Speaking of immigration
In my last post, I asserted two things:
- law and justice are not always equivalent
- much of our existing legal framework relative to immigration is unjust
Call it what it is
Whatever else you want to say about the massive reality of illegal immigration (and 11+ million undocumented—25% of all immigrants—is indeed massive), there is no denying that that much of the underlying nature of the problem may accurately be described as injustice.
On the one hand, it is unjust to the 32+ million immigrants who entered the US legally to accord equal status to the 11+ million who entered by circumventing immigration laws.
On the other hand, the fundamental reasons we have 11+ million illegal immigrants do not stem from the lawlessness and nefarious intent of most immigrants. So, what really drives illegal immigration?
Consider these factors:
- some immigrants are seeking refuge from oppression, even danger—be it political, criminal, military, religious, or otherwise
- some immigrants are seeking to escape poverty
- some immigrants are seeking to be reunited with family members who have legal residential status
- some immigrants are recruited to serve as agricultural, industrial, domestic, or service industry laborers
- no doubt, a very small number are criminals or radicals who intend criminal harm or terror
In the agricultural, industrial, domestic, and service industries our economy is built on massive hypocrisy. Cursory compliance with the law for too long permitted employers to look superficially and sideways at the personal identification credentials of prospective employees in exchange for their silence and complicity in accepting lower wages and waiver of employee benefits. Dishonesty and discrimination reign when convenient, yet many of the worst offenders in the labor market are the most vociferous in support of immigration restrictions and withholding of taxpayer benefits.
Both employers and consumers prosper by means of a substantial volume of undocumented labor. At least some of the laborers who work for my lawn care company, service the hotel rooms I stay in, and install roofs and fences at my home are entirely likely to be here “illegally” but I benefit from their labor without having to—or even being in a position to—take direct responsibility for their unlawful status. Only when they show up in the local hospital emergency room or their children show up in our children’s classrooms speaking foreign languages do we take notice and take umbrage.
And according to what terms do we measure prosperity anyway? I’m afraid we believers have largely imbibed the business and economic outcomes measures of our mammon-obsessed culture: finance, regulation, productivity, and reputation. All these are important, even essential to commercial viability, but they are secondary considerations in kingdom terms. A relational metric of business success is of much higher priority. “The relational lens helps people see their organization as essentially a matrix of relationships between the various stakeholders.” [For more of this biblical perspective on social and economic prosperity, see Shining in the Sun: a biblical vision for city transformation, a free download from the Jubilee Centre.]
Racial and cultural animus
Did you know that immigration laws are a relatively recent phenomenon? For most of our history, our borders were relatively open. Overt racial and cultural fear-mongering singled out Chinese people for exclusion in the 1880s and Mexican people in the 1930s. The link between cultural and economic fear and the introduction of strict immigration controls and a national apparatus to restrict the flow of immigrants is easily documented. The modest immigration processing apparatus of former times was a far cry from today’s bloated and convoluted bureaucracy charged with enforcing and adjudicating border security and intake quotas.
What to do?
So, what should we who follow Christ and wish to see both just and lawful solutions do?
We should turn away from those who stand to benefit politically and economically from undocumented immigration and fear-mongering. And we should stand up for the strangers among us.
I’ll offer some specific suggestions in my next post. Stay tuned.
Fresh gleanings to fuel your leadership awareness, reflection, and conversations …
It is a fact that aid—wealth distribution—does not lift people and nations out of poverty. Wealth creation does. The biggest lift out of poverty in the history of mankind has happened in our generation. This has been achieved not through aid but by trade; wealth creation through business. So says Mats Tunehag, one of the principals involved in the production of a theological manifesto for Business as Mission. Related topics addressed in a series of papers include: wealth creation and the poor, justice, creation care, cultural perspectives, and more. You may want to alert your colleagues to these resources and use them in engaging your students in biblical worldview exercises.
Not so fast, argues Mike Kuhn of Columbia International University’s Zwemer Institute for Muslim Studies. In this irenic and historically nuanced essay, Kuhn reveals that Evangelical leaders within the mideast region are condemning the unilateral action of the US government and calling for just and equitable negotiations toward a permanent resolution. Even if you disagree with Kuhn, you will profit from his thoughtful call to re-visit your biblical suppositions.