Debating immigration law

In Theory

May 06, 2010|By Michael J. Arvizu

Arizona's new immigration law, signed last week by Gov. Jan Brewer, has sparked furor and protest all over the country. The law makes it a state crime to lack immigration papers and requires police to determine whether people they stop are in the country illegally. Some say the law goes too far in protecting the country from illegal immigrants. Defenders of the law — angry over the charges of racism permeating the debate — say it is needed because the federal government has failed to enforce border security with Mexico. What do you think? Is the new law a step forward in combating illegal immigration to the U.S., or does it go too far? What are the moral and/or ethical dilemmas that you see here that may arise or have already arisen from this new law?

There is no doubt that we need a just and equitable immigration policy in this country. However, it must be just and equitable.


Justice demands that we respect the human rights of all people first and foremost. Those rights are based on their humanity and not on the color of their skin, the place of their origin, the language that they speak or do not speak.

Justice is a virtue that demands an appreciation that we are all one in Christ; that we are peers; that there are no superiors or inferiors among us.

Justice requires of each of us that we have a firm will to give each person that which is properly due to them. It disposes each of us, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, "to respect the rights of each [person] and to establish in human relationships the harmony that promotes equity with regard to persons and the common good."

If we seek justice, then we must work toward a habit of correct thinking, and our conduct toward our neighbor must be upright.

In light of these principles, it seems that the Arizona illegal immigration law needs to be rethought. It does not seem to be based on the moral virtue of justice, nor does it work toward an equitable solution of the problem. We are first members of one another before we are "legal or illegal." That relationship needs to be fostered and nurtured before we can begin to focus on internal legal problems. If that relationship is not fostered, we are not "forming a more perfect union;" we are building an exclusive clique concerned about keeping others out rather than uniting others with us.

The REV. RICHARD ALBARANO is pastor of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Burbank. Reach him at (818) 504-4400.

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