Time to Legalize Illegals

Change isn’t easy. As a Catholic Republican, I would know. Years of tradition make new ideas hard to accept. In fact, the term ‘conservative’, by its very nature, suggests a suspicion of change — in the traditional sense, conservatives seek to maintain the status quo. In some cases, this is good; in others, it is bad. When it comes to immigration, refusing to change is a very bad thing.

I disagree with the Republican Party on a number of issues — the death penalty, military spending, and torture, to name a few. If I “disagree” with the GOP on those issues, I’m a raging liberal when it comes to immigration. In fact, if I were in charge, I would grant unconditional amnesty (residency, not citizenship) to every non-violent illegal immigrant in this country. Yes, you heard me: amnesty for everyone.

As Republicans go, my position isn’t popular. To be frank, I don’t care. I have very good reasons for believing what I believe.

First, by 2050, Hispanics, 86% of whom support a pathway to citizenship, will constitute 30% of the U.S. population. If the GOP does not stop obsessing over the border and start focusing on those who have already crossed it, it will never win another presidential election. In 2012, Obama won 71% of the Hispanic vote; Romney took a measly 21%. That is not only embarrassing but also unsustainable. If it isn’t careful, the GOP’s drive to lock the downtrodden out of this country will relegate it to third-party status.

Second, illegal immigrants, the vast majority of whom are Latino, are a boon to our economy. Don’t listen to the pundits; facts speak louder than words. Undocumented workers have contributed more than $300 billion to the Social Security Trust Fund, from which they take very little (few qualify for benefits), spend the vast majority of the money they make in local economies, and increase the wages of skilled workers. Michael Greenstone and Adam Looney sum it up nicely:

Although many are concerned that immigrants compete against Americans for jobs, the most recent economic evidence suggests that, on average, immigrant workers increase the opportunities and incomes of Americans.

Third, conservative pundits are quick to demonize illegal immigrants as leeches who come to America, subvert the law, steal our jobs, and take advantage of welfare programs. This couldn’t be further from the truth. These people come not because they want to but because they have to. Often leaving their families behind, they spend their lives’ savings sneaking into the country to work labor-intensive jobs for illegally-low pay. Most of them live lives of abject poverty, sending every penny they can back home. Yet, despite all this, the opportunities they find here are often far better than anything they could find in Mexico. Illegal immigration isn’t an easy choice; rather, it is a necessary one.

As human beings, we have a moral responsibility to take care of these people. For the believers out there, heed God’s Word: “When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong […] you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt…” (Leviticus 19:33-34). The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops added the following, an unabashed condemnation of the GOP’s position:

When persons cannot find employment in their country of origin to support themselves and their families, they have a right to find work elsewhere in order to survive. Sovereign nations should provide ways to accommodate this right.

As a nation of wealth and good things, we ought not lock our neighbors out. They are a boon to our economy and, like it or not, the Republican Party cannot survive without them. What’s more, as a country that claims to operate on premises of justice, we have an obligation to do what we can for those most in need.

I know my opinion isn’t popular, but then again, neither is being right. On this issue, I know I’m right. Security is important, but so are people. We have millions of illegal immigrants in this country who need our help; I say we give it to them.