Last Friday, I was ushered into the Washington studios of the FOX Network to respond to a special segment of the O’Reilly Factor which described a new immigration reform campaign called the “Sanctuary Movement.” Based on a movement that challenged United States policy in Central America in the 1980s, several religious congregations in New York and other cities announced a campaign last Wednesday to provide sanctuary to illegal immigrants who face deportation. I stated that I didn’t agree with either the biblical or political reasoning behind this movement. The acts of civil disobedience involved in offering sanctuary for illegal aliens seem to have an overt political motivation.
This week, the Senate plans to explore the issue of immigration once again. Although the nation remains divided over this issue, the all-knowing leadership of the Washington elite is pushing to give the resemblance of progress. Both religious and political liberals want to rush the process of arriving at workable solutions to this complex problem. I, however, believe that the nation should slow down and develop the correct approach to this multi-faceted challenge. We need to discuss this more. The average American does not understand the complexity of the immigration process or the implications of major structural change to the way things are currently being done. I am saddened by the pain of deportation. In fact, I have had several members of my local congregation deported during the last decade, yet I maintain that the problems of immigration must be solved with both compassion and wisdom. Both our hearts and our heads must be engaged in fixing this problem
Immigration is the second most important issue of the next two years - after the War in Iraq. The reason for its importance is five-fold:
1. The cost of many American products and services will go up as “illegals” are prosecuted or given amnesty.
2. Domestic security can be breached by Al Quaeda and other groups.
3. Hardened criminals and gang members are crossing the borders along with eager workers seeking a better life.
4. The availability of meaningful work for minorities and other Americans at the lower end of the economic spectrum will shift dramatically based upon the direction taken.
5. A dynamic increase in the number of Hispanic voters could shift the balance of power in U.S. politics.
Last week’s arrest of six Muslims charged with plotting to attack Fort Dix further underscores the importance of the immigration problem. The three Duka brothers were not only Islamic extremists inspired by Al Queada; they were illegal aliens who had broken many domestic laws. The fact that these men could move so freely in America is of great concern to me. In fact, no one knows whether people like the Sanctuary Movement could eventually harbor these kinds of ideological warriors in their churches. When misguided compassion of liberal churches defies the law of the land without understanding the cost to our nation, they feel good about their acts of kindness but they may create more damage in the long run.
Inherently, I have a problem with people who have come to our nation of their own free will, demanding rights and acceptance within our borders. The Sanctuary Movement and other liberal groups seemingly ignore the rule of law and are determined to establish their own unequal approach to national justice.
Essentially, this movement is calling for an amnesty program for those who have broken many laws within our country. Their justification for their actions is their controversial interpretation of the Scriptures and irrational references to the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement.
There is a major difference between these illegal aliens and the black community of the ‘50s and ‘60s. First of all, Martin Luther King, Jr. and other black leaders of his day were firm believers in the U.S. Constitution. Many were veterans of our Armed Services and citizens of our nation. They legitimately questioned their second class status, which was based upon America’s unwillingness to follow through with the promises of liberty which were granted in the 14th Amendment. These civil rights warriors were not American “wannabes” demanding their place at the table. The Civil Rights Movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s consisted of people whose families had been citizens of the nation for nearly 100 years. In addition, their courageous acts of civil disobedience were totally peaceful, despite the fact that many of their family and friends had been lynched, tortured, and oppressed in a myriad of appalling ways.
My intent is not to minimize the pain and suffering of the illegal immigrant community. I am, however, saying that this group does not have a clear mandate for the demonstrations and rallies that are currently being conducted around the nation. To many Americans, it seems as though our arms are being twisted by an impatient group that has refused to follow America’s immigration policies.
In conclusion, let me reiterate that immigration reform is the second most significant issue on our political plate. I call upon conservatives to develop a clear approach to the problem. I personally plan to help mobilize evangelical Christians, including the black church, to take an anti-amnesty stand while vigorously protecting our borders.
Bishop Harry Jackson is chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition and senior pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, MD, and co-authored, Personal Faith, Public Policy [FrontLine; March 2008] with Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.