IMMIGRATION: a three-part Interview with Fr. Gregory Celier
Legal immigration is just the visible face of a much more massive phenomenon, that of illegal immigration, which could even be called an "invasion." Is it permissible to refuse or repulse the unfortunates driven from their own countries by misery?
Father, you have defined the duties as well as the rights of the legal immigrant. You have also enounced the rights and duties of the host country. But today it is illegal immigration much more than legal immigration that is the problem.
To approach this difficult question, let's try to understand better the reasons for emigration and immigration. The principal cause of emigration, as we have said, is poverty, misery. Now what are the causes of immigration, that is, the choice to enter one country rather than another? There are two obvious reasons, and two less obvious. First, immigration is desired by the host country to obtain workers to fill the jobs that the citizens don't do (hard work, paltry pay, difficulties, etc.). Secondly, immigration is chosen by the immigrant. The obvious reason that comes to his mind is the peace and prosperity of the host country.
Then there are two less obvious reasons. The first is our demographic depression. As I said, politics is the art of the real. It is a "biological" reality, I would say: a country whose population is stagnating, diminishing, or aging, creates a vacuum for younger, more active, poorer peoples. However you look at it, the fact cannot be escaped: a rich country like France, if it refuses to have children, will necessarily have immigrants.
The second reason comes as a corollary of the first: a country that no longer has children is a country that has lost confidence in itself, its culture, its history, its values. It is thus willingly a cosmopolitan country, cosmopolitanism being, not a generous and reasonable welcome of others, but rather the nonchalance that is a prelude to death. The immigrants sense that, in this depressed country, they can keep their own customs while benefiting from the local wealth, for the natives no longer have a zest for life and camouflage this death wish beneath a false notion of welcome and sharing.
Your vision is hardly optimistic, but it seems unfortunately realistic.
For me, when a prosperous country suffers from a real and persistent problem of immigration, the causes are more internal than external. The globe is big, you know: why would immigrants choose a particular country if they were not sure of being taken in and of making a niche. A strong country, proud of its values, young mentally and demographically, whose citizens are ready to make themselves respected, will know how to regulate immigration. A country aging mentally and demographically because of its refusal to give life and to believe in itself, is an easy prey for the uncontrolled migratory masses.
Let's get to illegal immigration, which is at the center of all the debates.
The political action must be effected at the source. Sending back the illegal immigrants does not constitute a policy; working to change things in the countries of origin so that they do not want to leave home could constitute a solution. As long as the life of the citizen in his own country is worse than the life of an illegal immigrant exploited by the slave drivers of the sweatshops, then the tide will continue to rise: no one is going to choose to die of hunger in his own country when he knows that he can live, however badly, in another country. As a politician openly fighting against immigration in France (and who is persecuted for it) said, "You cannot build walls to the sky." The target country of immigration must act at the source to remove the desire to leave. This used to be called cooperation; now it is called codevelopment. It is better to invest in helping a country attain prosperity and retain its people than to spend billions trying to keep unfortunate people from trying to enter our country, which they will always succeed in doing because misery engenders energy, patience, and cunning.
There is a lot of talk about cooperation or codevelopment, but nothing seems to be happening.
First of all, there is a problem here. Political and journalistic habits have gradually imposed a very short-term horizon on political discussion, gestures preferred to long-term actions, the only kind that can be effective. Some publicize "charters" to show that they are fighting against illegals; others subscribe to "regularization" to show that they are treating the problem humanely. Some call for "abolishing the debt" of poor countries, etc. These measures do not constitute a policy any more than painkillers can cure sickness. Expulsions are necessary; regularizations are necessary; forgiveness of debt is necessary; but only as nuances in a long-term policy, the only kind that can be effective.
The countries of emigration are not necessarily very "cooperative" in accelerating their development.
That is a problem. The decolonization in the post-war period did not go very well. It took place at a time when the European peoples were demoralized. As a result, we left without provision, with a parting "Now get along without us!" That said, some people with the same level of resources and education as others at the start, took charge of their future and succeeded in rising from misery or in avoiding it, while others gradually sank into "underdevelopment." When I was young, we had to make sacrifices during Lent for "the poor little Indians." Now this country has undergone its green ʀɛʋօʟutιօn, and now we are told that it will be one of the economic giants of the 21st century. The same was never said of black, sub-Saharan Africa, a continent that contains, nonetheless, immense resources. Yet today, it is a locus of misery and the source of a continuous stream of immigration.
But these countries' misery is caused first of all by their own widespread corruption, the negligence of leaders, inter-tribal strife, and, lastly, by power struggles.
That's true. In that regard, codevelopment is not easy. And the time lost in vain talk over the last 40 years has not helped anything. But France still possesses a certain moral authority, an administration, an economy, an army. By really applying ourselves with a political vision, in the long run it would really be possible to help the populations stay home, because they would be happier there than in a foreign land. After that, it would be necessary to address wisely and humanely the residual immigration, which would not represent the grave problems posed by massive immigration today.
However, even with codevelopment, it could happen that the population of one country in a state of misery might invade another country en masse. That's what former President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing called "invasion immigration," when he declared on September 21, 1991: "The kind of problem we are facing has shifted from immigration to invasion." The author Jean Raspail imagined such a scenario in his 1973 novel The Camp of the Saints. In the novel, the target country is also in a state of extreme necessity. It obviously cannot suddenly take in millions of foreigners. It has no lodging, food, or employment for them.
In such an event, the target country has a real right to legitimate defense, even against people who are objectively in misery and suffering. The images of an army preventing by force hordes of unfortunates from entering a country in danger of their ruining it would be very unpleasant, but weakness in this case would endanger the inhabitants without saving the would-be immigrants. We are considering a rather unusual case, undoubtedly, but which in part is the reality, even today.
You are preaching a right to self-defense?
A people has an incontestable right to protect itself against an immigrant influx that turns into an invasion. We have said along with the popes: the welcome in principle must be generous, because the earth was created in the beginning for all of humanity, and a majority of the immigrants knock at the door in order to escape their wretched condition. On the other hand, the territory belongs to the nation that inhabits it as its property, and it can receive whom it likes. It is incumbent on the political authority to defend the common good of the nation itself before the good of other men or of the world. This public authority must put in place a humane, just, and generous immigration policy, but it must also be prudent, reasonable, and wise. Now, it would be neither reasonable nor wise nor just to let entire peoples flood into the nation out of sheer laxity to the grave detriment of the country of origin, of the host country and nation of which the leaders are only the representatives.
Has an illegal immigrant any rights?
That's the way the subject is framed nowadays, but this question is skewed from the start. For the term used (illegal) in itself excludes any right; but the illegal is not only an illegal, he is, for example, a human being. So if I answer that he has no rights, then I am inhumane; if I answer that he possesses certain rights, they are applied to his illegal status. I think that it is necessary to invert the question, and to ask what are a country's duties towards the illegal alien. We have the duty to make him return to his own country, but in a just and humane way.
If the illegal alien has been there for 10 or 20 years, is it still just to deport him?
You are bringing up a question of juridical status. Everyone knows the maxim: "Supreme justice becomes supreme injustice." For example, it is good to punish a malefactor. But if he is not caught, after a certain lapse of time, to punish him (which would be just per se) risks causing even greater injustices. That is why the law posits a limitation: for example, in France, there a statute of limitation of 30 years for murder. It may be wise to establish a statue of limitation for immigration violations. The law could stipulate that an immigrant having remained undetected in the country for 20 years, for example, could be regularized. But let's be clear: this has nothing to do with the illegal alien's right; it involves, rather, a rule set for the sake of the common good. That is why statutes of limitation vary from country to country.
Why are the current European governments so ineffectual against the phenomenon of immigration?
Each one is the guardian of its laws. Despite the moralizing proclamations, a people that has lost the will to live will necessarily be submerged by young, courageous, prolific peoples. The rest is nothing but fiction and warm feelings. A people that no longer wants to do hard work will be invaded by the immigrants who come to do them. A people that no longer wants to have any children will be invaded by more prolific immigrants. A people that no longer wants to defend itself will have an army of immigrants. Such is the hard law of life: there is no place at the banquet of humanity for old peoples.
Is there a solution?
There are palliatives, of course. The slower the rate of immigration, the better the chance of assimilating the immigrants without altering the personality of the host country. Slowing down immigration is a way of gaining time. But the solution is the renaissance of our peoples: by demographic growth, by the taste for work, by the love of one's own values, by fidelity towards our history. And also by an effective political policy of codevelopment to enable the poor populations to stay at home in peace. But for such a renaissance, it would be necessary to reverse the direction of the infernal machine put in place some 130 years ago.
An infernal machine?
The one the "Republicans" of 1875 devised. They wanted France to cut her ties to the Church while at the same time keeping her Christian morals. They wanted the French to stop being Catholics but remain decent, hard-working, ραƚɾισtic, polite, and obedient. Only, when you cut the tree at its roots, you mustn't be surprised to see it die. Undoubtedly, a little time will pass before it weakens and breaks. But one stormy day, this tree will fall on its owner's house. The French who were taught that there is no God finally drew the conclusions: "No God, no master." Why be honest if there is no Divine sanction? Why work if one can live without working?
Only a restoration of Christianity could give our people back a taste for eternal life, and before that for life on earth. The question of immigration is certainly a political question. But it is pre-eminently a more serious, pre-political question. Does our people still have a zest for life and to be itself, and to make proportional efforts to that end? If it surrenders to the gentle sleep of decline, it will ineluctably end by disappearing, submerged by young peoples demanding their piece of the cake of life.
Translated exclusively by Angelus Press and abridged by Miss Anne Stinnett from Fideliter (Jan.-Feb. 2007, pp.29-35).http://www.angelusonline.org/index.php?section=articles&subsection=show_article&article_id=2636