When Walking in Others’ Shoes, Must We Make the Same Decisions?

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Rhode Island Catholic recently ran an essay by syndicated columnist Tony Magliano in which he describes a recent trip he made for a “migrant immersion experience,” by which he means a planned excursion that covers some of the same ground as those who enter the United States illegally from the south.  From the first paragraph, though, nagging unasked questions dog his heels:

Recently I was given a unique opportunity to taste some of the bitter hardships endured by fellow human beings fleeing drug gang violence, oppressive poverty and economic injustice south of the U.S. border.

Let’s state with moral certitude that we have a responsibility to help people who are suffering in the world as much as we’re able.  What always bothers me about arguments like that which Magliano implicitly makes is that the recipients of our sympathy turn into objects for the exercise of our charitable feelings.

If their motivation for flight is violence, poverty, and economic injustice, don’t these migrants have a moral obligation to remain and save those who can’t or won’t leave?  Yes, I realize that’s a very easy question for me to ask, standing at my computer in Rhode Island, but I’m not even saying it ought to be the full focus of advocates like Magliano.  One never even sees it mentioned.

Moreover, why does it seem our focus is never on attacking those factors that create the environment that the migrants are seeking to escape?  One can only do so much to alleviate the tragedy of children crossing the desert by focusing on their destination (and even then, to the extent we make it possible and attractive, we encourage the dangerous adventure).  The real solution would be to end that which sets them in motion in the first place.

And again, isn’t it the moral obligation of their parents and other local adults to work toward that end?



  • Rhett Hardwick

    If their motivation for flight is violence, poverty, and economic injustice, don’t these migrants have a moral obligation to remain and save those who can’t or won’t leave? Yes, I realize that’s a very easy question for me to ask, standing at my computer in Rhode Island,

    Wouldn’t the question be the same if you were stranding in front a computer in Chicago? Why aren’t we helping those Chicagoans to move to East Greenwich?

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