In a commentary for the National Catholic Register, Acton’s Director of Research Sam Gregg considers the topic of immigration, specifically the current U.S. border crisis. Gregg views the border crisis through the lens of Catholic Social Teaching, which he says gives us a principled and thoughtful (as opposed to emotional) framework.
We also have a rich tradition of teaching about political questions that embodies principles based upon the Gospel and the natural law: principles that lay Catholics have the primary responsibility, as Vatican II underscored, to apply to complex subjects such as immigration.
Catholic teaching on immigration contains many exhortations to be merciful. Indeed, the commandment to love our neighbor often means we’re required to go beyond the strict demands of justice, albeit not in ways that violate justice. At the same time, the Church articulates a framework for thinking — rather than merely emoting — through the immigration issue in a manner consistent with Catholic concerns for liberty, justice, human flourishing and the common good. And part of this involves affirming that there is a right — albeit not an unlimited right — to migrate.
Gregg outlines the teachings on immigration from two popes, St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict, along with the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
As a collective whole, these statements tell us several things. First, while there is a right to migrate, it isn’t absolute. The right to life and the right to migrate aren’t on the same level. The former is the foundation of the latter: not vice versa. Second, each nation’s government has the responsibility to formulate immigration policy so that it serves that country’s common good.
It is Gregg’s argument that our current system makes it very difficult to immigrate to the U.S. legally, which incentives illegal immigration. This, in turn, increases human trafficking, and law-abiding U.S. businesses suffer from the lack of skilled labor. Gregg insists that these burdensome laws much be changed in a legal, constitutional manner. This also requires clear thinking, rather than emotive, reactionary behavior. It is only this way that the common good will be served.