Pope Francis told Congress last week that the United States should welcome migrants and refugees, as if the country's record in that respect wasn't already infinitely more liberal than that of Vatican City, over which the pope presides.
For while the United States has plenty of immigration law, lately it has had little immigration law enforcement. Most people caught entering the country illegally are given a summons to attend an immigration court proceeding and are waved through.
Of course three-quarters of them never show up in court. Instead in many instances they head for "sanctuary cities" like Hartford and New Haven, where local police are forbidden to assist enforcement of immigration law, and for "sanctuary states" like Connecticut, where illegal immigration is facilitated by the award of driver's licenses, city identification cards, and resident tuition discounts at public colleges.
This is nullification of federal immigration law and the nullifiers include President Obama, Governor Malloy and a majority of Connecticut's state legislators, as well as the people in charge of city government in Hartford and New Haven.
Of course this doesn't make any particular immigrant a bad person, but any country that cannot control its borders and enforce conditions for permanent residency and citizenship will not remain a country for long. Indeed, in New Haven, where the "sanctuary city" movement is an especially ideological one based at Yale University, it is sometimes admitted that the objective is indeed to erase the country's borders. As a practical matter that is treason.
So for the United States the primary question about immigration is whether the country wants to maintain itself as a republic with a distinctly democratic and secular political culture, the more so as immigrants from totalitarian and religiously fanatical cultures, immigrants who have little intention to assimilate into the cultures of their new countries, are extensively penetrating what used to consider itself as the West.
Europe is already fairly mocked as Eurabia, having accepted millions of Arabs who were economic rather than political refugees and who have formed separatist communities seeking to be governed by religious rather than secular law. By the European Union's own statistics, 80 percent of its migrants lately are not as generally imagined, refugees from the civil war in Syria, but economic migrants from throughout Africa and the Middle East. They have run welfare costs up and the wage base down.
In the United States organized labor has pretty much capitulated to uncontrolled immigration, though unlimited immigration here also undermines the wage base and weakens the economy when much of the money earned by immigrants is only sent out of the country to relatives abroad.
Organized labor can take such a position only because it strives to be politically correct and has come to represent mostly government employees, whose jobs and compensation are immune to immigration, rather than private-sector workers, whose jobs and compensation are not immune.
There is probably no compromise between the immigration law nullifiers and the angry and heartless people who want to deport the estimated 11 million illegal aliens in the country, including innocent young people who were brought here by their parents and know no other homeland and whose plight is partly the result of the U.S. government's own negligence with immigration enforcement.
But a political majority might be mustered behind the sort of immigration reform that moderates in Congress have long proposed:
*Strict border control, with no more waving illegals through, but with close tracking and prompt expulsion of visitors who overstay visas.
*Once strict border control is established to everyone's satisfaction for a year, grant eligibility for permanent residency to those who can demonstrate self-sufficiency, proficiency in English, knowledge of U.S. history, and devotion to a democratic and secular culture, and after five years make them eligible to apply for citizenship.
Such a policy of generous, strict, controlled, careful, and patriotic immigration would safeguard the country and its culture, be generous to its illegal aliens, and advance the country's ideals as the universal nation.
Call it a Lincolnian plan, as it was implied by Lincoln as he campaigned for the U.S. Senate in Illinois in July 1858, just after Independence Day.
We hold this annual celebration to remind ourselves of all the good done in this process of time, of how it was done and who did it, and how we are historically connected with it, and we go from these meetings in better humor with ourselves.
We feel more attached the one to the other, and more firmly bound to the country we inhabit. In every way we are better men in the age, and race, and country in which we live for these celebrations.
But after we have done all this we have not yet reached the whole. There is something else connected with it.
Besides these men descended by blood from our ancestors, we have among us perhaps half our people who are not descendants at all of these men. They are men who have come from Europe -- German, Irish, French, and Scandinavian -- who have come from Europe themselves or whose ancestors have come hither and settled here, finding themselves our equals in all things.
If they look back through this history to trace their connection with those days by blood, they find they have none. They cannot carry themselves back into that glorious epoch and make themselves feel that they are part of us.
But when they look through that old Declaration of Independence they find that those old men say, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” and then they feel that that moral sentiment taught in that day evidences their relation to those men, that it is the father of all moral principle in them, and that they have a right to claim it as though they were blood of the blood and flesh of the flesh of the men who wrote that Declaration -- and so they are.
An immigration policy that offered citizenship to those who wanted not just to live here but to be fully American might give the country a better class of citizens than the native-born, so many of whom are ignorant about their country and take it for granted.
Chris Powell is managing editor of the Journal Inquirer, in Manchester, Conn.