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What the Migrant Crisis Means for the Future of the West


For months, the news has been flooded with stories about waves of “migrants” descending on Europe from war-ravaged Syria and elsewhere in the Mideast. We also hear about repeated attempts by lesser numbers of people to slip into Europe by sea, usually with the aid of smugglers, from North Africa. This is against the backdrop of the longer-running large scale Islamic immigration into Europe and the illegal immigrants entering the U.S. from Latin America. The tendency by the reporting media and many in the Church has been to view this from a strictly humanitarian standpoint: people either are fleeing war or political persecution or they are crossing borders to seek a better life for themselves and their families. So, it is said that there is a moral obligation to accept and assist them and even integrate them into their new nations. This viewpoint suggests that it makes no difference about who comes into a nation and that there will be no consequences from any kind of migration at any scale. Is this true?

We certainly know about the historic reality of ethnic conflict. It was not so long ago that we witnessed it strikingly and tragically as Yugoslavia, after being held together by a strong-man Communist regime for fifty years, was torn apart. Certainly, ethnic conflicts have been among the most abundant sources of intra-nation turmoil. There are certainly others: religious, political, sectional. The latter two characterized the U.S.’s most serious internal convulsion, the Civil War. Migration seems to be distinguished from taking in refugees in that migrants (not really different from immigrants) are permanently relocating to their new country, whereas refugees are probably there just temporarily until conditions permit them to return home. The fundamental issue about the effect of migration on the receiving nations concerns what in sound social ethics is called the civic bond. Following Aristotle’s fourfold notion of causation of any organism or entity—final, formal, material, and efficient—the formal cause of any political order or state is the civic bond.

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