Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Evangelicals Against Illegal Immigrants?

Posted: Sunday, December 16, 2007

Should Christians support toughness without compassion regarding how to resolve the immigration problem? Acquiescence on this matter by many who call themselves "Evangelicals" is deeply troubling.

Little Carla and Daniel shivered in their thin jackets each day this past week as they walked to grade school in their northern Indianapolis suburb. For a week Carla has had a severe cough and sore throat, but her mother is afraid to take her to the hospital.

Recently work has been scarce for their mom and dad. Now both parents are even more hesitant to drive very far in their search for employment, having received letters yesterday from the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles informing them that their driver’s licenses will soon be revoked. Millions of similar letters have gone out across the nation, in cooperation with our government’s decision several months ago to get tough on immigration when a more comprehensive approach was rejected.

Carla and Daniel are among the millions of innocent American born children whose parents are undocumented. Perhaps their parents entered the country illegally. Maybe they came on temporary work permits and overextended their stay. Or they could have just "entered without inspection" as has frequently happened at many checkpoints in previous years . In recent months, though, being the child of undocumented parents is increasingly perilous.

Carla and Daniel, like many of these marginalized children, have lived in America all their lives. English is their primary language, and almost all their friends are Americans.

Our government certainly has the right and responsibility to monitor our borders and to ensure that everyone in the country is here legally, even if the approach taken is one of unbridled “toughness.” For genuine Christians and Evangelicals, though, toughness without compassion should not be an option.

Sadly, some who call themselves “Evangelicals” have joined in the rising chorus to get tough on illegal immigrants without considering the tragic consequences of such measures on human lives. “Make them all go home,” some suggest, like the former Evangelical pastor and now Republican Presidential hopeful Mike Huckabee.

Even many immigrants and their families who have lived here for decades are lumped into the mix. Many of them came with their entire families, abandoning their homes and employment in their lands of birth in search of a brighter future for themselves and their children. For years these hard-working immigrants have been careful to pay their taxes and make a positive contribution to their adoptive homeland. But their paperwork has gotten hung up, especially since 9/11.

The “go back home” mantra may seem reasonable when one doesn’t have acquaintances and close friends among these immigrants. But all who advocate this simplistic approach either forget about the millions of innocent American born children and dependents of this marginalized population, or maybe they just don’t care.

Meanwhile, there are still no presents under the Christmas tree in Carla and Daniel’s home. Their dad just went out to shovel snow in hopes of making enough to buy them each a present this year. Since church was canceled today, he’ll probably be working out in the frigid cold and wind all day clearing the sidewalks of nearby businesses and perhaps of the large Evangelical church on the corner.

This neighborhood church has been silent on the issue of immigration in recent months. The pastor fears that many in his congregation would object to speaking out in favor of “illegals” and “law breakers.”

Ironically, the word “Evangelical” is supposed to mean “Good News.” Sadly, it doesn’t for Carla and Daniel and millions of other innocent children of these marginalized undocumented immigrants. While a loud minority clamors for harshness against undocumented immigrants, many “Evangelicals” in their silence passively acquiesce to our government’s scheme of toughness without compassion.


Brian Fry said...

Norman's use of story is important because you can have an analytical discussion about immigration and miss the stories that every policy discussion needs to consider. Our policymakers love to talk about "getting tough on immigration," but why should we get tough, and toward whom should we be the toughest? Surely, the United States should be more concerned about terrorism and drug trafficking than about undocumented immigrants trying to eek out a living in the United States, often doing jobs at prices most Americans are unwilling to accept.

I believe in an orderly border, but I also believe that the border is not God-ordained, and that borders--rightly understood--make distinctions between immigrants. The present reality is that there are roughly 10 to 12 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S., many of them children. Deporting them is not only logistically unfeasible, but also unkind and inhospitable.

I'm reminded of a saying in post-WW Two Europe: we invited workers, but people came. I would like to see the wider Christian community emphasize that no matter what words we use--illegal, undocumented, unauthorized--we are always talking about people first and foremost. All people have dignity--not because they've earned it or because some government granted it--but because God has made it so.


::athada:: said...

I've heard similar stories working here in Marion. Just because it's hidden doesn't mean it isn't there.

Glad to see you in the blog-o-sphere.

It's been too long! I'll see if I can get a hold of you...