Hallee on the Issues: Immigration
I don’t have a lot to say about immigration except this: If my children were hungry or in danger of persecution and/or death, and I had no relief whatsoever in my land, I’d do whatever I had to do and go wherever I had to go.
In Leviticus, God said this: And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him. The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.
Our country is such a beacon of hope and posterity that people will make rafts out of scraps, then risk the waters of the Atlantic Ocean just to reach our Florida shores. We have people that will pack themselves into shipping containers and risk death to traverse the Pacific Ocean in hopes of finding a life here. We have people that will load into the backs of semis packed like sardines and facing perilous heat and no airflow just to cross the southern border. And yet, we have such strict immigration laws that it almost becomes a license to treat those that actually make it with their lives in a slave-type atmosphere with horrible living conditions and lower-than-minimum wages. It’s shameful and sinful.
This is an issue that is so oddly polarized. I think Jesus was pretty clear when he said the following in Matthew 25:34-46:
Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’
“Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
“Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’
“Then they also will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ And these will go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”
Like with everything else our nation faces, there isn’t an easy push-one-button answer.
We have a monolithic immigration system that keeps a starving family out of the land of plenty, but due to being over-burdened with the immigration laws on hand, can’t prosecute wanted drug smugglers, body-traders, murderers, and the like.
Some people want strict immigration laws because of fear of “other” races.
And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings,so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us;for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising.
Some Americans complain that illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans, but when tough laws are enacted as happened recently in Alabama, Americans refuse to get off the dole and move into the vacated jobs.
Lots of people want strict immigration laws because of fear of loss to some undeserving “other” when America is still the land of plenty. It just isn’t a zero sum game.
It all seems uncharitable — unworthy of that which is the most noble and honorable about our divine nature.
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I like your perspective on this. I especially appreciate this bit:
“Some Americans complain that illegal immigrants take jobs from Americans, but when tough laws are enacted as happened recently in Alabama, Americans refuse to get off the dole and move into the vacated jobs.”
In my experience, even some Christians like to place themselves on some imagined moral high ground because “well, these people are breaking the law!” But until we as a country can be honest with ourselves and admit that a section of our economy depends on immigrant labor that our laws make no allowance for, the situation will stay the same.
I wonder if you’ve heard about this story – it’s relevant and interesting to what you’ve written here.
Recently, I heard a testimony from a couple in my church regarding their feelings on immigration.
Prior to becoming believers, both of them enter the country illegally from Mexico. Here, they married, started a family and established a relatively comfortable life. After becoming believers, they became convicted that one of their responsibilities as a follower of Christ was to obey the laws of the land. They were unable to remain in the States and remain faithful. They found that because they entered illegally, the process to gain citizenship was nearly impossible – and chose to return to Mexico, giving up jobs and a safe, secure life for themselves and their 5-year-old and 2-year-old. They are currently being supported by my church as missionaries in training, and are looking to minister to the Mezteco people soon. The transition has been extremely difficult for them and I’m sure they wish their path was easier. This testimony spoke volumes to me about our responsibilities as believers. My church did everything in its power to help our friends obtain legal status, and when that failed, they committed to supporting them in returning home.
I have worked with a number of internationals over the years – from countries where life is very bad (Albania and Honduras most recently). They have chosen to obey the laws of the U.S. and enter legally. The process is difficult and costly, but considered of extreme importance to these individuals. The individuals I work with feel strongly that were it not for the issue of illegal immigration, the legal process would be much more simple. They are frustrated by people who are not willing to follow the laws of the land – and even for their own families (some in war-distressed, dictator-controlled countries) would not break the law to gain them entrance into the U.S.
This is a tough subject, because I think the real issue is not whether or not immigrants should be allowed into this country (they are, if they enter by the laws our government has established) – but the issue is what do we do with those who have broken laws to live here. As believers, we must treat these people with compassion, but I don’t believe that necessarily means rewarding illegal behavior. I don’t think they should be villainized or treated as less than human or hunted down like animals, but abiding by the laws of the land is important and Christ called us to that as well. My two cents on a very difficult subject.
Hallee, I admire you for taking on these controversial issues.
For me, it comes down to ….we are a sovereign nation of laws.
As a nation we are not tough on [legal] immigration …our immigration laws are some of the best in the world. There are two issues here that are blurred together in your essay. One is immigration, the other is illegal immigration. I personally know many people who immigrated here legally and have worked toward (or already gained) their legal citizenship. They did it the right way. This option is available to all whom choose to break the laws to get and stay here, yet they have made the choice to invade/break the law. They are criminals UPON ENTRY, just as I would be if I chose to sneak into Mexico. I, however, would be thrown into a Mexican jail and face a long incarceration. Mexico does not play around with illegal immigrants. Nether do most (all?) other countries.
As an aside (and a point not wholly applicable but interesting nevertheless) …in no other country in the world could I do (and get away with) what those who choose to illegally enter our country do. Laws exist to maintain order in any society. This is the social contract that makes our streets and communities safe for ourselves, our children, our neighbors.
The myriad of repercussion issues (the unemployment rate, the strain on our social services, complacency to lawlessness and lawbreaking, etc) all lead to a breakdown of our social structure (as it would in any country overrun in staggering numbers by those who drain and strain the resources and social infrastructure of a nation.)
I understand the empathic nature of this controversy, but as with most things, taking a stand based on emotion will often lead to less than optimal outcomes.
I don’t disagree. However, if citizenship or legal standing were easy to attain, there wouldn’t be so many people who are here illegally. I think that the laws are too tough – allowing too many desperate people to become victims as well as malefactors.
I respect the law. I just think changes need to be made to our immigration laws – and not to make them tougher.
Our laws DO make an allowance for immigrant laborers, who may work here legally. H1-B, H2-A and H2-B visas. You can read more about it here: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/types/types_1271.html
Aren’t you sorry you brought the subject up?
Of course not.
Why should some one get citizenship just because they managed to get here illegally? There are thousands of good, law abiding people in other countries who are waiting to come here and work and pay taxes. The illegals don’t pay taxes, they overcrowd our schools and force the schools to pay out extra money for translators, they get free medical care from the Care Vans, they get free cell phones from welfare, and they have their babies free at the Medical College. I welcome ANYONE who comes here legally no matter what their nationality is. I do NOt welcome anyone who commits a criminal act to get here, who defrauds the government, who sponges off the community and who refuses to integrate into our socieity. As for the citizens not doing the work, do you think the work didn’t get done before we had the immigration problem? The crops still got picked, the grass still got cut, the restaurants still had waiters. Now the employers can pay slave labor wages to the aliens and cut out the American workers. I am a tax preparer and one of my clients received death threats from his Mexican workers when he tried to report their wages.
I have not addressed the serious crime problem from the Aliens. A large percentage of the DUI’s are from the Mexicans here who drink and drive with no remorse. Recently two nuns travelling home were hit and killed by a drunken alien who had been arrested many times but not deported. ICE is not much help and the local law enforcement has been told to leave the aliens alone.
Aren’t you sorry you brought the subject up? The Bible doesn’t instruct us to allow our way of making a living to be taken away, it doesn’t tell us to put our children in harms way from drunken drivers. I would never mistreat anyone, but the laws should be enforced.
Just one of many innocents slaughtered by drunken alients.
Well said, Daddy.
Let governments do what they do: make and enforce laws. Let Christians do what they are supposed to do: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
There are some provisions, yes. But our immigration system is overburdened and ill-equipped to deal with “processing” the number of people that we actually need to fill jobs.
Our government has set itself up for failure in this area by pretending that the process is adequate. It’s not. My friend and her husband of four years are STILL processing his immigration paperwork….and he was already here legally (though temporarily) when they got married. If you believe that sort of processing time is a functional system, you’re mistaken.
“As for the citizens not doing the work, do you think the work didn’t get done before we had the immigration problem? The crops still got picked, the grass still got cut, the restaurants still had waiters. Now the employers can pay slave labor wages to the aliens and cut out the American workers.”
I would refer you to this article: http://articles.cnn.com/2010-04-09/opinion/navarrette.illegal.immigrants_1_illegal-immigrants-legal-status-border-security?_s=PM:OPINION
On the “immigrants sponge in our communities” argument, this is a common misconception. Many immigrants work using an invented social security number….they pay taxes and SS into the system, but never draw it out again because they’re not citizens and don’t want to face deportation.
Yes, many immigrants come here and then go to school and have babies in hospitals where they pay less for their care. If you believe that their education is on par with that in a suburban white neighborhood, you’ve not spent much time in those schools. You’re often looking at untrained or barely-trained teachers with a high turnover rate. Same with the birth experiences – I don’t know if you have children, but I know that my birth experience in a sparkly-white clean birth center with my husband around and attended by a highly skilled midwife is nothing like the birth experience of women who deliver in the scuzzy free clinics in Los Angeles where nurses won’t let their husbands be present, attended by a baby-faced medical resident student….all with the fear that their baby will be taken from them and put into foster care (I witnessed that one, and stepped in to stop it).
I’m afraid that the mentality that you demonstrate in your post is one of selfishness, not one of Christlike love. I’m not sorry Hallee brought it up either, I’d much rather read her vision of this than yours.
And just because I can’t resist. On the “refusing to integrate” idea: Hispanic immigrants actually lose their language a generation sooner than any other immigrant wave in US history.
Hallee, I love you for this post. I find it refreshing, kind, and an honest look at how the christian religion might better be able to view and respond to the immigration issues facing the country.