reasons, some economic, some social. It’s against the law to come to America without authorization but immigration laws are not consistently enforced. This in itself is a crime of sorts, for it allows these people, some fortunate, some less so, to enter a sort of no-man’s land within the U.S.

The nature of their illegality makes it difficult to assimilate at a reasonable level. Illegals tend toward the company of others like them because the danger (read: “hassle”) of being apprehended and deported is much less than in the general population. They participate, by and large, in a cash economy, with few direct contacts with mainstream America. The language and cultural barriers between them are never broken down precisely because they are here illegally.

Legal immigrants and naturalized U.S. citizens of like races and/or ethnicities themselves often exacerbate the problem by failing to assimilate completely. In some ways it’s difficult to blame them. The sight of illegal immigrants who look and speak like you suffering because of their status inevitably brings out the compassion in these new Americans. How difficult must it be for them to deny their former countrymen?

Yet this is exactly what assimilation demands – the cutting of ties with the former mother country and the leaving behind of other loyalties. Immigrants who come to this country and then actively seek to change the laws, values, and norms of their new host country are not participating in that country. Instead, they are subverting it.

This, Pope Benedict says, is wrong. I would like to believe his words would influence the behavior of both legal and illegal immigrants to the U.S, most of whom are at least nominally Catholic. Unfortunately, I don’t believe they will.


Marc is a software developer, writer, and part-time political know-it-all who currently resides in Texas in the good ol' U.S.A.

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