Sunday, January 20, 2008

Immigration: A Few Observations

Immigration is one of the hottest issues facing the United States today. It's important for US citizens to understand a few things about the issue of immigration, illegal aliens, and the work they do in this country. Here are five points to take into consideration.

1. People who travel from other countries to seek employment in the United States do not make that effort lightly or easily. They face significant dangers in the process, especially those who don't have visas or any legal status when they arrive. They also face long seperations from their families and friends. Most are hard-working people, often laboring long hours from sunrise to sunset with few breaks and for low wages. It's unlikely that they take jobs away from US citizens, since the work they do is not sought after by many of our citizens. Many acres of farm produce have gone unharvested in recent years because no one was available to to do the work of harvesting the produce. The argument that immigrants and illegal aliens take jobs away from US citizens has no merit.

2. Most of the people who complain the loudest against illegal aliens and immigration have ancestors who, years ago, entered this country in exactly the same way. They came here without a guarantee of citizenship and worked hard to be successful. Do we have a right to deny others the same opportunities today?

3. Migration has been a part of human history since the first humans existed, and it will continue regardless of what anyone does. It fact the earliest humans were probably all migrant hunters or harvesters. It's possible that some day we or our children may have to migrate to a different country. Would we want to be treated in the same manner that we are now treating immigrants and illegal aliens?

4. On June 12, 1987 President Ronald Reagan stood at the Brandenberg Gate and told Soviet Premier Gorbachav to "tear down this wall," referring, of course, to the Berlin Wall, which blocked the passage of people seeking freedom and better opportunities in another country. Two years later the wall came down. Now many Americans are saying that it's time for us to do as the Soviets did and block the attempts of others seeking freedom from poverty and oppression, by building a fence on the border between the US and Mexico. I wonder what Pres. Reagan would say if he knew that many of his fellow conservatives were acting in a manner that imitates the former Soviet Union and threatens to turn the US into a model of that type of Communist oppression.

5. There are many contradictions in the debate on immigration and one of the most glaring is that some of the stiffest oppositon to immigration comes from so-called "Christian" conservatives. Their opposition to immigration and their animosity toward illegal aliens is not even remotely Christian since it violates the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) which says that Christians are to treat people the way they would want to be treated. The Golden Rule is one of the foundational teachings of Christianity. This teaching is reinforced in Matthew 25:40 where we are told that the way we treat other people is the way we treat Jesus. Acting in an unwelcome manner toward those who come from another country, legally or illegally, is also not Biblical since the Old Testament in Leviticus 19: 33-34 tells the Children of Israel they are to treat the stranger or foreigner as though he were one of them, a native. The passage goes on to say that "you shall love the stranger as yourself." Oppositon to immigration and attempts to block the entrance of illegal aliens may be politically popular and may even be supported by a majority of Americans, but it is neither Christian nor Biblical.

Much more could be written about the issue of immigration, especially about how NAFTA has contributed to the loss of jobs, both in the US and Mexico. Also if we ever want to be seen as acting responsibly toward other countries we have to seriously take into consideration how our exportation of military violence to other countries eventually results in an increase in the number of people seeking new homes and jobs here in the US. Honest Americans will also admit that much opposition to immigration is simply the same old discrimination and racism that, a few decades ago, was shoving people with different colored skin to the back of the bus, or making them attend segregated schools, or use separate rest rooms. This discrimination and racism is obvious in statements about immigrants which suggest or assume that immigrants are more likely to be criminals or terrorists.

The debate on immigration will probably continue for some time. We can hope and pray that in the near future, compassion and sympathy will also begin to have a part in the discussion.

Previously published, Dec. 7, 2007 in slightly different form on the site