Thoughts on Immigration

1125516192F_sign.jpgSince the Immigration issue has been sizzling on the front pages for the past few months, it’s led me to some thinking about how I am going to approach the issue. Should I be ok with the “guest worker” program or should I favor the massive deportation of millions of “undocumented workers” or “illegal aliens” (depending on which side of the issue you may be on)? I realize that, for many, this is a complicated issue that will most likely never be resolved to everyone’s liking, but, while doing some research, I’ve come to find some very interesting responses from the religious right. On one hand you have some Christian groups (like this one and this one to name a few) that seemed to have conveniently forgotten those pesky little verses in the Bible about how we are to treat the enemies, trespassers, strangers, and the aliens among us. On the other hand, we have some organizations within the religious right (like this one and this one) that have stayed relatively silent on the issue. Richard Cizik of the National Association of Evangelicals had this to say regarding their lack of a stance on the immigration issue:

“When we have such differences of opinions in the constituency, it doesn’t make sense for NAE to take a stance. Members of Congress are having a difficult time of arriving at an appropriate policy and so are evangelicals, because it’s not easy.”

Because they are unsure of the “opinions of the constituency”, they are hand-cuffed from making any proclamations? Wow. This seems so unlike the religious right, doesn’t it? I guess their moral standards, according to this statement, aren’t necessarily based on Biblical principals but rather the majority opinion of the conservative religious base. That seems inconsistent with their approach with other issues such as abortion and gay marriage. When the majority of evangelicals aren’t convinced on an issue, then why would they waste their time convincing them one way or the other? It’s so much easier to ignore those messy “grey” issues and resort to the always effective “It’s Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” and get a round of applause, right?

In my estimation, both of these approaches are insufficient. They both ignore the Biblical mandate for how those who are followers of Jesus are to treat those who have “trespassed against us”. Even though my vocabulary is limited, I am pretty sure that “forgive” and “incarcerate” are not synonyms. In addition to ignoring the Biblical teaching on this issue, these approaches also ignore the history of Pre-Colonial America and the treatment of the Native Americans by the European immigrants. How do we reconcile our policies of today with our actions during the colonization of America? How do we reconcile sending the Cherokees down the Trail of Tears while we protest our right to attack undocumented immigrants today? When it comes to issues where the law is not on the side of the religious right, such as abortion, we often hear about the “higher Law”, God’s law. Where was God’s law at Wounded Knee? Where was God’s law when European immigrants took over land they had no authority to take? (unless you accept gunpowder as a valid form of authority)

Maybe to some these past atrocities are water under the bridge and they shouldn’t be applicable to what’s happening in 2006. It may also be said by some that regardless of both sides of the issue, the law is the law and it must be blindly upheld and not challenged. These may be popular ways in approaching this issue, even among Christians, but in the end I believe that they are invalid and highly convenient. We have to face the history of our actions in order to move ahead with any kind of clear perspective. Is our policy going to be predicated on our standard of living or our love for others? To break the cycle, it may be helpful to embrace not just our “proud” history but also the dark corners of our progress up until this point.

Maybe we could be on the side of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego who broke the law and refused to bow down to the king. Maybe we could be on the side of the midwives Shiphrah and Puah who broke the law by refusing to kill babies? This is an interesting contrast to my previous post regarding the NSA and the abuse of the FISA law. In one post I’ve protested the abuse of our laws, and in the next post I’m all for ignoring them. What am I thinking?

Here are some great links regarding this issue that are very informative and well worth your time:

Slactivist – Getting Ugly
Slactivist – The Minutemen Commit Sodomy
Mennonite Central Commity – Biblical Reflection on Immigration
Sojourners – Compassion, not Criminalization in Immigration Reform!

On the humorous/tragic side of things, watch Stephen Colbert hightlight Fox News’ John Gibon’s demand that white people make more babies. Props to Fox News for being totally racist!!

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7 thoughts on “Thoughts on Immigration

  1. Couple of points:

    1, Do you have an opinion on the immigration problem? You thought about how you are ‘to approach the issue’, it appears you decided not to pass comment, except to critique how some of the right wing church have chosen not to pass comment! Fair enough though, there’s no solution to these problem’s only best possible compromise.

    2, Do you feel the bible should be grounds for policy formation? I say its fair if it informs your moral stance, which then influences your political opinion, but I feel it is important to keep religious belief and political/military power seperate. You are criticising (and to me at least fairly) the way the far right want to use ‘God’s law’ to rule the government’s, but only because of the manner in which they wish to see it done. You link to Sojourners who clearly do feel the bible, applied correctly, is good governing material

  2. J.I.,

    To answer your second question, I don’t need my representatives to base their policies on the Bible. I am a proponent of the seperation of Church and State. But what makes this matter complicated is the attitude of George Bush and the religious right who believe God has made him President and that he’s doing God’s will with his policies. I find that troubling because if George is going to claim to be used by God, then all of his policies need to follow suit. Sadly, but not surprisingly, this is not the case. It seems that the religious right only have selective Biblical memory when propping only handful of issues that fire up their base. For example, we don’t really hear the religious right come out against the administration’s unwillingness to completely outlaw Government sactioned torture. We hear a lot about the support for the pro-life platform but we rarely see problems like civilian casualties in war and the death penalty addressed along side abortion and stem cell research. I feel this inconsistency underminds the teachings of Jesus and Christians should speak truth to power regarding this selective, compartmentalized, and insufficient theology. In my view, these are matters of the Church and not of public policy.

    To answer your first question, in order to start thinking about a solution, I think we have to go back and investigate how these borders came to be in the first place. Where I live, in Arizona, this land used to belong to Mexico until we, the United States, took the land by force. Here I sit today in Arizona having been the beneficiary of the fabulous idea of Manifest Destiny. Because our nations leaders in the mid 1800s decided that God wanted us to expand and take over land that wasn’t ours, I now enjoy my physical location of Chandler, Arizona. It had nothing to do with racism or the notion that the Anglo-Saxon race felt it was more superior to the Native American and Mexican people. It was purely because we “deserved” it. When considering the path to how we’ve come to this point, it’s hard not to view this border south of me as a bit arbitrary. Who’s to say who deserves this land or that land? If I go to my neighbor’s house with a gun and tell them to leave because God told me I should expand my physical space, I’d probably go to jail, right? If we are to find any kind of solution, I suggest that the United States first recognize our past moral failures and take into account our imperialist and violent history in order to find a common ground. Seeing as that’s probably not going to happen anytime soon, I’m afraid any solution until then will be, at best, a hallow attempt. This doesn’t mean that we can’t, as individuals, formulate a posture of compassion, common ground, love and understanding to the aliens and strangers among us. That’s hopefully the path I’ll stay on.

  3. Dan,

    Now THAT is both hilarious and tragic! I’ll settle for being and slightly better drummer than I am now. Thanks for the confidence.

  4. I agree with your stance and salute your ‘truthiness’ in paragraph one. Indeed it is thoroughly convenient to end a US political debate with a proclamation that your policies are a result of God’s will and the hypocrisy of this is made clear when less convenient/profitable/popular Christian ways are flatly ignored. The other hypocrisy I see with Dubya’s foreign policy is to go and smite the ‘fundamentalists’ who wish death to the US government because they believe it’s ‘God’s will’, Dubya’s justification for this smiting is that it’s ‘God’s will’. I find this terminology very concerning, but I’m sure it’s used to halt any debate on the practicalities of whether it’s right or wrong to attack people.

    And oh how we in Britain recognise your second paragraph, only we don’t have land borders with the places we colonised (although you could say us English rather screwed over the Welsh and Scottish and point to recent ‘devolution’ that gave them their own parliaments). Since it was realised that taking other people’s property and land by force was perhaps inappropriate, we have been apologetically appeasing these countries and in all fairness we’ve done it fairly well, most of them are still pleased to be part of ‘The Commonwealth’, which is a remarkable achievement. We did go all out in many places though, e.g. awarding colonials full British citizenship (this obviously didn’t last long! But is one of the primary reasons we are now so multi-cultural). There does have to come a ‘water under the bridge’ moment though, I wouldn’t advocate returning Arizona, Texas and New Mexico to Mexico because it would screw over far more people now than it did when you took them in the first place… I mean who the hell wanted to live in a desert!?! 😉

    I do believe its right to be fully aware of your history, but you can get too apologetic and let things go in a direction that is worse for all concerned. The classic example of this from the British Empire is the current state of Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe. Mugabe claims to represent the black Zimbabweans and over his 25+ years in power has become increasingly radical in denouncing the British government’s control over the country since it was started in such an unsavoury manner. Britain basically said ‘Oh so sorry, you’re right. Have the country back, we’ll leave you to it, its not our right to interfere’, unfortunately Mugabe is a crazed despot imbecile intent on destroying his own country as long as he can keep power, more unfortunately since we completely abdicated responsibility for the country we can have no say until it gets so bad that military intervention is called for (and since the area is of no strategic benefit to the US this is unlikely to happen). His ‘Land Reform’ policies have turned one of the most prosperous countries in Africa into a desolate, desperate place, ruled by violence and terror.

    Thinking of which point things become ‘water under the bridge’ I was talking about our history the other day and one of your guys’ lyrics came to my mind ‘the past is told by those who win’, particularly in reference to our treatment of the Aborigines in Tasmania, i.e. the first concentration/extermination camps. Few British citizens are aware of this part of our history (and in my eyes it is perhaps the most shocking of all our indiscretions), and those who are aware are reconciled to saying ‘oh yes, well that was a bad thing, nevermind, nothing we can do about it now’. It got me thinking what if the nazi’s had won WWII, we would have had a new world order and perhaps, as they always do, things would have moderated over time, would the Jewish extermination become just another ‘unsavoury incident’? Clearly this was on a greater scale than ever previously seen, but it made me think… pah anyway massive tangent over.

    Yes all we can do is look at our histories try and be aware of our mistakes so that we can avoid making them again, and more directly to be aware that no country has always been in the right, before we start telling people how to behave in relation to us. And ultimately being aware that every person in the world is every bit as much of a person (with similar concerns over things such as supporting their family) as the one’s we encounter daily… this actually contravenes human nature in many ways, since it is very difficult to overcome ‘out of sight out of mind’; but this is where I am sure you and I feel at one with the truly Christian phrase ‘love thy neighbour’.

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