Does Mike Delph's approach to the problem of undocumented immigrant workers harmonize with his claim to be a Christian?
Whew!!! Time ran out on Senator Mike Delph’s (R) bill in this year’s session of the Indiana State legislature, although he’s expected to try again! His plan was to penalize employers who knowingly hire undocumented immigrants. While immigration reform is sorely needed, Delph’s sweeping approach did not take into account the complexities of the problem nor consider the many innocent people that would have been hurt by it.
It’s obvious that Delph’s poorly conceived solution to solving the immigration problem resonates with some highly vocal residents of the state, although his claim that the majority of Hoosiers were supporting him is debatable. If the comments posted on Indianapolis Star articles covering the topic are indicative of the kinds of people that rallied around him, some of his supporters seemed to be pretty unsavory characters. (See link in the upper right corner of this blog page) Fortunately a considerable number of Hoosiers are more open-minded on this subject than it may seem by the reactionary comments posted on this Star site. Indiana State legislators also sensed this and reconsidered their original views on this matter.
It is troubling the way that both Delph and those that supported him have not been able to reflect the higher level of intellectual and moral reasoning required to solve these kinds of complex human problems. Instead, all that seemed to matter to Delph and his supporters was “the law.” His reasoning was disappointedly truncated.
• Forget about our complicities as the problem has developed over the past twenty years, allowing thousands of people to move to our state and intertwine their lives in our communities.
• Disregard the fact that our nation’s economical policies have greatly benefited us while wrecking devastating consequences on our neighbors to the south and elsewhere.
• Ignore the contribution of those who’ve come here to build our homes, harvest our fruits and vegetables, prepare and serve our food, manicure our lawns, remodel our bathrooms and sun porches, stock our store shelves, and clean our malls at night—jobs that many Americans are not willing to do and for bargain basement wages that have held down the cost of these benefits for the rest of us.
• Grossly generalize and thus mischaracterize these immigrants, pretending that they consist predominately of recently arrived restless young males, still wet from swimming across the Rio Grand, and forgetting about the thousands of families that have been here for many years and now consider this their only home.
• Imagine that 12 million people can uproot their lives and move back to their home country, where there is little or nothing to which to return—no home, no land, no job, no family, no friends.
• Deny that a majority of these workers are faithfully paying taxes in hopes that someday this will bode well for them in achieving their goal of US residency and citizenship.
• Overlook the thousands of innocent dependents of these undocumented immigrants, many who are American born citizens or were brought here as young infants and children. Just say, they are not our problem.
No, says Delph and his crusaders, we’ll just brush all these considerations aside. The law is the law is the law, and that’s all there is to it. This simplistic mantra has been repeated thousands of times in recent weeks. The law must be enforced, and the solution is simple. We’ll make life impossible for all these “illegals” (this dehumanizing term is used intentionally), so these less-than-human creatures will go somewhere else. If we join forces with the Indiana BMV, who is summarily invalidating thousands of these immigrants’ driver’s licenses, hopefully most of these “illegals” will just leave our country. Perhaps this kind of sweeping approach may have been more appropriate twenty years ago. Now it is neither practical nor humanitarian.
Admittedly it is not possible to know for sure Delph's motivations in authoring his proposed legislation. He claims that their ethnic background was not an issue for him, so we ought to at least give him the benefit of the doubt on that matter. Still it is very naïve on his part to overlook the possibility that his approach would be viewed as a racial issue by others. In addition, his measure, should it have become law, would most certainly have been used by less honorable people for decidedly discriminatory purposes.
Curiously, Delph, who otherwise seems to be a fairly intelligent person, wonders why his initiative has met with so much opposition. Instead of recognizing his own shortcomings in devising a solution, he blames his opponents for being unreasonable.
“The answer to your puzzle, Mr. Delph, is simple. Your analysis of the problem is simplistic and skewed and your proposed solution is considered inappropriate and nefarious by more sensible people.”
But there’s even more to cause concern. In response to an unkind article in an area Hispanic newspaper, the Senator cited his church attendance in an attempt to present himself as a good Christian (“Indiana Senator Upset over Newspaper Headline,” March 1, 2008, www.wthr.com). While church attendance is a helpful discipline, true Christians are also called to practice a number of other important virtues of godly people. Foremost among these Christian virtues are the following:
(1) Obedience of the Great Commandment, to love God with all our heart and soul and mind and our neighbor as ourselves.
(2) Submission to the authorities above us and obedience of the laws of our land except when they are in contradiction to biblical principles.
(3) Hospitality, especially to those in need, such as strangers, aliens, immigrants, children and widows.
(4) Justice balanced by grace, with careful attention to defending those who are powerless and marginalized.
One more observation is noteworthy in this regard. Christians are not exempted from practicing these virtues toward others who may not have their immigration documents. Even for those caught in their sins, Jesus was eager to forgive and provide a way of escape.
If Mike Delph really wants to present himself as a good Christian, he would be well advised to practice all the virtues as set forth by Christ's example and the Scriptures in both his political and private life. Adding these virtues to his approach would also greatly improve the chances for him to have a positive role in future endeavors to solve this problem. More importantly, he will also have a much greater hope of hearing someday the approving words of the Christ whom he claims to follow:
Come, you who are blessed by my Father, take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me. (Matthew 25:34, 40 NIV)