There’s an issue that refuses to go away even though many politicians wish it would. Since it engenders great passion on both sides of the political divide both parties view it as a “no-win” issue: For every one potential voter you please, you’re likely to alienate another one.
While many Americans oppose what is happening, most have come to rely upon it and probably wouldn’t want to live in a society where it’s eliminated altogether.
The issue I’m referring to is illegal immigration.
There are an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants in the United States. The majority of these come from Mexico and Central America. Contrary to the stereotype, however, they are not all farm workers or domestics. Nearly one-third of them own their own homes, and many have U.S.-born children. In other words, they have roots in this country. Many of them provide cheap labor, which we all benefit from.
But none of this changes the fact that they are here in violation of U.S. law. Nor should their success make us feel better about our porous borders.
Illegal immigration and the borders that make it possible is the subject of two competing proposals in the U.S. Senate. One bill would require illegal immigrants to report to the Immigration and Naturalization Service, pay a fine, and be deported back to their home countries. Once there, they would be eligible to apply for a “guest-worker” program.
A competing proposal would also offer illegal immigrants entry into a “guest-worker” program. But this proposal would also grant them legal residency and the possibility of citizenship. Some think goes too far.
As hard as this issue is for our leaders, it’s even harder for Christians. We’re commanded to be good citizens who are committed to the welfare of the city in which God has placed us to live. The porous borders that have enabled 11 million people to settle in this country illegally raise obviously dangerous security concerns. Those same borders allowing people to seek a better life for their families allow terrorists to come in to destroy us. We need to tighten border security. And we must oppose blatant disregard for the law. If immigration laws are too restrictive, the answer is to amend them, not ignore them.
But along with these concerns, we also need to recall God’s command to welcome the foreigner and sojourner in our midst. The Scriptures tells us that hospitality toward the aliens in its midst is the hallmark of a good society. In fact, extending the hand of friendship toward those who are different from them is a way the people of God distinguish themselves from their unbelieving neighbors.
While this kind of hospitality doesn’t require that Christians advocate open borders, it does require us to be salt and light in the debate over immigration reform. At the very least, we should work to elevate the level of discourse and prevent the demonizing of the “other” in our midst.
And we ought to remind our fellow citizens who are so angry about immigration that it is our desire for cheap labor that has contributed to the problem. It’s bad enough that illegal immigration is a “no-win” issue; it should not be a “no-truth” issue, as well. And in the end, we must, as Christians, treat everyone in our midst with godly compassion.
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Marcela Sanchez, “What good is immigration reform?” Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 29 July 2005.
Stephen Dinan, “Church eyes immigration reform,” Washington Times, 10 August 2005.
Seshadri Kumar, “DeLay outlines steps to stem illegal immigration,” Fort Bend/Southwest Sun, 10 August 2005.