Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Immigration, doughnuts, and the Eucharist: my conundrum

So the latest spasm of immigrant controversy arrives with radio host Glenn Beck going to war with Laredo Mayor Raul Salinas, and it just adds to the finger-pointing and pseudo-debate over illegal immigration.

It’s hard to find something new to say, but let’s try.

At church I often end up sitting across from some very nice people who work in the Wilmington area as house cleaners, landscapers, or construction workers. They are Hispanic, and many if not most of them are either—choose your politically identifying label—illegal immigrants or undocumented workers.

I wonder, do different rules apply at Mass?

The ongoing political debate hinges on immigration law, national security, and fears that our culture—whatever that is—is under assault.

Yet my priest teaches in the name of my church that human rights to a better economic life and to get out of poverty trump national rights of exclusion. My church holds that our transient, worldly culture is of far less importance than our common, shared belief in the efficacy of the Eucharist.

We serve doughnuts after Mass. People come by the window where my children volunteer to pour coffee, tea, and juice. Do I raise them to ask for green cards before they allow access to the non-dairy creamer? Do I teach them to be more suspicious of Catholics with brown skin who prefer to speak Spanish? I wonder what one of our new associate priests, who himself speaks English with a heavy Nigerian accent, would think of that idea.

I know names of parents and babies. We come together on the Saturday when parishioners gather to repaint the building’s exterior and plant flowers.

I don’t fear people who want the Star Spangled Banner translated into Spanish, and I don’t worry that the newcomers to our shores can erode the essentials of American culture, which I define as individual liberty and equal opportunity for all. If our values are so shallow and so culturally narrow, then they’ll disappear into the same fog of history that swallowed up the Etruscans.

But you have to worry about terrorism, don’t you? It’s irresponsible not to favor fencing off the Mexican border, isn’t it? Some days (and I cringe to think of the responses this might elicit), I’m not so sure.

What about the drain on our social services, the unfair competition in certain industries, the proliferation of low-riding cars blaring salsa music?

Freely admitting I don’t have an answer, here’s an observation: today nobody seems to like Congress, at least according to the polls. But everybody is pretty happy with his or her own Representative or Senator. One person at a time is different from a crowd.

When I see a mass of illegals running for the border on CNN, that’s one thing.

When I see a fellow parishioner hold up a baby for christening, that’s another.

Until we resolve that dynamic, we won’t even come close to a resolution.

Is that a particularly Libertarian stand? No idea. You tell me.


Unknown said...

Thoughtful and elegantly put. Thank you.

a most peculiar nature said...

I agree with Mike. Well done. I do not have an answer.

Does it fit in with the Libertarian philosopy? Maybe, maybe not. One thing for fits in with the human philosophy.

And in the end, human is all we can be.

Anonymous said...

I love your post. Like Mike and Shirley said above, very elegant and humanely put.

It's a victimless crime, and it's hypocritical of us, unless we're Native American, to want them out. They came here for the same reasons our ancestors did, to have a better life for them and their children.

I say just legalize them, and leave them alone.

Brian Shields said...

I was inspired by this post to elaborate on my opinion, at my blog. If you'd like to read it, here's the link.