Faithful Politics

Being faithful with our politics, not political with our faith.

The Immigration Enigma

Creative Commons photo by Edmond Meinfelder

There are currently well-over 10 million illegal immigrants residing in the United States, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. And the number is growing at a rapid rate, despite legislative efforts to the contrary.

Not surprisingly, the majority of these illegal aliens come from Mexico and the Central American states. Every year, hundreds of thousands of courageous men and women brave excruciating travel conditions, extraordinary fees, border violence, desert hardship, rape and abuse, and risk of arrest and deportation.

They work unbelievably long hours in unbearably poor conditions to scrape together an absurdly minimal income in the American economy. They don’t speak English, they don’t observe American traditions, they seldom pay taxes, and they have little desire to meld into American society. Concurrently, they do benefit from our healthcare, our education systems, our roads and other public goods. They use our society for their own benefit—and then, in many cases, they return home.

I’ve just described the immigration problem, as seen from the average American perspective. It’s not a very nice picture, is it? Suffice it to say, most Americans resent the presence of illegal immigrants—and rightfully so. We picture a free-riding, self-serving, alcohol-abusing group of people who have ascended north of the border for a parasitic feeding fest.

But I’ve spent quite some time with illegal immigrants. And you know what? They’ve defied my preconceived stereotypes. I have met numerous individuals who are hard-working, passionate, family-oriented people. All they want is an opportunity to make a buck, provide for those they love, and have a small degree of dignity in their lives. In some ways, there are people in our society that I wish we could trade for some of the illegal population.

So that brings us to the immigration enigma. Obviously, we can’t close our borders to all kinds of immigration. Immigration is both patriotic (the fact that our nation is founded on immigration for the past 500 years) and Biblical (Old and New Testament admonitions to care for travelers, aliens, and visitors, with no mention to citizenship). If you disagree with me, feel free to leave your comment below.

At the same time, we do need to enforce the law, or else the rule of law will disintegrate.  Furthermore, most of us can agree that the United States government isn’t doing enough to solve the puzzle. So how do we as Christians handle the problem? Our duty is to our country; and consequently, we must seek to uphold the law and protect the right of immigrants who are able to migrate here through legal channels–which is no small task given the volume of bureaucratic red tape and immigration restrictions that complicate the process to near impossibility. But even more so, our honor is to serve God and obey his commands. That is to say, we must love his people.

The solution? For me, I am still very passionate in my political life to encourage our lawmakers to create and uphold sound immigration laws, to encourage legal immigration and discourage illegal immigration. But even more importantly, I am more passionate in my personal life to love and serve the illegal aliens in our midst, to value them, to share Christ with them, to extend a cup of cold water. Sound like a contradiction to you? It might be. But then, I’m not the first person to lead separate political and personal lives. It’s a tough problem, seemingly with no solution–no perfectly balanced Biblical and political solution, that is. I welcome your thoughts.


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