Monday, May 8

Toning down the immigration rhetoric

The Evangelical Covenant Church's Department of Communication received a few scathing emails after it ran a story on the Covenant's website about pastors marching in favor of immigration reform. The concern seems to be that they are supporting illegal activities -- lawbreaking.
Cardinal Roger Mahoney, Walter Contreras, Tomas Ives
The emailers are missing the point. No one is denying that there are people living in the US under questionable circumstances -- "illegal" -- "undocumented". No one is trying to justify how they got here. In an ideal world they would have all gotten here legally. (Of course, from the native First Peoples' perspective most Americans came here illegally. And then there are the issues surrounding the cloudy circumstances through which the US gained control of much of the West and Southwest. But those are issues for another day's conversation.) However, the protestors are arguing that for the sake of compassion, mercy, grace -- and even economic justice -- WE NEED TO FIND A WAY SO THAT THESE PEOPLE ARE NOT HERE ILLEGALLY. We need to create a channel to help them become "legitimate" in the eyes of the government.

I've heard some people argue that "the illegals can become legitimate by going back to where they came from and applying for entry." That is simply not realistic at this point in history. If all illegal immigrants suddenly left the US it would create a massive hole in the economy, swamping the boat for a long long time. It would rip apart families (children born in the US are citizens regardless of the status of their parents). The sudden shortage of US dollars flowing into Mexico and south would create economic and political instability in the Latin American countries. The last thing we want are a bunch of Cuban style states emerging along our borders.

And then there is the whole issue of enforcement. If we put into practice even 20% of the extreme measures being proposed we would be spending 80% of our tax dollars on wall maintenance. And frankly, we have a few other issues which need attention, too.

All that the protestors are saying is, let's work together to figure out a solution to this problem. Let's work together without the harsh sometimes-racist-sounding rhetoric and compassion-neutral posturing. Yes, there are some problems to be solved -- but simplistic unneighborly approaches are not only lacking in gospel -- they're not very workable either.

We are can-do people. Yes, it's a complex problem. But we can tone things down, create some good will, and figure out solutions.
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