Letter on the Needy Immigrant

Pater Edmund,

I agree with much in your “Needy Immigrant” post as far as your analysis of the rise of the nation state and the ideal of Christendom, but I take issue with the tenor and general framework of your piece because I think it fundamentally misapprehends the reason why most Americans (and probably most Europeans) oppose immigration, even when using “what benefits us” sort of language. I fear it will be used as further support for the position that the refusal to accept immigration on any grounds is tantamount to rejecting Christ.

At the end of the day (to speak from my own observations in the US), many Trump supporters in the US resort to the language of “what benefits us” for the following main reasons:

  1. It would be social suicide to say that we oppose immigration on the grounds that it weakens the cultural and ethnic solidarity of the historic American nation, so we resort to the only morally acceptable expressions – those that have to do with economics and that are predicated on an assumption of the inviolability of private property, etc…
  1. In many cases, the “what benefits us” language really means “we oppose low-skill, low-wage immigration neoliberal labor economics which puts me out of a job and a sense of purpose in my life even if the GDP expanded and wealth was created as a result.” My father is a carpenter, and admirably (though precariously) supported his wife and children, but constantly had to struggle against the wage deflation caused by the presence of large numbers of illegal Mexican immigrant men living six to a room and the concomitant disruptions of the local tradesman community.

I think you would acknowledge the above two concerns as legitimate, no? Well, unfortunately, as Americans we cannot speak of item one openly, and item two is controversial as well given the all-pervasive neoliberalism of our regime. The fact is, in a liberal order that does not protect the rights of working fathers of families, opposition to immigration is one of the few ways ordinary men can fight against such injustice. My own ability to support my wife and children is threatened by consistent and massive migration from East and South Asia – by immigrants who in no way share my culture, my understanding of my moral obligation to be open to many children and my desire to leave Sunday as a day of rest and worship. No, they are entirely content to forgo children until their late thirties or their forties, work late hours on Sunday, and take a much lower wage than I because, well, it’s better than their life in South Korea (which, by the way, is not a terrible place to be). Such disruptions are those that face Americans and they should not be dismissed as simply the selfishness of consumer, liberal culture. Sadly, and in discordance with such a narrative, as more and more immigrants arrive, the only common ground found in society is increasingly simply shared preferences in consumer tastes, as any ethno-cultural core of American identity continues to be hollowed out and those who arrive cannot or will not share in such identity.

And what of the current Muslim migrant crisis in Europe? Would such migrants fit into the framework of Christendom without conversion? Is it responsible for any bishop or proper Christian authority to continue to call for the acceptance of mass immigration of young Muslim men without first demanding adherence to the law of Christ and strict punishment of the horrors of events such as the Cologne sexual assaults or the Rotherham rape gangs? Pick your temporal hero of Christendom, and ask what he would have done with such men and whether he would not think it prudent to halt all Muslim immigration to Europe at present. My experience of Mexican men lewdly cat-calling my sisters pales in comparison to what I’ve read and seen of the European situation.

I like and agree with much of your work, and I don’t think you’re wrong that ‘it is not acceptable for a wealthy country to frame immigration policy exclusively in terms of “what benefits us.”’ It’s just that I don’t think either Americans or Europeans are arguing for restrictions based on exclusively on keeping and expanding their personal wealth at the expense of virtuous and truly needy migrants. The globalist neoliberal order has forbidden the thick language of solidarity necessary for the expression of the real and legitimate concerns that we have.

In Christ,

Pelayo Turner

Orange County, CA

Dear Mr. Turner,

Thank you very much for your thoughtful response to my “Needy Immigrant.” I do not deny that people who frame their worries about immigration in terms of “what benefits us” often do have more substantive concerns that remain unexpressed.
As to current Muslim immigration to Europe— Europe, or at least Austria, has become so secularized that it is a bit late in the day to worry about de-Christianization. Young Muslim men at least believe in God, which is a step up from most young Austrian men.
P. Edmund, O.Cist.

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