Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Indiana Hurting Thousands of Children

Thousands of innocent dependents of undocumented immigrants are hurting today due to recent measures by Indiana government officials. Frustrated by the inaction of the federal government to stem the tide of illegal immigration to Indiana, state authorities have taken matters into their own hands. Unfortunately, as many as 40,000 innocent children are suffering in the shadows from these poorly conceived schemes. Crusaders against “illegals” may callously dismiss concerns for these voiceless victims, saying that all the blame belongs to their parents and guardians for bringing these children here in the first place. However, a dispassionate look at this situation reveals that our government should also be held responsible for this suffering.

Look the Other Way

For more than twenty years, we have allowed thousands of immigrants to come and live in our state. We received them with Hoosier hospitality, and they eagerly became a part of the fabric of our communities, building our houses, caring for our lawns, serving in our restaurants, and paying income taxes. They married and established families.

The way we have responded communicated that we accepted them and affirmed their decision to integrate into our communities and lives. We required minimum paperwork for them to get a driver’s license and to work in our factories, banks, and other businesses. Over the years, they have severed ties with their countries of origin and have held on to their dream of becoming American citizens, while their paperwork has piled up in our immigration offices. Their children, a growing number who are American born citizens, became friends with our children and many have excelled in our schools.

Use a Big Stick

Then a year ago, frustrated by the failure of the federal government to enact immigration reform in the face of a growing tide of immigrants, Indiana officials decided to take matters into their own hands. Hoosier hospitality morphed into Hoosier hostility. Legislators hotly debated a bill authored by Senator Mike Delph (Carmel), designed to run many immigrant workers out of the state. Then in the late winter (early 2008) the Bureau of Motor Vehicles suspended as many as 55,000 drivers’ licenses based on more stringent requirements. More recently, raids have been carried out on businesses that hire Hispanic workers, and drivers have been stopped to check for licenses in areas with a greater Hispanic presence. Meanwhile, Delph promises to continue to push his punitive proposal in the upcoming legislative session.

Unfortunately, these heavy handed strategies target all undocumented immigrants without differentiating between those whom we’ve allowed to put down roots among us from the flood of more recent arrivals. The more frequent stereotype of “illegals” portrays them as newly-arrived single young men standing in groups on street corners or running in gangs. We see them on the evening news being led out of factories in handcuffs or clandestinely crammed in the back of trucks and trailers.

But these images do not give us the complete picture of all those who are affected. Countless families who have lived among us for years have been driven into the shadows over the past year because of the ineptitude of our immigration system and these big stick measures of our state government. For many of them, returning to their homeland is no longer a viable option. With nowhere else to go and shrinking job opportunities, parents struggle to provide for their families and hesitate to seek help when problems arise. Far too often, hard working mothers and fathers are arrested and deported for no other reason than that they no longer have their documents in order. Families are torn apart. As a result, thousands of their children and innocent dependents are suffering.


One Old Vet said...

Mr. Wilson hardly takes a dispassionate look at the issue. In fact he clouds the simple basics of this situation with passion; his!

There is ONLY one way to look at this issue and it's through the lens of the law.

The law that Wilson complains of, the one authored by Indiana Senator Mike Delph was not designed to run anyone out of state.

It specifically ignored addressing ILLEGAL aliens directly. What it did do was restore respect for the "Rule of Law" by holding EMPLOYERS accountable for hiring ILLEGAL aliens.

Substituting personal religious beliefs, no matter how well intentioned, for the "Rule of Law" spells disaster for our society, our heritage and our Republic.

Over 80% of Hoosiers, according to polls conducted by both Democrat and Republican members of the Indiana Legislatures, want an enforcement first solution to ILLEGAL immigration.

We were promised 20 years ago that that AMNESTY would be the last.

We will NOT accept another.

"We the People" defeated AMNESTY three times last year; we'll do it again no matter who becomes President.

Norman Wilson said...

Admittedly these kinds of life issues often arouse passions. They are a natural human reaction and can obscure efforts to thoughtfully take into account the many aspects of this complex problem. The current endeavors of our legislature to consider all sides of this situation are very encouraging.

Rich Schenck said...

Thank you for your thoughtful comments regarding the Immigration issue that is before the Indiana Legislature. I applaud your compassionate approach to Immigration. In fact, it only affirms the Wesleyan Position Statement approved by the 2008 General Conference. We as Pastors and laity alike should be united as brothers and sisters in the Lord, to support the Hispanic community and other immigrants effected by the legislative efforts of senator Mike Delph, Carmel.

If there was ever a time for Wesleyans to stand up and speak in favor of "justice for all" it's right now. In response to the "Old Vet" - I agree that we need to be law abiding and support the laws of our communities, however, if those laws are unjust and causing a severe burden on children and families, we must work to change those laws or support the ones in place to protect them. This is a time that we should exemplify compassion as a Church to the lost, least, and last.

Thanks again for your thoughtful and courageous statement, Norman.

cayla99 said...

When those that are here by way of breaking our laws become more important than American citizens and Legal immigrants, something is just not right.

I am the parent of a special needs child. Indiana law promises my son will get the speech therapy he needs in school. This year he has not even been evaluated yet. The reason? All of the speech therapists are too tied up with the ESL students to take the time to help the child of a tax paying US citizen. Illegals are put before Americans.

It is also an injustice when illegal aliens and their children are entitled to special benefits that those who immigrated here legally are not. Each year the US allows more than ONE MILLION people to LEGALLY immigrate to this country. These immigrants must pass not one, not two, but FIVE separate background checks, and pay the fees for these checks. They must also pass a physical and show PROOF THAT THEY CAN SUPPORT THEMSELVES. For their first 5 years here, they can get NO GOVERNMENT AID, EVEN FOR EMERGENCY MEDICAL. Illegal Aliens can receive both, without the cost of prior checks and the assurances to the American people that they pose no danger, either criminally or to the health of the community.I do not see any articles talking about the injustices done to my son or legal immigrants in order to give most favorite status to law breakers.

Do I feel bad for the children of illegals, yes I do. But the burden is on the parents who had such little regard for their children that they put them in this position.

When the health and welfare of illegals and their children take precedent over the health and welfare of Americans and their children, something is wrong.

cayla99 said...

Rick Schenck said "In response to the "Old Vet" - I agree that we need to be law abiding and support the laws of our communities, however, if those laws are unjust and causing a severe burden on children and families, we must work to change those laws or support the ones in place to protect them."

That is a very compassionate stand putting the children first. Do you also believe in releasing all incarcerated parents to relieve their children of the severe burden the incarceration has placed on them? When a parent commits a crime, all too often the children pay a price, and that price is high both financially and emotionally. I wish more parents would think before they act. However it is lunacy to pardon a crime simply because the perpetrator has the ability to reproduce. There is little difference between a bank robber and an illegal alien. Both have broken the law. By doing so both have improved the financial situation of their families, both have stolen what is not theirs.

Norman Wilson said...

I want the readers to know that I am moderating this blog so that a variety of perspectives are heard. However, I am hesitant to post anonymous comments, especially when the points are repetitive or the tone is inflammatory.

Thank you, Cayla, for your input. It is very helpful to our discussion. I am sorry to hear how the immigration situation has affected you and your loved ones in a very personal way. The ripple effect of twenty years of inaction is immeasurable.

Also, I agree with you that undocumented parents are the ones primarily responsible for their children. But when children start to fall through the cracks for whatever reason, my faith tells me that we are all morally obligated to step in to help them, including individuals, churches, social agencies, and our government.

I may add more later regarding your comments about illegal immigrant parents and their legal problems. At first, it seemed to me that their situations would be clear cut. I thought, “They have broken the law and are the only ones responsible for their situation.” But as I hear their stories, I am coming to the conclusion that it is impossible to generalize. Still, my primary concern is not to justify anyone’s situation, but rather to speak up for the children that are marginalized and hurting.

Gotta go, now. I have a class waiting on me.

Norman Wilson said...

Hi Brian,

Your comments below offer some helpful perspectives regarding the complexities of the immigration problem and our complicity in the current situation. For these reasons, I struggle with the view of some that being an undocumented person is comparable to robbing a bank or even worse crimes.

But while there may be room for debate about these matters, all reasonable and caring people ought to be concerned about the plight of the innocent children that are affected. My hope is that this shared concern will motivate us to seek a more comprehensive solution even while we endeavor to enforce the law of the land.

I’m sorry that you had problems posting your comments, so I’ll include them with my response here.

Have a great weekend.


From: Fry, Brian
Sent: Friday, September 26, 2008 4:19 PM
To: Norman G. Wilson
Subject: Re: [Evangelicals and Illegal Immigrants] New comment on Indiana Hurting Thousands of Children.

I tried posting, but had a hard time (again). If you want to post this you can:

I believe in the rule of law. But sometimes there are social norms that have a force and feel equal to or greater than the law. And they operate AS IF they are law. For example, jaywalking. It is against the law, yet many of us break this law every day, sometimes right in front of police officers. Or take speeding: many of us habitually exceed the limit, knowing that most police do not enforce the law but instead force the norm of allowing motorists to travel 5 to 10 mph over the limit.

I know jaywalking and speeding are not the same as illegal immigration. I'm not arguing that. What I am arguing is that many undocumented immigrants entered the United States under an illegal but normative situation that welcomes their labor, taxes, dollars—and is willing to look the other way in exchange for their labor.

What's the point? The point is that we can go on and on about the law as if we Americans are not complicit in this thing we call illegal immigration. Right now, immigrants are picking tomatoes in my county. Do you eat tomatoes? Buy them? Eat tomato products?

We need to find a sensible solution to immigration. One of the best ways to do that is to recognize our complicity in this complex problem and ask ourselves if it’s realistic to blame the "Supply" when we are the "Demand."

David Drury said...

Thanks for your advocacy on this issue, Dr. Wilson. I'm thankful not only for your voice, but also for your personal involvement in the lives of so many Hispanic families (documented and undocumented). My prayers are with you, José and Altagracia as you shed light on the complexities and impact of our state government.

My thoughts to add:
1) The tensions are initiated in part by econmic hardships and gloabal inequalities "south of the border" in comparison to the US. As long as this is so disparate I suspect this will be an issue.
2) However, as you and others have noted here, the issue is all the more exacerbated by immigration ineptitude. We trumpet "the rule of law" not understanding the full complexities and mismanagement of our current system. We, as a country, have spoken "two different" messages to our undocumented aliens -- which you aptly point out here, Norm.
3) In the meantime two things ought to be advocated: a) For us Christians, a grace-based love for the foreigner and a rooting-out of racism and oppression among us in our towns and churches. b) For all of us, a re-examination of our immigration policy that gives voice to the "alien among us" while still seeking for a more compassionate but well-adminstrated process of documentation.

The problems cited by even those here speaking "against" your position, Norm, seem to tell me that we're all looking for a better process. I suspect many Hispanics (who are the core of this debate) would love to see a better process as well and seeing it from "the other side" is one of the best ways for us to reform.

Compassionate Reform is hard to manage, we must remember. Reforms usually cause conflict and even violence... so our prayers should be fervent. We cannot lose our souls while trying to repair our government.

Exodus 22:21, "You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien"

Leviticus 19:33-34, “When a stranger dwells among you in your land, do not taunt him. The stranger who dwells with you shall be like a native among you, and you shall love him like yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt–I am the Lord, your God”

Leviticus 25:35 “If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him–stranger or resident–so that he can live with you”

Jeremiah 7:6-7 "if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.

Norman Wilson said...

Hi Norman (From Brian Fry),

I agree. I wish people would think of these innocent children when they think of immigrants instead of some adult male trying to evade Border Patrol officers.

Thanks for your care and action.