Check out my list below of the top ten myths that I have heard many Christians spread about the immigration debate. What do you think about this list? Do you agree? Disagree? Do you have questions? Are there other myths that you would add to the list?
Please note that I am writing to Christians. We must remember that first and foremost we are citizens of our Lord’s Kingdom and thus owe our first allegiance to our heavenly King. Only secondarily are we citizens of this country, although at times we may forget that we are only pilgrims passing through this land. So I present these myths not with an attitude of judgment, but rather with the idea that my brothers and sisters in Christ are spreading these myths out of ignorance. I hope that this post will prompt reflection, discussion, and a Christian response as we seek to be more faithful in obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
So, here is my list of the top ten myths that Christians are spreading about the immigration debate.
1. All Illegal Immigrants Sneaked into the Country.
Not true. Many came here on temporary work permits that were renewed various times by their employers. At some point, many employers tired of the growing complications and continued employing these workers without extending their work permits.
2. Illegal Immigrants are Taking the Jobs of Americans.
It is true that some immigrants are doing jobs that could be held by American citizens. But in many cases, employers hire immigrants because they cannot find American citizens that are willing to work for the wages that are offered. Are the employers paying enough? That is an appropriate question, and the answer in some cases is, “No, they are not.” Sometimes immigrants take jobs that American citizens are not willing to do, due to very demanding working conditions. However, in a free enterprise market, immigrants should not be faulted for taking jobs when they are offered to them.
3. All Illegal Immigrants Forged their Documents.
Again, this is not true for many immigrants that are called “illegal.” Many that immigrated here and overstayed their work visas originally were granted driver’s licenses and drove legally for years until their licenses were revoked recently due to the lack of social security numbers. As a result now, many do not have any documents, thus it is more appropriate to use the term “undocumented immigrants.” On the other hand, it is not appropriate to refer to these people as “illegals,” as that term dehumanizes individuals who are created in God’s image.
4. All Illegal Immigrants are Criminals.
The rationale here often is that not having documents makes one illegal. That is a pretty broad and inappropriate use of the term “illegal,” as the offense of overstaying one’s visa is closer to that of a speeding ticket or a loitering citation. In most states, these infractions are referred to as misdemeanors and do not rise to the level of calling one a criminal.
In recent months, many are now being racially profiled, pursued and turned into “repeat offenders.” Are they breaking the law by continuing to drive? Yes, of course. Nevertheless, there are few if any other viable alternatives available to them if they are to provide for their families. I personally have seen long lines of immigrants in traffic courts on various occasions, often over 90% of all those present. As a result, our government today is criminalizing a growing group of marginalized people as the result of what originally were minor offenses. I am not justifying that they have broken the law, but just trying to put their situation into proper perspective.
5. Illegal Immigrants Do Not Pay Taxes.
Again this is patently untrue. The vast majority of working immigrants are paying taxes under an IRS issued I-10 number. This is important to them, given their desire to show someday that they have done all they can to qualify for American citizenship. Meanwhile, these revenues are mingled with funds from other sources, and as of a year ago, at least, the government was not even keeping track of how much comes into this general fund from undocumented immigrants.
6. Illegal Immigrants Do Not Want to Learn to Speak English.
On the contrary. Most immigrants are working hard to learn to speak English and succeeding quite well. But learning a second language is not easy for most adults. I have discovered that many of the critics who spread this myth have not learned another language themselves.
7. Christians should always obey the law.
Again this is an untrue statement. Sure, every Christian should submit to the laws of one’s own country as much as possible, but with one very important caveat. We are ultimately citizens of our Lord’s Kingdom and should be willing and ready to speak out against unjust and hurtful laws of the land. I believe this day has now arrived in many places across our nation because of the way that immigrants are being treated. By suspending driver’s licenses and enacting and enforcing tough laws that penalize many who have been here for years, millions of innocent peoples are being hurt and families are being separated.
8. Comprehensive Reform is the same as Amnesty.
This is a bald lie for propaganda purposes. On one hand, amnesty means granting full status without any conditions or penalties. I do not favor amnesty, nor am I aware of anyone else in their right mind that does. On the other hand, comprehensive reform is the only reasonable way forward. Right now, there are no other viable ways out of this mess, which currently is causing over 12 million people to live in the shadows. For this reason, many churches have finally gone on record as favoring comprehensive immigration reform (see links in the sidebar of this blog). A good plan should include background checks (to identify and exclude true criminals), penalties, probation periods, and other steps along a pathway to citizenship. In many cases, the process may need to take years before one becomes a US citizen.
9. Illegal immigrants should just go back to their home country.
This may sound like a simple solution on the surface. However, the reality is that going back “home” is not an option for many of those that are here. They sold everything years ago (which in lots of cases was not much anyway), left their lands of birth to immigrate to our country, and now have absolutely nothing to which to return…no jobs, no possessions, and no family. In the meantime, the economies and living conditions in many of their home countries are deplorable, due in part to our country’s economic policies. In addition, we need to keep in mind that many of their children were born here and are now American citizens.
10. The Problem of Illegal Immigration will just go away.
While I have not heard anyone state this openly, we have been acting for over twenty years as though we think this problem will just disappear. However, just the opposite is true. The longer we delay, the more we are hurting millions of people and ourselves too. The vast majority of those who are here will not “go back home.” They have made many sacrifices to come to our country and are committed to make it work out, no matter how long it takes. The longer we delay, the more we miss the opportunity to invest in the upcoming generation of their growing children.
A close version of this myth is to claim that we did not cause this problem and thus should not be held responsible. In reality, as responsible citizens in a democratic society, when we fail to speak up, after awhile our silence becomes acquiescence. Maybe not right away. However, over twenty-three years have passed since Reagan granted amnesty to around 2.5 million people. Since then, our government has been remiss, millions more are now here in similar circumstances, and way too many Christians are still silent. Meanwhile, many of these 12 million undocumented immigrants are accepting Christ as their Lord and Savior and are looking to us for guidance and help.
So what can I do, I hope you are asking. Here are three practical suggestions:
1. Join in prayer with others, for wisdom and for the millions of people that are affected by this problem
2. Be informed, by checking out the links on this blog and by seeking out news sources that have balanced coverage regarding this issue
3. Write your governor, senators, and representatives, to ask them to support comprehensive immigration reform
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
Top Ten Myths that Christians are Spreading about the Immigration Debate
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