Sentimental Democracy

Several months ago I spoke briefly at the Baltimore Bar Library against passage of the Maryland Dream Act, the state version of the federal initiative that has been hanging around the capitol for a dozen years now.  My remarks were countered by two supporters of the act, a pair of earnest young men: both Catholic, one of them on the payroll of the Archdiocese of Baltimore as its point man and troubleshooter in the effort to shield the bill from unenlightened and mean-spirited critics like me.

In the course of my allotted 20 minutes, I noted that, in the West, generally, and in the United States, in particular, the pro-immigrant cause is steeped in heavy sentimentality and bathos.  When I stood down, my first rebutter stated immediately that he himself was unapologetically sentimental about the Dream Act, and intended to express his emotion here and now.  We had an audience of about 25 people, among whom I didn’t appear to have made any friends.  Most if not all of those who commented subsequently on the proceedings identified themselves as being affiliated with some pro-immigrant organization or another, and the majority were obviously Hispanic.  After the archdiocese’s bird dog delivered what he clearly considered his knockout argument—that Church teaching on the subject of immigration is on his side—I asked him to explain why, even if that were true (it isn’t), the policy of...

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