Justice and Order: American Catholic Social Thought and the Immigration Question in the Restriction Era, 1917-1965
Catholic Social Thought
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AbstractThesis. (PhD)--Boston College, 2014
Boston College. Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
The present study examines the Catholic social critique of U.S. immigration law from the introduction of literacy testing in 1917 to the removal of the national origins quota system in 1965. During this period, Catholic thinkers developed a distinctive theology of migration and engaged in a long campaign for reform of federal immigration policy. They did so at a time when the debate over that policy was characterised by a number of contentious issues: discrimination against prospective immigrants on the basis of race and national origins; the importation of migrant labor; the obligation to respond to an international refugee crisis; and the imperatives of Cold War national security. Catholic thinking on these issues involved a constant negotiation between a liberal policy position emphasizing the dignity of the individual and man's natural right to migrate, and a restrictive outlook which acknowledged sovereign states' right to control immigration and citizenship in the national interest. The Catholic philosophy was an important dimension of a national debate that oscillated between exclusionary and inclusionary approaches. In keeping with Catholic social doctrine, Catholic intellectuals and immigration experts insisted that the debate over policy and implementation should give priority to the integrity of the migrating family and the attainment and protection of a living wage for all. These priorities coalesced with a post-New Deal political and social emphasis on the heteronormative family as the core consuming and breadwinning unit in American life. Current historical understanding of the debate over American immigration policy elides the significance of religious thought. This study demonstrates that religious ideas and institutions were used to give the Post-World War II campaign for immigration reform and the Hart-Celler Immigration Act of 1965 the weight of moral authority, inclusive of their liberalizing and restrictive features. By giving the 1965 law their imprimatur, Catholic social thinkers helped efface the law's retention of restrictive and selective measures. Examination of the Catholic social critique of immigration policy reveals that socio-economic and moral ideals - as embodied by the idealized nuclear, male breadwinner-headed family - pervaded the debate over immigration reform in this era of restriction.
TypeElectronic Thesis or Dissertation