Jennifer Roback Morse
The humanitarian argument for increasing immigration appeals to many people of deep religious sensibilities. According to this argument, the United States is morally obligated to admit any poor suffering people of the world who manage to make it into the United States. Here is an analogy that illustrates the limitations of that moral obligation.

My husband and I do foster care. When the placement coordinator calls and says, “Do you have any openings?” my impulse is to say yes to every homeless kid in San Diego. Since that isn’t possible, it is up to my husband to remind me that taking on one more passenger may very well sink the ship.

Intelligent social workers know that when they hear “no,” the family has good reason. They really don’t want to place a child in a family that feels themselves to be over extended.

Imagine, however, that the social workers didn’t understand that. Here is how the conversation might go.

“Mrs. Morse, do you have any openings?”

“Not really.”

“We have this sibling group of three kids who really need your help. We are really desperate. You owe it to them to take them. You owe it to the best version of yourself.”

“Yeah, Mom! Let’s get more kids!” chimes in the Greek Child Chorus from the background.

“Hold on a minute. I don’t think we can handle any more.” “What about your friend, Mrs. Norse? She has ten kids and she handles them all. Why can’t you handle three more?”

“God gave her all those kids. You aren’t God.”

“Well, what about your friends the Borse family? They adopted a sibling group of seven children. Why can’t you be open-hearted and generous like them?”

“They had to leave California to be able to afford all those kids. They live in Mississippi where the cost of living is lower.”

“You have to take this group of three kids, whether you want to or not. It’s in your foster care contract. Take them. Or we take your foster care license away.”

Just then, Dad walks in from the job that keeps the HMS Morse afloat.

“You are bullying my wife. Get out of my house.”

“But then we have to take away the kids you already have.”

“No!” cried all the kids.

“Oh, honey, we can’t let them do that.”

“Yes, I can. Watch me. Take your license and the kids you brought with you.”

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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