Markkula Center of Applied Ethics

Finding Common Ground

An alternate version of Woody Guthrie's famous anthem is making the rounds on California's playgrounds. It goes like this:

This land is my land, and only my land.
If you don't get off, I'll blow your head off.

Clearly, the national debate on immigration is filtering down to our young people in ways that would please only the rabid among us. Most Americans want a humane immigration policy, but they are unsure how to reconcile the needs of foreign nationals fleeing from persecution or economic desperation and the claims of citizens who are concerned about their own jobs and social services. What is the right thing to do? We hope to stimulate dialogue on that question before the sentiments of that playground rhyme gain any more adherents.

Over the years, the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics has developed several programs on immigration. In 1994, for example, we co-sponsored a symposium, Ethics and Immigration, which tried to look beyond politics to the moral underpinnings of the question. At the symposium, Center Director Thomas Shanks, S.J., observed, "In ethics, we are looking for universals, for the values that transcend cultural, national, and religious beliefs, or legal and social standards. We can find common ground."

In this issue, we begin the search for common ground with "Who Counts?" — an article in which Santa Clara University Religious Studies Professor William Spohn looks at how humans develop moral community and how they decide who ought to be considered members of that community.

The specific issue of immigration is addressed by Professor of Business Ethics Manuel Velasquez and Religious Studies Professor Martin Cook. And Karen Musalo, acting director of the international human rights clinic at American University in Washington, explores the relationship between ethics and law in the immigration debate.

Aside from those articles dealing specifically with immigration, this issue includes a new feature - Ethics at Work - highlighting companies that put ethical principles into practice, in this case, Fetzer Vineyards in California. We also offer a mix of book reviews, case studies, Center news, and profiles of our scholars.

And, of course, communications from our readers. Please continue to write, e-mail, phone, and visit our World Wide Web site.