Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chesterton on immigration

I was listening to a radio debate today on the immigration so-called "crisis" and naturally, I knew that if Chesterton had a point of view on the subject, it would have really helped the radio show.

Does anyone know if Chesterton wrote something good about the immigration issue, and in what way it could help right now with this issue?


  1. Fundamentally, I believe immigration policy is a distributist and social justice issue. As I wrote in a letter to the editor of my local paper:

    Stand on a ridge just south of the US border near El Paso, Texas and you can look down on the west side of Juarez, Mexico and see 200,000 people living in shacks of scrap wood and rusty tin. They have no electricity, no running water, and little food. Look north, across the fence, and you can see the relative affluence of the suburbs in El Paso, a place that must look like Oz to the Juarez families who make the equivalent of $3 a shift working for multi-national corporations. These workers subsidize our lifestyles; they struggle to feed their children as we save money in big box stores. For many in Juarez, the only vision that leads them out of this poverty is one that splits their family as a parent crosses the border looking for a living wage. How many of us wouldn’t do the same for our families? Can we truly serve God by reinforcing the border fence?

    We need an immigration policy that looks beyond our irrational fears and myopic self interest. This debate gives us all an opportunity to work for family reunification, human dignity, and social justice. Let us not fence in our compassion.

    This perspective was introduced to me by Joe Schriner who is campaigning for the U.S. Presidency. I would love to know how “veteran” Chestertonians think GKC would see this issue.

  2. Googling though the etexts doesn't return much. Perhaps if you asked the Powers That Be to do an AMBER search?

  3. Googling though the etexts available on Martin Ward's site, I should say.

  4. Preview Moment: the forthcoming issue of Gilbert Mag, to be sent off to press hopefully tomorrow, will contain an editorial dealing with the problem of illegal immigration.

    Speaking only for myself: I would vigorously argue that the government of Mexico bears far more responsibility for this situation than does the U.S. government, insofar as it is the Mexican government that allows and perpetuates such a grossly unjust socieo-economic situation -- including allowing multinational corporations to pay such criminally low wages to its own citizens -- that millions want nothing more than to flee from it.

    Why no one talking about this issue addresses that angle of it, I do not know, but the problem of illegal immigration will not go away, regardless of the laws we pass here, until that angle is addressed.

  5. Here are two from the same month:

    [In this essay GKC was commenting on a review by Wells of Belloc's book The Contrast on America:] is idle to congratulate ourselves on societies assimilating or combining, unless we are likely to like the combination. They can combine in a hundred wrong ways for one right way; and, in fact, they are obviously combining in the wrong way. Now in truth it is a business of most delicate and deadly difficulty to combine - that is, to combine the good in different things and produce something better. If anyone will try it by mixing up all the colours in a paint-box, he will soon discover whether it does indeed produce the most beautiful colour in the world. But Mr. Wells, both in his review of Mr. Belloc's book and elsewhere, seems to have no notion beyond the advantages of a general mix-up. He gravely rebukes Mr. Belloc for not taking account of Siberia, and various other more or less unknown districts, in his insistence on the necessity of preserving the tradition of Rome. Those of us who do not measure things by size may perhaps continue to think that Rome has been rather more important than Siberia. But, in any case, what does Mr. Wells propose to do with Siberia? Does he propose to treat it as if we knew all about it, when we know next to nothing about it? Does he propose to trust it to do exactly what we want, when we have no notion of what it wants or whether it knows what it wants? Have we no right to protect the outlines, the forms, the achievements of man, the creations of national culture, against an infinite alien immigration of things possibly inferior and certainly unknown?
    [GKC, ILN March 1 1924 CW33:284-5]

    [Sinclair Lewis also chimed in on Belloc's book, and GKC had this to say:] Mr. Sinclair Lewis seems to imply that there is no such norm of national unity; and that the notion is an illusion. ... It is true that in one sense the United States, for which Mr. Sinclair Lewis speaks, really is a rather exceptional case. Doubtless there is within the geographical boundaries of that nation undigested alien material which is really not yet in any sense nationalised. There is nothing on that scale in England; and, in so far as there is anything of that kind, we should never make the mistake of even supposing it to be national. Nobody looks for the typical Englishman among the Chinamen in Limehouse; and I suppose I shall be very much misunderstood if I suggest anything of the kind about the Jews in Whitechapel. But the accident that America is open to alien immigration in a sense not known to most countries does not alter the general truth that there is such a thing as an American nation, still less that there is such a thing as a nation.
    [GKC ILN March 15, 1924 CW33:295

  6. Ah, that's what I like about Chesterton, he gets me to think.
    It reminds me of that quote about talking about progress, when we are really just doing that as a diversion from talking about what is good.

    We have to talk about immigration, but it gets back to what is good. What is good for America? Is it good to have a lot of immigration? Are we protecting and caring for those within our boundaries well now? Do the poor in Chicago have health care? Food? Shelter? Prescription medications they need?

    What is America? Is it a nation? If so, what are we? What do we stand for? What makes America America? Is our defining principle that our borders are open and we let everyone in because we're rich and they aren't and we want everyone to be rich like us? Even though we talk about the poor in Juarez and their lack of money, what kind of money does it take to live in Mexico? It isn't like here where we pay property taxes to the tune of $7,000 a year for the priviledge of educating our young in the most progressive and ill-researched way possible. Maybe in Mexico, the people are happy not to pay property taxes. We can't put ourselves in their place and even imagine what their life is like.

    But since they want to come here, there must be something here that attracts. And there is a legal way to become a citizen here. And a legal way to cross the border.

    So, then again we have to ask ourselves, should people who enter illigally be given the same rights as those who enter legally, and if so, what are the laws for? If they aren't enforced, then we are encouraging illegal immigration by our lack of action.

    I think, perhaps, the key word here, is "illegal." That's the part that defines this issue. Are we being compassionate to our own citizens by being compassionate to everyone who crosses our borders, legally or illegally?

  7. I believe that we need to not let our virtue of justice run unchecked. Like Christ at the well, our justice needs to be tempered with mercy. This is particularly true since we are complicit in the social inequities.

  8. is linked on Steve Sailer's site. I like his recent article on immigration:

    "The unfortunate truth: diversity appears to lead to the worst of both worlds:

    -less spending on honest programs benefiting those who need it;

    -more on ethically-dubious giveaways to those who don't.

    In countries like the United States still blessed with a "market-dominant majority", heightened racial heterogeneity means less support for social insurance programs for the least fortunate citizens combined with more race-based handouts for the best-connected.

    As Goodhart noted in 2004, pervasive Nordic-style social insurance schemes have flopped in America because of the lack of solidarity across ethnic lines.

    And also, to be frank, because blacks, American Indians, and to a somewhat lesser extent, Hispanics have shown that they get corrupted faster by the "moral hazard" of social insurance than do whites.

    Sweden began its welfare state in 1935, and, amazingly, it hasn't completely wrecked the Swedish work ethic yet. Although American free marketeers have been gleefully anticipating the imminent demise of the Swedish economy as far back as I can remember in the 1970s, last week's GDP figures showed that Sweden grew 4.1 percent over the last year.

    In contrast, in the mid-1960s when liberal northern states in America imported Swedish ideas about raising welfare for single mothers to generous levels, crime and illegitimacy rates among blacks shot upward almost immediately.

    This quickly alienated white voters. The Democratic Presidential candidates' share of the overall vote plummeted from 61 percent in 1964 to 43 percent in 1968."

    And as far as the common man is concerned:

    " in the University of Michigan law school case of 2003, the Supreme Court upheld ethnic quotas for admission to postgraduate professional schools. There was strong pressure on the Court from university presidents and corporate CEOs to validate these widespread racial preference programs. In the end, the Bush Administration effectively saved affirmative action through its briefs to the Supreme Court—essentially as part of its Hispanic outreach a.k.a. bribery program.

    And yet barely half the blacks and Hispanics in the country graduate from high school. Only a small percentage of them apply to the kind of selective colleges where quotas matter. To the top 10% of blacks and Hispanics, college quotas are a big deal, but for the other 90%, they are irrelevant.

    Nevertheless, preserving college quotas, not improving K-12 education for minorities, was the pressing issue for Civil Rights Establishment in America. The leaders’ interests trumped their followers’.

    As Francis Fukuyama famously pointed out in 1989, the wars of ideology are over and the capitalist welfare state has won. He was wrong, however, to call that "The End of History".

    Instead, after the 200-year ideological interlude from 1789 to 1989, history has merely reverted to the old, endless struggle over "Who? Whom?"

    Within the loose parameters of the capitalist welfare state, there is endless room for the exploitation by the clever of the clueless—of all races.

    And this unedifying process is exacerbated by immigration-driven diversity."

    Really good stuff, actually. I can see why he appreciates Chesterton.


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