The Pope and Illegal Immigration

 Caltrans warning sign for immigrants potentially entering and crossing the freeway.

I lived in Southern California for the first 23 years of my life. I am very familiar with the problem of illegal immigration. I personally met and knew some of these people. I went to school with them. I worked with them. My neighbours hired them. They were all around me, and that was back in the 1980s! I have also seen the above road sign more times than I can count. I remember specifically driving to visit my grandmother who lived in San Diego for a number of years. These signs were everywhere. Illegal aliens would regularly run across the freeways, knowing that border patrol would not pursue them across, for fear of causing a traffic pileup. This is the reality of the situation in Southern California. It's been this way for a VERY LONG TIME.

Now we've finally reached a point in this nation when Americans are at their wits' end. They've had enough of this problem, and they're eager to see it finished. Our healthcare system is taxed to the brink of collapse. Our schools are overcrowded. Our legal system is overwhelmed. Indeed, a solution is long since past due.

To be clear, the popes have been fairly consistent about this sort of thing. On the one hand, they've always said that we must be open and willing to help the foreigners among us, showing true Christian compassion and mercy, as is consistent with a Christian people. On the other hand, the popes have asserted that nations do have a right to regulate their borders, and are not called to allow themselves to be engulfed by migrants to the point of overwhelming their resources and losing their identity. It's a delicate balancing act, which the popes have maintained for decades.

I'm not going to address the current immigration and refugee problem in Europe. That is a completely different matter that involves totally different dynamics. What I am going to address here is America's illegal immigration problem, and what I have to say, as somebody who's lived through it in Southern California, will be both sensible to some and irritating to others.

First we must look at the causes of illegal immigration from Latin American countries (particularly Mexico) into the United States...

  1. America does not police its southern border in any kind of reasonable way. This is by design. Our politicians have been bought and paid for by big business that benefits from illegal immigration in order to keep wages low. Our federal government also benefits from this in the form of payroll taxes (which big businesses must still pay) when illegal immigrants are hired. So one of the roots of the problem is corruption in the American political system, which benefits big business and big government at the expense of a certain class of people.
  2. America has a fertility problem. Americans don't make enough babies any more, and our fertility rate has dropped below the lowest sustainable rate of 2.1 children per household. That is not only the result of abortion-on-demand in this country, but also the result of artificial contraception, which easily prevents 5 times more lives than abortion murders. This means America's domestic population is in decline. No economy has ever been built that can grow under these conditions. No government has ever been able to support a social security safety net under these conditions. So our government must allow millions of immigrants into the country annually to make up for this fertility gap. If it doesn't the American economy will go into endless recession, and the social security safety net will collapse. Americans will not make more babies on their own, nor will they tolerate millions of new legal immigrants every year. So the government simply bypasses the will of the American people by keeping the southern border porous, allowing the much-needed warm bodies to come in illegally. 
  3. Mexico is as corrupt as it can be. I'm not going to mince words here. Mexico is a failed narco-state. It's primary export is illegal drugs. The drugs coming from, and through, Mexico are incalculable. Therefore, the primary political force in Mexico is not the government. It is the drug traffickers. The Mexican Mafia is just as much in control of Mexico as the government is. Where are those drugs being exported to? That would be the United States of America, which is the primary consumer of those drugs. The porous border policy of the United States, which is needed to keep the American population from collapsing, is what also makes this Mexican drug trafficking so successful and lucrative. 
  4. Mexico is a failed economy, this is primarily because of its narco-state status, but there are other reasons too, the chief of which is the prohibition of any long-term foreign investment into the nation. As a result, more than half of Mexico's gross domestic product comes from money sent back by relatives in the United States. If that income supply were cut off, by building a border wall for example, the entire Mexican economy would completely collapse. This would throw the country into anarchy and civil war, worsening the situation both for Mexico and America.
  5. Both Mexico and America share a similar problem. Both countries are militantly Secularist. Contrary to popular belief in America, Mexico is NOT a Catholic nation. A lot of Catholics live there, just like a lot of Protestants live in America, but the Mexican government is actually militantly Secular. In fact, at one time (during the 1920s) it was even Anti-Catholic. Look up the Christero War for more information on that. Thus Christianity does not play a major role in official Mexican government policy. America has likewise become a militantly Secular nation over the last half century, even though many Protestants live in America, it is not a Protestant nation. It is Secularist. This is something America and Mexico now share in common. Both countries are governed by Secular interests, at the expense of human lives and traditional family values as defined by Christianity, and this plays a major role in the illegal immigration crisis between the two nations.
When you understand the big picture, as I've outlined in the five points above, things start to make more sense. Mexicans come to America because they have to. They have only two choices in front of them. They can either (1) go to America and make some money to send back home, or (2) get involved in the Mexican Mafia and make money off drug trafficking. To be sure, some Mexicans pick option one and two together, living in America and making money off the drug trafficking at the same time. The situation is the way it is because both Mexico and America allow it to continue, and they allow it to continue because it benefits the people at the top in both societies. 

Recently, presidential candidate Donald J. Trump criticised the pope for being "too political" and getting involved in our American border policy. This of course stoked the old flames of anti-Catholicism in our American culture. Internet blogs and radio talk-show hosts echoed with a chorus of anti-papal and anti-Catholic rhetoric. However, it's not the pope's job to define political policies for both America and Mexico. The pope's job is to call attention to the anti-Christian situation that our Secular policies create at the border, and to venerate the victims that have fallen there as a result of it. So Mr. Trump is wrong to criticise the pope in this way. He should apologise for it, but I won't hold my breath waiting.

Many Republicans think the solution to the problem is simple. Just close the border! They want to erect a border wall that will prevent any further illegal migration to the United States. Admittedly, they know this will not stop it completely, as people can still be shipped in by trucks, planes and boats. If the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California are shut off by a border wall, the illegal immigration problem will simply shift to the California coast, the Texas coast, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. A border wall will simply redirect traffic. It won't stop it. That doesn't mean we shouldn't build it. But at the same time, we should be realistic about its likely effect. Instead of dying of thirst and heatstroke in the southwestern deserts of the United States, illegal immigrants will drown in the waters of the Pacific and Gulf of Mexico. Then there is always the issue of tunnels. Mexican drug lords have used them for years to smuggle narcotics into the United States. A border wall cannot stop this, and there is no reason why those tunnels could not be used to smuggle people in as well. The border wall solution is not a solution in and of itself. It could potentially help in some areas, but if the root causes of illegal immigration are not addressed, the problem will only be redirected into other areas and could potentially get worse. 

Many Democrats think the solution is amnesty. Just wave the magical legislative wand, making all illegal immigrants legal, and set them on the path to citizenship. While that will address the fertility problem America has, and stop big-business from profiteering off the low wages of illegal workers, it does nothing to address the ongoing illegal immigration problem itself, nor does it stop the flow of migration from Mexico northward. We've tried amnesty before, but it only resulted in more illegals coming in.

Furthermore, amnesty exacerbates the problems of an Anglo American culture that is already in demographic retreat thanks to the fertility gap. Some Americans have attempted to address this problem with English-Only laws, that will mandate the English language in all public and official business, including public schools. This would go a long way toward at least addressing some of the cultural issues, but many Democrats feel this is discriminatory. Latinos are the people saving America from a demographic crisis. Therefore, in their minds, it only makes sense that America should become a Latino nation. Anglo America is in decline. So let it fade away. Those who protest, must be racist. At least, that's the mantra of many Democrats today.

To be sure, there are some racists in the world, and I would be remiss to ignore that. However, its unfair to characterise everyone who loves Anglo American culture as "racist". Most people who demand English-Only, and want cultural assimilation of immigrants, are not racists. They could care less what colour somebody is. They just want them to speak English and understand things that are important to Americans! I have known many Hispanic people in my life, and those that surround me now in the Ozarks of Southern Missouri usually speak perfect English with a hillbilly twang. Quite often I forget they're Hispanic, and isn't that the way it's supposed to be? Americans have just as much right to revere their Anglo heritage (Anglophone language, English Common Law, Angloceltic culture, etc.) as Mexicans have a right to revere their Latino heritage (Spanish language, Spanish Law, Spanish and Indigenous culture, etc.). I think the English-Only law proposals are simply a reflection of the frustration many Americans feel toward those who would replace Anglo culture with Latino culture. For example; most Americans like myself had ancestors who migrated here from other non-British nations. My own ancestry, though significantly British and Irish, is predominately Swedish and German. My Swedish and German ancestors came to America with the complete understanding that while they could still hang on to some of their most cherished cultural traditions, they would have to become fully American by adopting the English language and much of the Anglo American culture. This they did willingly and enthusiastically. Today, nobody in my immediate family speaks Swedish or German as a primary language. Our family has fully assimilated into the American melting pot. Unfortunately, this just isn't the case for many Mexicans who have taken up residence in the United States in recent decades, and it's almost never the case for illegal aliens. This is a problem. It's made many European and Asian American feel slighted. "How come our families had to assimilate, and theirs didn't? It's not fair!" Indeed, if Mexicans can come to America and never learn English, then there is no reason why Americans with German ancestry can't start speaking German again, and forget about English. In fact, if that were the case, there is no reason why I can't move up to Minnesota with my Swedish relatives and start speaking Swedish again, abandoning English entirely. After all, Swedish is an easier language to learn anyway, especially for English speakers. I have no doubt my family could pick it up within a year, and with enough similar-minded people, we could take the Swedish City of Lindström and turn it into a linguistic colony. Within a generation, half the state would be ours, and all the street signs would be bilingual. Does that sound like a good way to go? Should we make "Another Sweden" out of State of Minnesota? Most of the people up take pride in their Scandinavian ancestry already. They only need a little push to take it to the next step. Is that the way we should go? Should the whole country do this; Swedes, Germans, Italians, etc.? I don't think so. Multiculturalism has proved to be an absolute failure in Europe. It will fail here too. One culture will always dominate over the others. Americans must choose which culture that will be. Shall we carve the nation up into ethnic-linguistic regions, or shall we be one nation with one common language and culture again?

The American model of immigration has always worked because of the way we went about it in the past. We opened the flood gates for a few decades, allowing millions of new foreigners to arrive, then we closed them for a few decades, giving these new arrivals time to assimilate into the larger Anglo American culture. The latter hasn't happened in a long time, and that's largely because we've kept our borders open for decades without any real checks and balances. 

So what's the solution?

I am by no means an expert. I understand the problem, but that doesn't mean I know how to fix it. There are some things that do make logical sense to me though. So I'll share them with you here...
  1. The first thing we need to do is acknowledge that even though are governments may not be Christian, our people are, and we should act accordingly. That means our national policies and actions should be directed toward improving the overall human condition in both countries (America and Mexico) and that includes uplifting the traditional family.
  2. A border wall (or fence) could be erected, to curb the illegal flow of migrants and drugs. It won't stop them, but it would redirect them. This buys us a window of opportunity to address the root problems. It's a short window to be sure, so we must act quickly, otherwise that border wall will become a huge waste of time and money. It may even cause more problems than it solves.
  3. Mexico needs relief. A border wall would curb and redirect narco-traffic into the United States. That's going to crush the Mexican economy. So we have got to come up with a migrant-worker system that is fast, effective, and reasonable. Once the drug flow is obstructed, Mexicans will need to send more workers into America, or their economy will totally collapse. We have to be ready for that, and we have to process these people as quickly as possible. Making them legal documented workers will force big business to pay them fairly, and that will do two things. (1) It will put them on equal footing with American workers, eliminating the unfair hiring practices of big business. (2) It will allow fewer Mexican workers to send back more American dollars to their relatives in Mexico. Instead of a father and son crossing the border to work for $5/hour each, just the father could cross the border and work for $10/hour, making the same amount of money at only half the travel expense. Thus he would be able to send more money back home to Mexico while the older son could watch over the family until papa returns. There is no need to put any of these migrant workers on the path to citizenship. If the worker programs are fair and effective, they won't need to become Americans. They can send the money back home until things improve in Mexico enough to go back home.
  4. Building on #3, and this won't work without #3, we put a moratorium on all further legal immigration for 30 years. Foreigners can come here to work, but they can't become citizens. Those already in line for legal citizenship will be grandfathered in. Those who haven't applied yet, won't get another chance for 30 years. Those here illegally will have 6 months to apply for worker visas or be deported, and application for citizenship will not be permitted for those here illegally. This allows the great American melting pot to do its job of assimilation of legal immigrants already here.
  5. Repeal the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and replace it with a common sense American citizenship amendment. The 14th Amendment is an obsolete relic of the Civil War, that has already served its purpose and is long overdue for repeal. This is what creates "anchor babies", and it puts Mexican families with pregnant mothers at extreme risk crossing the border.  
  6. The American and Mexican military are going to have to work together to stop the drug trafficking. A border wall will help in this regard, but it won't stop it. There must be the proverbial "boots on the ground". The Mexican government needs help regaining control of the country from the Mexican Mafia. This is going to have to become an American priority. Instead of "nation-building" on the other side of the world, among people who will always hate us, why not redirect those efforts toward our neighbour next door, among people who will probably appreciate it in the long run. 
  7. On the same note as #6, American politicians are going to have to lean on Mexican politicians to allow some real foreign investment in Mexico. If Mexico doesn't cooperate in this area, they're only shooting themselves in the foot.
  8. Americans need to start going back to church again. A culture with no religion is no culture at all. The root word for culture is the Latin word cultus, which means religion. Culture, in its most basic form, is the way religion interacts with various ethnicities in various regions. If you don't have religion, you have no culture. Anglo culture is built on religion, just like Latino culture is. That religion is Christianity, and Anglo American culture is just as much Catholic as it is Protestant. Anglo American culture has absorbed French Catholics, Mexican Catholics, German Catholics, Irish Catholics and Italian Catholics. Catholicism is as American as apple pie. So remember that!
  9. Finally, Americans need to start having babies again. The culture of death, combined with the contraception mentality, is causing Anglo American culture to go into retreat. The ideal American family size should be three to four children, not zero to one. Since we cannot count on our governments to do anything about it, the churches are going to have to step up to the plate on this one. If they fail, it's on their heads.
  10. We should unashamedly love Anglo American culture. Building on #8 and #9, we need to be a culture in advance not decline. There are many positive things our Anglo American culture and heritage can give to the world. We can export that to other countries in a respectful way, if they're open to it. If not, it's their loss. That's how we need to think again. Mexico could benefit from some of our values and way of life. Granted, they need to preserve their own culture too, and I respect that. At the same time however, just as we Americans have benefited from Latino culture, so they too could benefit from Anglo culture. This is something for future generations to work out.
This is just how I look at things. The pope will not tell you this, because he's not an American, and he's not as deep into politics as people say he is. The pope cares about people, and if people are dying at the American southern border, than it's his job to acknowledge that and call for us to do something about it. What we do is not as important as how we do it. Whatever solution we employ, both in Mexico and America, it must be one that draws upon our common Christian values. That's what the pope is calling us toward.


Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books and a columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of '' Your support is what makes essays like this possible. This essay and all of Shane's Internet resources come to you (ad-free) thanks to the generosity of benefactors. Please consider becoming a benefactor.

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Pair O' Dimes said…
I have a question: are you aware of any political candidates running for office this year who support all of those suggestions you've made for addressing the illegal immigration problem?

Because it seems to me that anyone doing less doesn't deserve the vote given the situation.
Shane Schaetzel said…
Pair O' Dimes, I am very reluctant to recommend any of the current candidates running for president. The Republicans all have their positive points and negative points. I'm going to leave it up to the primary process. Personally, with the HHS mandate, and other threats to religious liberty, I think Catholics in this country face a much bigger threat from the Democratic side. That's all I'm going to say at this point.
Howard said…
I agree with much of what you write, but your plan for dealing with it is problematic. That's not intended as a slam; I don't know ANY plan that is effective, achievable, and has minimal negative unintended effects. The single biggest problem with your plan is that although you correctly expect no cooperation from the Mexican drug mafia, you say nothing about how to deal with the powerful opposition that would come from the vested interests in the American and Mexican governments that have contributed so much to creating this problem. Of course the problem could be solved in one day if some miraculous conversion made all Americans and all Mexicans saints, but what could be done with more realistic, modest improvements?

As for your analysis of the upcoming election, I have mixed feelings. Maybe 25 years ago an election could have put us on a different course, but the Republicans and the Democrats both contain the same poison.
Pair O' Dimes said…

I don't blame you. I was just curious as to whether there might be anyone, however obscure.

I definitely agree that the Democratic Party is bad medicine. But what you've said makes me fear the possibility that a nearsighted attempt at ending illegal immigration (which I imagine would be more likely to come from the Republican side if at all) might result in economic collapse for both the United States and Mexico.
The Lab Manager said…
A thoughtful post on this issue and without calling anyone racist.

First, I disagree that because of lower fertility that taking in all these people with a third world mentality will magically save SS and these other government insurance programs that would have failed anyway. These people are simply not contributing that kind of money or have jobs that do. I understand why they are coming and some are probably more than willing to work than other native minority populations.

I'm going to favor Trump with the expectation he has some ego investment in convincing the system to restrict not only illegal but also legal immigration. The American economy is not growing enough to support jobs for all these people. Don't forget the issue of technological unemployment which is already happening to those with educations. More H-1's and other forms of immigration are not really necessary anymore. Maybe Trump could convince Mexico to open up their economy more to outside investment though it is notable that there has been a net immigration back to Mexico because of the stalled US economy.

In southern Texas, there is a county called Brooks county that has become another epicenter for illegal immigration due its location between Hwy 77 and US 281 highways. The county is unable to keep with the proper analysis and id of dead bodies. Like most counties in South Texas, there is simply not a big enough tax base to deal with these issues. Farmers have given up farming or ranching property along the border due to the drug and human trafficking. Some of these property owners are long time Mexican Americans and Anglo who have owned land for generations (before it was the US or Texas) and the federal government has failed to protect their interests as citizens and taxpayers.

One prescription for the illegal immigration issue would be to abolish minimum wage laws in every state; too many negative incentives to hire under the table. As for the drug trade, it should simply be decriminalized. The newfound legal marijuana production here in the US had led to Mexican farmers to find other crops to grow for profit. The US has wasted billions on this at great cost to civil liberties and property rights and for the most part the same percentage of people use drugs anyway.

As for more babies, that is true, but let us be real here. Most Americans simply can't afford to have many children. Not to mention the quality of the women available these days. The average house hold income is around $50/year in much of the US. Even in lower cost states it is a challenge financially with children.
According to statistics, illegal immigration has increasingly become a hot-button issue. Here is an essay that studies and looks at this problem: essay on illegal immigration