Immigration reform is a hot topic of conversation at the moment. It was a key issue in the last election cycle. There are many who argue passionately for amnesty being extended to illegal aliens already in the country and there are many who argue passionately that the word “illegal” still has meaning. Unfortunately, there is far more heat than light being generated in most of the debates.
Politically, both parties seek to get an advantage with a growing voting bloc. Both parties want to be seen as the champion for Latinos. Both parties want to be able to trumpet that THEY are responsible for Hispanics gaining political clout in the United States. And both parties risk losing part of their base voters who live in border states. We live in interesting times.
Displayed on a plaque on the inner pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, is the poem, The New Colossus¸ written by Emma Lazarus. It was a donation by Lazarus to a fund-raising effort to construct the base of the Statue. She initially declined to contribute the work, but a good friend convinced her that her work would be of great significance to the immigrants who would sail under Liberty into New York Harbor.
While Liberty was not conceived and sculptured as a symbol of immigration, Lazarus’ poem has become exactly that.
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!
We are a nation of immigrants. Unless you hail from Native American roots, your ancestors “came” from somewhere. As you read the history of our nation, people came here looking for a better way of life. People came here looking for freedom. People came here longing to worship in whatever manner they saw fit.
As a matter of historical fact, Native Americans were treated poorly and duped into questionable treaties by the Western Europeans due to naivete on the part of the Native Americans and European cunning and overwhelming firepower. Some argue that the current political situation and argument is hypocritical at best.
Into the secular dispute, Christians must include a discussion of Biblical, Kingdom principles. As Christians, which side of the debate should we support? If it comes to a vote, how should we vote?
A Nation of Laws
Illegal immigration is a personally difficult subject. I have good friends on both sides of the debate and even more importantly, I have personal who were born in the United States, but whose parents came here illegally. The parents have never violated the law, have held jobs and (I assume) paid taxes, and lived quiet lives. The entire family has a deep, personal, and active faith in Jesus Christ. Each of them attends and supports the church with time, energy, and substance. For me, simplistic answers are insufficient.
If I take the position that mercy should be shown to illegal immigrants and amnesty and citizenship should be given to those who arrived here illegally, but have not engaged in criminal behavior since their arrival, I compromise the rule of law and make it anecdotal. The problem with anecdotal law is that it can change at the whim of any ruler. The basis for the establishment of our nation was to escape anecdotal law and launch a system based on the concept that “all men are created equal.”
Illegal immigrants steal American taxpayer dollars through Medicare, Medicaid, and other governmental programs that provide “free” benefits and do not require citizenship as a basis for receipt. “Theft” does not always happen at the point of a gun or result in an arrest and conviction. Robin Hood is celebrated in folklore, but in history, he was a common thief. Does then that immigrant family I know actually participate in “criminal behavior?” And should the parents be deported? Does anything less threaten the rule of law in America?
Those who argue for amnesty always use “grace” and “mercy” as their arguments. Those arguments are not without merit. Jesus had little use for the Pharisees and Sadducees who were the lawyers of His day. He chided and condemned them for creating regulations that no one could keep and called them, “hypocrites” regularly. Does that mean that we should lay aside our laws and simply welcome all who find themselves within our borders no matter how they arrived?
Mercy without a standard is meaningless. If anyone who can geographically locate himself within what are now our borders, then our borders are meaningless. What purpose do they serve? If our borders are to be protected, if lives are put at risk and tax money is spent to do so, then our borders must be significant and citizenship must be significant also.
A Sensible Solution
I wonder what would happen if politics were removed from the debate? Would there be so much name-calling and vehemence if illegal aliens who became citizens could not vote…ever? It seems to me that caring for all those who are genuinely in need is a Christian mandate, but as a legal American citizen, I resent having my vote diluted and my resources reallocated to people who have broken laws without my consent.
The situation seems a dilemma until political advantage is removed. Christians are, I believe, more than willing to assist those less fortunate. It has been proven again and again, that America responds to needs from a disaster more generously and more quickly than any other nation. I don’t think caring is the problem.
Don’t confuse a secular debate about law with a spiritual debate about “care.” Jesus was clear that His Kingdom was not of this world. He also said that while we are not “of” this world, we are “in” it.
I believe that if the church is allowed to be the church and the government stops playing god for votes, the debate between Americans becomes a profitable discussion and not a screaming match to gain an advantage.