Monday, January 21, 2019
Ana Rodriguez Soto - Florida Catholic newspaper
Perhaps because I was an English major in college – and wanted to be a journalist since the fifth grade – I always loved the language arts section of standardized tests. A special favorite were the “like” and “as” comparisons in tests like the SAT. I’m referring to statements like these: “White is to rice as blue is to ____ (answer: sky).”
Lately, reading the news has brought to mind some other, more disturbing, “like” and “as” comparisons. Such as:
- Illegal is to immigrant as unwanted is to child.
- Alien is to immigrant as fetus is to baby.
- Caravan is to refugee as blob of cells is to unborn child.
- Chain migration is to immigrants as overpopulation is to children.
Pro-lifers have always lamented how the pro-choice camp changed the language to dehumanize the unborn, in order to normalize the unthinkable – a mother killing her own child in the womb.
Changing the language proved a key precursor to changing the laws. The point of argument switched from the right to life of an unborn child to a woman’s right to choose what to do with “her own” body. Such language even works to obscure scientific facts about pregnancy and fetal development, because it elevates one person’s rights above another’s.
Sadly, I see the same thing happening with immigration. This is not an argument for moral equivalency between abortion and legal or illegal immigration. It is an argument against the use of language that dehumanizes another, that elevates one person’s dignity above that of “the other” – the unwanted, the unloved, the stranger. A language that can – and has, in the not-so-distant past – led down a very slippery slope.
Politicians and people of good faith, intent on doing the best for their country, can have civilized debates about the most effective ways of regulating immigration – the methods, the checkpoints, the rules. But even talk about “protecting” borders evokes the vocabulary of war. What do we need protection from? An invasion? Just like an unborn child “invades” the womb of her mother?
Too often in recent times immigrants and refugees have been characterized as invaders, as grifters, as an infestation, as hordes, as marauders bent on harming our nation or our American way of life. Doesn’t that recall the oft-stated reasons for abortion? To preserve women from poverty and all the other ills that accompany pregnancy and childbirth?
So let’s watch our language on immigration before our discussion degrades any further. If we are truly pro-life, if we truly believe and uphold the teachings of the Catholic Church, our talk must match our walk.
People, like babies, can never be illegal. Human beings can never be compared to infestations or invasions. And as Archbishop Thomas Wenski often says, people are not problems, let alone problems to be “gotten rid of” – be they outside our borders or inside the womb.