Over the past several decades, there has been much debate concerning various dimensions of the immigration issues. Sadly, these debates often obfuscate a very important reality by bundling them all together under the title, immigration. That reality is the fact that there is are actually three issues that need to be addressed.
The first involves legal migrants, who respect and follow the protocols established by our laws for entry into our country and integration into the fabric of our society. Such migrants respect the hospitality of our nation and seek to enhance its life through their own personal gifts and cultural heritage.
The second issue concerns those facing religious and/or political persecution and those fleeing threats of gang violence, who are seeking asylum in our country from these dangers. Caring for such people is often more difficult, since they had little time to prepare either the necessary documents for certifying their situations or the skills required to adjust to the major transitions involved in moving to a new cultural milieu. Therefore, a systematic vetting of such people can be rather difficult, and at times impossible. But, since they are facing real needs and dangers, basic human decency requires that they be given a fair hearing to determine their true situation.
The third issue is that of infiltrators, such as jihadists, gang members, criminals, drug dealers, “sleeper cells” of foreign nations and human traffickers. Such people are intent on abusing the hospitality of our nation. They treat a host nation not with respect and gratitude, but much as a parasite treats its host, sucking out its lifeblood and infecting it with pathogens. In the case of some of those infiltrating into our county, such pathogens can actually include highly contagious diseases, which, if not detected early, could cause major pandemics throughout our country.
As I indicated earlier, if we fail or refuse to acknowledge the distinction of these three groups, our efforts to address the immigration issue will become increasingly polluted with vulgarity, vituperation, vitriol and violence – to the detriment of both immigrants and citizens alike.
Central to dealing with all these groups is the issue of the authority of any jurisdiction to vet those seeking to enter its jurisdiction. Sadly, this issue has been obfuscated by those who assert that the right to migrate should be free of accountability on the part of those migrating. In other word, they allege that any requirement by a nation that immigrants be vetted is unjust.
But this is absurd. How can we help migrant be integrated into our social fabric without first determining, among other things, their personal and medical condition. Likewise, there needs to be an evaluation of our own resources to determine how many we can peacefully and safely integrate into our nation’s life and infrastructure. Without such an orderly process, immigrants could soon find themselves in situations of desperation, which the criminal elements in our society would be more than willing to exploit.
This truth is even reflected in Church discipline. The Church is careful to note that the right to spiritual migration, like the right to geographical migration, must be a vetted process. This is one reason for the whole RCIA process for those seeking to be initiated into the life of the Church. If the right to spiritually migrate is absolute, such migrants should be allowed to join the Church and receive the sacraments on their own terms, with no catechetical or spiritual vetting and with no sacramental initiation required.
The danger of disregarding the disciplines required by such vetting was dramatized by Pope Francis, when he glibly stated that baptized Christian spouses of Catholics should be allowed to receive Holy Communion. He made no mention of even the minimal need for some formational catechesis or for a humble and contrite reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation before receiving the Eucharistic Christ. Considering the way the seriousness of so many sins are now disregarded because they are socially acceptable or viewed as merely awkward parts of the dynamic of one’s ongoing personal evolution, it is not unreasonable to think that the pope was opening the way for such people to feel free to receive the Eucharist Christ in an objective state of unrepented mortal sin.
Vetting is thus an integral dimension of all human relationships. Zoning laws are based on vetting development in terms of promoting the good of the whole population. Men and women vet one another in the process of courtship before marriage. As indicated above, the Church vets catechumens through the RCIA and, where necessary, the marriage tribunal. Bishops vet men petitioning the sacrament of Holy Orders. Priests are continually being vetted through the mandates of the Dallas Charter. The military vets recruits. Customers seeking to buy beer or wine are vetted at the checkout counter. Students seeking promotion to a higher grade are vetted through exams. Academia vets applicants to schools of higher learning. And, ultimately, those seeking to enter into the eternal glory of heaven will be vetted by Christ Himself.
Without proper vetting, there cannot be proper integration into society. And without proper integration into our society, immigrants soon become very vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by the most nefarious elements in our society or by those gang members, who have furtively infiltrated into our nation from their native lands.
In light of all this, we need to note that the polemics of many “social justice” politicians are seriously erroneous. The real injustice in the immigration debate is found not in those who insist on an integral and compassionate vetting process to be included in our nation’s immigration laws and processes. Rather, it lurks in the false compassion of those who allege that a careful and respectful vetting of all immigrants is racist and xenophobic.
Spero News columnist Rev. Thomas Collins is a Catholic priest who serves the people of Virginia.