The Bible is pretty clear in its posture on immigration: we should be welcoming to those strangers in our lands, those “sojourners” among us: or, to use the language of Genesis 15:13 (and Psalm 39:12, etc.), “strangers.” In the Old Covenant, from Exodus 22:21 to the even more striking Leviticus 19:34, onwards, we’re told repeatedly to welcome these individuals. Hospitality towards “strangers” is a mark of the just man (Job 29:16). In the New Testament, welcoming the stranger is something the saved do in Matthew 25:35, and which the damned failed to do in Matthew 25:43, from the lips of Jesus. Hebrews 13:2 also reminds us to continue this hospitality, noting that “by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.”
But all that said, there are legitimate security concerns as well. Just as our duty to care for the poor doesn’t mean we have to give money to every single impoverished person, the need to welcome the stranger doesn’t mean we have to open the borders to just anyone who wants to come to the US. But it does suggest that in our treatment of the immigrant, we should act in a way which embraces and affirms their human dignity.
All of this brings us to Arizona’s sweeping immigration law. I’m not as familiar as I should be with the specifics, but I’m familiar enough to be concerned. While I agree with the general premise – that there are legitimate reasons (including national security) in having less porous borders and in figuring out exactly who is here – I also have real concerns about the massive police powers, and those implications for both immigrants and U.S. citizens. I asked one of my friends, himself a (legal) immigrant, what he thought on this bill. He replied:
It’s a shame. This law is a shame.
I don’t understand how you can “reasonably” ask one person for proof of legal status and not another if not judging by his appearance. Unless they start randomly asking everybody, even blonde, blue-eyed people living in Scottsdale. The problem is not so much the law, as a foreigner -nay, an alien!- one has to follow the law of the land and I must admit that groups like the National Council of La Raza and the ACLU have given my people a false sense of entitlement. We don’t deserve anything in this country, other than respect for the most basic human rights. Everything else is not our right, but a privilege, given our status. However, there are ways to do things in such a way that you generate hate and rancor between people and common sense ways that deal with the real issue, which is macroeconomic at heart. They decided to go for the former.
Nobody – well, it has been mentioned – seems to be thinking about the fact that we don’t necessarily want to be here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad now to be here and have met you and a whole lot of other wonderful people, but if I could have found the opportunities to support my family and grow professionally in Mexico, I can assure, as sure as it’s light outside, that I would not be here right now.
Soon, if it’s not successfully challenged in higher courts, you will start hearing of cases of American Citizens being harassed by immigration officers and – it’s happened in the past, during the Bracero program of WWII – you might even have American citizens “deported” to Mexico, just because their last name is Hernandez or something and they have dark skin.
A friend of mine – who was working illegally in California – told me once “You know, this immigration issue is really easy to solve: they could just force people to provide documentation to cash your paycheck. Nobody would go to the US if you couldn’t collect your pay”. That’s what they could do if they really wanted to deal with the issue, instead of using my people to score political points. Yes, there would be ways to get around that, but it’s always easier to tighten controls around money (and I say this as a CPA and former auditor for 9 years) which leaves an un-erasable trail, than this law that reeks of racism, bigotry and hatred.
The funny thing is, that I care so much about my people, and they don’t even speak Spanish to me. They don’t think I’m one of them.
I can’t think of a whole lot to add to this assessment, and think it’s got a lot worth considering as we discuss this hot-button issue. The last sentence in general is particularly concerning to me: that in rejecting many of the immigrants in question, we’re creating a class of people unwelcome anywhere. That prospect disturbs me, especially since many of the individuals in question are here simply out of the need to feed their families.