Alan Cross blogs at Downshore Drift, where this article was originally published.
When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
I have written about the need for Immigration Reform in the past. Here are the relevant articles:
- Should We Declare Amnesty? – Asks how America plans to deal with its illegal immigration problem and puts forward some solutions. Includes a history of U.S. Immigration law.
- Resolution and Discussion for Alabama Baptists Calling for Ministry to Immigrants – I put forward a resolution at the Alabama Baptist State Convention last year calling for Alabama Baptists to minister to the immigrants and aliens in our midst, whether they are here legally or not. I also tell the story as to how and why that resolution never made it out of committee.
- Could Alabama Baptists Lead the Way In Immigration Reform In America? Here, I put forward some ideas for the local church in regard to immigration reform, most notably in Alabama in response to the now struck down immigration law.
Today, I am on my way to Washington, D.C. for a two day event sponsored by the Evangelical Immigration Table and the National Immigration Forum calling for Immigration Reform. Congress is in position to act to try to bring reform to what has become a disastrous domestic policy in regard to the 12 million illegal aliens who now live and work in the United States. What are we to do? What should Evangelicals do? I will have a chance, according to the invitation that I received to attend the event, to speak to members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation on this issue from an Evangelical perspective.
Last night, I met with 30 members of the Hispanic and Korean congregations that meet at and partner with Gateway and asked them about their perspective on immigration reform. They told me stories of the way that current U.S. policy affects the immigrant communities here. Since the law declares that children born here are automatically U.S. citizens, it has created very difficult situations for those who came here for work and to escape grinding poverty in other countries and have since had children. The illegal immigrant is effectively a “ghost” they said, and cannot participate in society – the very society that their children now belong to. They also cannot report crimes against them for fear of being deported, so they are preyed upon by others with impunity. It is obvious that the United States has no intention of deporting 12 million illegal aliens. So, what are they to do? They also cannot apply for legal status now if they came here illegally in the past. They are people without a country.
If the United States decided tomorrow to round up all 12 million illegal aliens and deport them and did so, that would be within its rights as a sovereign nation. But, the United States IS NOT going to do that. It knows and allows for 12 million illegal aliens to stay here and work and live in the shadows. If deportation is not going to happen – and it isn’t – then we need to move forward with a plan that takes into account the situation as it is actually is, not as some want it to be.
Many Conservatives have rejected calls for amnesty because they fear that it will give Democrats the edge in elections in the future. That is not my concern. As an Evangelical Christian, my primary concern is to consider how we can keep families together and provide for justice and the common good. I would rather we have had no illegal aliens in the United States. I would like for all people to obey the Law. But, that is not what has happened. So, what do we do now? Here are my ideas:
- Develop a way for otherwise productive and law-abiding illegal aliens to apply for and receive some kind of legal status here in America so they can work, pay taxes, participate in American society, and come out of the shadows. Hiding in the background only perpetuates generational poverty and future lawless behavior. They broke the law to come here – I understand that – but, they are here now and many of them are honest, hardworking, decent people. How can we help them achieve a status (it does not have to be as citizens with voting privileges) that allows them to participate legally?
- Tie their legal status to some kind of civic or religious organization that can sponsor them, like a church or a non-profit that exists for community uplift. I understand that this arrangement might allow for abuse, but abuse is already occuring on a massive scale anyway. The benefit to connecting application for legal status to a church or civic organization is that it embeds the illegal alien in a legal community structure that can help them assimilate and ease the process of obtaining a legal status. It also requires the illegal alien to come out of the shadows and be known and participate in their community. This step can help alleviate many social ailments and reduce crime and hopelessness in immigrant communities. It can also help create social mobility.
- Keep immigrant families together. Those who have children who are here legally and are citizens should be given priority. I understand the opposition to “anchor babies” but, we do not need to break up families. If they are here already and have children who are citizens, we should seek to incorporate the entire family into American life as has been done in the past.
- Bring justice to immigrant communities to protect them from predatory practices and teach them how to assimilate fully into American culture. The fear that exists of deportation in immigrant communities has led to many crimes against them. They have no recourse. This must end. How can we create a way for illegal immigrants to report crimes against them without fear of deportation if they do? That is a necessary step.
I understand the opposition to full-blown amnesty. But, we have a massive problem on our hands whether we want to deal with it or not. There must be a way for illegal aliens who are not going to be deported to participate in American life, pay taxes, provide for their children, keep their families together, and to be protected from harm. If we are not going to make them citizens, how can we create a status for them to come out of the shadows of American life? How can we deal with the situation as it is instead of how we want it to be?
As we do this, we also need to secure the borders and to enforce the laws that require legal immigration to be the norm. I cannot enter any country in the world without the proper documentation without expecting to go to jail. It should be the same way in the United States and a country has every right to protect its borders and decide who gets to come in and who doesn’t. The situation that we dealing with now comes from decades of haphazard laws and corrupt policies put forward both by big business and political parties who have beckoned illegal immigrants to come so that cheap labor is available. All of this has been at the immigrant’s own risk of course and those who have benefitted from their presence have gotten a free pass. That needs to change as well.
Evangelicals are called upon by Scripture to consider the least of these in our midst. We are called to “do justice” (Micah 6:8). How can we participate in being part of the solution? How can we minister to the alien in our midst and help them transition into active participants in our communities? How can we minister the gospel to them and see them as people created “in the image of God” and not as “ghosts” in the land?