Posts Tagged ‘immigration law’

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, I examined and reacted to several sections of Jenny Hwang’s recent guest column in Christianity Today titled “Arizona’s Border Crisis“. Specifically, I focused on those issues raised and hypothetical scenarios given that could impact not only the illegal immigrants themselves but their families and the churches/organizations who minister to the needs — spiritual & otherwise — of the illegals and their families. In this third post, I wanted to say a bit more about the concerns raised and address the larger issue of the proper Christian response in these matters.

Columbian children playing games

First, let’s return to the article — specifically, the very first paragraphs, which say:

In January, I ate at the home of an immigrant family in Phoenix in which the dad recently became a Christian because of the hardships he has endured while living in the U.S. The undocumented immigrant father has been attending church every week to draw closer to God because he lives in fear of being separated from his two young children, who are U.S. citizens. He feels torn about living in the United States illegally, but he also feels that God has called him to stay in the United States for a reason and struggles every day to reconcile those two feelings.

This man considered moving his family back to Mexico because life was so hard in Phoenix, but was concerned about his two young children who would go back to a country they never knew. They fed us generously with freshly made tortillas and pulled pork as the children ran around the yard, yelling at each other in a mix of Spanish and English, much like the children of any immigrant parents who grow up blessed by knowing two cultures.

During the same visit, my colleague met an undocumented immigrant woman named Maria whose son was killed by a drunk driver; she cannot press charges because of her undocumented status.”

The first thing one thinks is, “Oh, those poor souls. They are good people, just trying to make it through their already difficult lives. These terrible laws that make them hide their illegal — I mean, undocumented — status just add to the stress and threaten them and their families.”

Maybe the father left an even more dangerous or difficult situation back in Mexico, maybe not. Either way, he knew what he was getting into, or at least had a good idea, when he decided to cross the border illegally. So did Maria, who tragically lost her son. They knew the risks. They must, therefore, be prepared to deal with the difficulties of living where they are not supposed to be. Because they did not seek citizenship through legal channels, they do not get the benefits and privileges of living here as legal residents or naturalized citizens.

Of course, Ms. Hwang and others use these kinds of stories to pull at the heartstrings, stir the readers’ emotions, so that they are primed to “stand up for the oppressed” against those who would cause them pain. This is the rhetorical technique called “pathos”. Don’t let yourself be manipulated by it.

You may think I’m being cold, that I’m insensitive to the plight of many immigrants who flee to the U.S. for any number of reasons, but mostly to make a better life for themselves and their loved ones. But, I’m not. I understand it very well, and if I were in their shoes, I might decide to risk it, too. Nevertheless, if you do the crime, you should be willing to do the time, pay the fine, endure hardship on you & your loved ones, or some combination thereof. It’s the price you pay. We are all responsible for our actions.

Immigrants caught climbing border fenceI think part of the difficulty some people have in taking this seriously is that the crime in question seems so harmless by itself. In fact, people take great risks and pay all they have (usually to “coyotes”, who smuggle them in and often demand more payment once here) to come over. They just want a better life, after all. But, there are good reasons for a sovereign state to want to monitor and limit those whom it lets in, especially for permanent residence and to partake of the freedoms and protections and other benefits in a democratic, free-market nation like the United States. Even if the immigrant in question is not guilty of past crimes, it seems to me that the first step in proving s/he is ready to assimilate and abide by the laws of the nation they want to become a part of is to follow the laws for getting in. (As my soon-to-be sister-in-law is doing.)

I understand the desire to help these people — i.e., those whose only crime was to cross the border without proper documentation. (I’m ignoring any minor violations of traffic safety or civic regulation, for now.) And, I especially understand the desire of churches who feel they have a duty to help those in need, etc. But, what if it was a different crime? What if the individuals in question were all guilty of theft? Or, fraud? Would you still feel obligated to help them avoid the authorities? Should a church help such individuals become integrated into the local community? (In fact, one could argue that illegal aliens living & working in the U.S. are guilty of fraud & theft, since they often obtain fake identities and take advantage of things like free healthcare and education, which are funded by taxpaying citizens.)

One might be tempted to bring up the biblical example of the Hebrew midwives who lied to Pharaoh about why they wouldn’t/couldn’t kill newborn Hebrew boys, because it served a higher purpose. Or, similarly, Corrie Ten Boom and her family hid Jews in their home and lied to the Nazis. In both cases, they were breaking the law in order to help the “oppressed”. But, these are not good analogies or valid excuses. Remember, the laws in question were by evil & corrupt rulers/governments and demanded that the babies/Jews be put to death (or, possibly, sent to horrible concentration camps, in the latter case).

Or, one might refer to New Testament instruction to love your neighbor, minister to others, etc. (Even to your enemy, to some degree.) Don’t these illegal immigrants qualify for this humane treatment? Shouldn’t good Christians help them out, too? Well, yes and no. It’s one thing to provide someone with a hot meal, treat wounds and/or sickness, maybe even give them a blanket or clothing. Those are immediate needs for basic survival. But, ongoing aid would be wrong. To my mind, it would be akin to aiding & abetting a fugitive. (Do churches get special privileges when it comes to giving aid & comfort? Something classified under “sanctuary” or some such thing? I don’t know.)

Church buildingUltimately, I suppose, it’s a matter of conscience, but that conscience also needs to be properly informed and prepared to pay the penalty. If someone knowingly shelters illegal aliens in their basement, or transports them somewhere with the intent of helping them stay longer as undocumented residents in the U.S., for example, they have no right to cry foul if they get caught, fined, jailed, and/or their vehicle impounded. We are a nation of laws, and those laws must be heeded, whether you think they are stupid or unfair or whatever. For Christians, I think the N.T. makes it clear that we are to obey the laws of the land unless those laws require doing something clearly contrary to God’s moral laws. It would have to be pretty clear and pretty serious, and I don’t think helping illegal aliens to remain here illegally meets those conditions. The better course of action is to work within the system to improve the laws and make it easier for decent, hard-working people who want to become Americans (and not just take advantage of living here) to immigrate here legally.

Then, we can greet our new neighbors with open arms, open hearts, and open homes.

—–

Agree? Disagree? Think I’m an uncaring clod? Am I thwarting the Gospel? Care to add something I left out, or posit a different argument? All (civil) comments welcome…

In my last post (Part 1), I examined some of the issues brought up by Jenny Hwang in her recent Christianity Today article, “Arizona Border Crisis”. So far, I’ve been less than impressed with her research and reasoning. Let’s continue…

This law should trouble conservatives because it greatly broadens the government mandate and could add a fiscal burden to the state. In some studies, for example, the setup and operational costs of having local and state immigration enforcement programs has been $4.8 to $5 million a year. Also, many churches that minister to immigrants by integrating them as the newest members of society may be charged with carrying out unlawful activity.”

This is an odd paragraph for a number of reasons. What does she mean, exactly, about this law broadening the government mandate? It does put some more responsibility on Arizona law officers/agents, but it’s certainly within their purview as members of Law Enforcement. Essentially, they are picking up some of the slack, due to the federal government’s apparent (intentional?) apathy on the matter. Financial considerations are certainly appropriate when budgeting resources, I agree. And large programs & projects do cost a lot of money. When it comes to enforcing the law, though, I would think safety/security and justice should take priority. Plus, by just throwing those numbers out by themselves, she isn’t really making much of a case. (I’ll address that third sentence in a moment.)

Illegal Immigrant at Church

Illegal Immigrant at Church (borrowed from NY Times)

And, again, the problem isn’t with immigrants, per se. Ours is a nation of immigrants, after all — the Great Melting Pot. The problem is with those who decide it is OK to break our nation’s laws to get here and then complain when we have the nerve to punish and/or send them back. Those are the risks you take.

…While the majority of Americans want to end illegal immigration, targeting families and churches that are ministering to the strangers in their midst is a step backward in addressing illegal immigration by preventing the integration of the newcomers, restricting the churches’ ability to share the Gospel with these new neighbors, and deterring focus off of effective solutions that will fix the broken immigration system.”

I could be wrong, but I really don’t think there are grounds to say that families and churches are being “targeted”, as in legislators conspiring to use enforcement of immigration law as a means of harassing immigrant families and interfering with the work of the churches that minister to them. I doubt that anyone’s sharing of the Gospel was in mind when crafting the bill; nor were they thinking “Let’s bust up some Latino families and cause them some misery!” I don’t read minds, but I’m pretty sure. Alarming readers of these “unintended consequences” borders (pardon the pun) on fear-mongering. As I’ve pointed out in Part 1 and earlier posts/comments, most of the proposed scenarios for potential harassment and arrests of church & family members are unfounded. And, if the “newcomers” arrived here illegally, then their integration should be prevented, before family & societal ties become stronger, which is precisely the kind of thing liberals (and tenderhearted conservatives) point to as a reason for granting amnesty.

In the early 1800s, when Irish immigrants were coming in boatloads to America’s shores, they were scorned and discriminated against, and encountered many difficulties finding jobs.  Many stores had signs that said ‘No Irish Need Apply’ in their windows. These new Americans were initially not welcomed because they were different from the Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Americans who had settled the land before them. When we look back on previous immigrants who came to the U.S. and consider the unwelcoming environment to which they first arrived, it is also important to remember that these immigrants’ descendants are considered full-blooded Americans who integrated and contributed to our country in immeasurable ways.”

The fact that they were “scorned and discriminated against” is, indeed, shameful. I would add that the anti-Irish attitude was not just because they were “different from the Anglo-Saxon, Protestant Americans” that preceded them but also because they were seen as competition for the existing jobs. Sadly, that’s an “immigrant issue”, no matter where they come from; but, it’s really beside the point, here. Those immigrants (for the most part) came over legally and (for the most part) did their best to assimilate and become productive members of American society, which is why their descendants had the opportunities to make the wonderful contributions that they have.

Let me try to give the short version of her argument… Nineteenth-century Irish immigrants to the U.S. were scorned and discriminated against, just like today’s Hispanic (and other) immigrants. Those Irish immigrants had descendants who became productive American citizens, just as today’s immigrants will. Therefore,… what? We should be lax with our immigration laws and ignore whether or not immigrants are here legally or not? Why? So we have the opportunity to share the Gospel with them, perhaps? That’s a non sequitur. Even if the Irish immigrants in question came here illegally, OR if the law was anti-immigrants in general, Ms. Hwang’s implied conclusions just do not logically follow. (If I’m missing something or misrepresenting her case, please let me know.)

This new Arizona law highlights the need for the White House to lead, and for Congress to enact, comprehensive immigration reform that will increase border security, provide more responsive legal avenues through which future workers can come to the U.S., and require undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. to earn the right to stay in this country while paying appropriate penalties.”

On this, at least, we can largely agree. I’m all for the White House showing leadership on this matter, as long as it is responsible leadership that respects our immigration laws and the principles behind them. Increased border security is definitely an immediate needed. I’m not sure what Ms. Hwang has in mind for these “more responsive legal avenues”. Eliminating some bureaucratic red tape could be helpful, for example, but I hesitate to promote making American citizenship easily attainable. It is a privilege, and those not fortunate enough to have been born here should be willing to go through some hoops to gain it.

It is amazing to me the number of people who seem to think that anyone should have the right to go live wherever they want. It’s a naive view of the world that seems to be ignorant of things like national/state sovereignty and national interests, economic considerations, etc. And, once here, many seem to think that the government owes them, that they are entitled to many rights & privileges. Gee, I wonder who gave them that idea…? (Any of them ever tried slipping into Mexico or Cuba or China and demanding, like, anything? “Sure, buddy, here’s some gruel and a cold, rat-infested, 6×6 cell. And if you complain, consider yourself volunteered for the next public execution.” The nicer countries will probably just ignore you and let you fend for yourself.)

As for that last bit, I’m glad Ms. Hwang added those last four words. I’m not for blanket amnesty (obviously), but neither do I think every illegal immigrant should just be kicked out of the country forthwith without regard for things like family status, criminal record (or lack thereof) both here and in their native country, employment history, job skills & education, “extenuating circumstances”, etc. I would probably be more strict than Ms. Hwang, but perhaps some sort of multi-point system can be developed to determine who goes, who stays, who spends time in jail & how long, who pays fines & how much, etc.

When it comes down to it, the first commonsense step in such “reform” is to enforce the laws, federal and state, that are already in place. And that’s exactly what the new Arizona law is trying to do.

As for Ms. Hwang, I hope her other writings are better researched and more carefully reasoned and written.

My final comments are now available in Part 3.

Almost everything you read these days about immigration law, especially the recently-passed Arizona legislation, has to do with what exactly does the law say, is it racist, what does “reasonable suspicion” mean, will good citizens be unfairly targeted and inconvenienced, will immigrants’ rights be abused, should law enforcement officers “waste” their time trying to identify and arrest illegals, etc. But, there are other concerns to consider, as well.

immigration law protests

Protests over immigration law

As author Jenny Hwang puts it in her article “Arizona’s Border Crisis” in Christianity Today‘s guest opinion column (5/12/2010), “I have read the entire Arizona law and fear that there will be many unintended consequences that will impact not only hundreds of families in Arizona, but also Christian ministries and churches that serve immigrants in Arizona.” Ms. Hwang addresses some of the usual issues, too, which I & others have commented on in previous posts/comments. What I would like to do now, though, is look at what Ms. Hwang has to say on the issues concerning families and ministries and make a few comments of my own.

The implications for churches and Christian ministries will also be substantial. The bill defines ‘smuggling of human beings’ as the ‘transportation by a person or an entity that knows or has reason to know that the person is not lawfully in this state.’ Therefore, a local group like Neighborhood Ministries, led by Kit Danley in Phoenix, or a church that picks up an undocumented immigrant for Sunday services, could be charged with a misdemeanor and have their van impounded. If, for example, a church volunteer picks up a group of 10 immigrants, he or she could be classified as a felon and incur a $1,000 fine for each immigrant in the van.”

Note that the word “illegal” (or “undocumented”, to use the politically-correct term she uses elsewhere) has been omitted from this last sentence — twice. Based on the sentence just before it, I will assume this was merely an oversight and not a subtle attempt to have people think that even legal immigrants are considered contraband by the law.

There are approximately 3.1 million U.S. citizen children in families in the United States with at least one undocumented member. In Arizona, these mixed status families could be arrested if driving together. A wife whose husband is undocumented could be charged for driving with her husband to the grocery store.

The law also states that it is unlawful to ‘conceal, harbor or shield an alien from detection in any place in Arizona, including any building or means of transportation.’ If the government of Arizona interprets helping an immigrant with legal services as an attempt to ‘shield an alien from detection,’ or having immigrants worship together on Sundays as ‘harboring an alien from detection,’ many churches in Arizona will be engaged in unlawful activity.

While many groups that support the law have said that it would not necessarily target churches, the language is so broad that there will likely be unintended consequences that could deter well-meaning individuals and organizations from engaging in the very acts that they feel compelled to carry out because of Christian love or duty.”

Let’s go back to that first paragraph. To begin with, the legislation makes it clear that the person or vehicle in question must already have been stopped, detained, or arrested for some other crime or civil offense, before the matter of one’s immigration status can even be investigated. Since I don’t feel like getting into this again, let’s assume that a traffic violation has been committed.

When I read the above definition of “smuggling of human beings” from the bill, it definitely gave me pause. That really needs to be amended, I thought to myself, to take into consideration the purpose and destination of the transportation of said illegal(s). I always understood “smuggling” to involve bringing something from one place into another where it is illegal or forbidden, often for commercial purposes. The given scenarios are not of anyone transporting contraband, either across a border or subsequently to a buyer or user of such “goods”. Running errands or driving to church with an undocumented resident in the vehicle should not be treated as “smuggling.”

Then I read the relevant section (4) of the House Engrossed Senate Bill from which Ms. Hwang got the quote. First, her quote is actually an abbreviated paraphrase of the text, but she got the gist of it. Second and more importantly, the primary and central sentence (subsection A) of the section reads, “It is unlawful for a person to intentionally engage in the smuggling of human beings for profit or commercial purpose.” Bingo! That tells me that the bill recognizes only transportation for certain purposes as “smuggling”, and the examples Ms. Hwang gave do not fit those conditions. (Unless, of course, the LEO has reasonable suspicion that they were not going where they said they were going.)

Problem is, this isn’t the most up-to-date version of the bill. I know Ms. Hwang is aware of the amended version passed on Apr. 30, because elsewhere in her article she makes reference to certain of the changes made. But, apparently, she didn’t double-check the section about smuggling. If she did, she wouldn’t have found it, because it was removed in the April 30 amendments. (I guess legislators felt it was sufficiently covered in other sections of the bill.)

What about the “conceal, harbor or shield” concern? I seriously doubt that any reasonable reading of the law would consider the scenarios given by Ms. Hwang to be examples of shielding or harboring an “alien from detection.” When I read that section (6) of the law, it seemed clear to me that it refers to things like hiding an illegal in your basement or tool shed when the cops or INS show up, or throwing a blanket over the illegal riding in your truck. Plus, the line immediately above, which talks about transportation, includes the qualifying phrase “in furtherance of the illegal presence of the alien in the United States.” Going to, or worshiping at, church hardly qualifies. Furthermore, subsection A begins with, “It is unlawful for a person who is in violation of a criminal offense to: “, which essentially reiterates that there must have already been a crime/offense committed and a stop/detention/arrest underway before the matter of immigration status can be pursued.

I’ll address Ms. Hwang’s statements about targeting churches and “unintended consequences” in Part 2.

And here’s Part 3.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer

As some may already be aware, a new bill (or amendment?) was passed on Friday, April 30, that changes the recently-passed Arizona immigration law. According to the L.A. Times,

Lawmakers on Thursday night changed the language to require scrutiny only of people who police stop, detain or arrest [while enforcing another law. The wording previously referred to a more ambiguous “lawful contact”.] They also changed a section of the bill that barred officers from ‘solely’ using race as grounds for suspecting someone is in the country illegally; opponents had argued that that would allow race to be a factor. The legislators removed the word ‘solely’ to bar race from being used by officers enforcing the law….

[They] also added a provision extending immigration enforcement to local ordinances [i.e, reasonable suspicion in such cases can also trigger questioning], which critics warned could permit police to check the immigration status of people guilty of nothing more than a poorly tended lawn.”

These improvements address many of the concerns, but there are still “issues” and most opponents are still complaining that it is not enough and that racial profiling will still be a big problem. (Some lawyers are filing suits on the grounds of the law being unconstitutional, but that’s baloney.)

Personally, I’m not so sure I like the idea of removing the word “solely” from the wording. In fact, it seems a backwards move to me. Here is the line in question:

…may not solely consider race, color or national origin in implementing the requirements of this subsection except to the extent permitted by the United States or Arizona Constitution”

With the word “solely” in there, it made sure that law enforcement couldn’t pick on Hispanics, for example, simply by virtue of being Hispanic. With “solely” removed, the case could be made that “race, color or national origin” can never even be factors under consideration (but for clearly constitutional allowances). The phrase that comes to mind is “throwing the baby out with the bathwater”.

What do you all think?

* On a lighter note, does anyone else find it humorous that Gov. Brewer‘s maiden name is Drinkwine?

Have you seen some of the signs held by those protesting the new Arizona immigration law? They say things like “We have rights!” and “We are human!” Well, nothing in the law allows for inhumane treatment of anyone. (Of course, illegal immigrants do have fewer rights precisely because they are NOT LEGAL citizens — or, even residents — in this country.) So, these people are either ignorant of what the law actually says or dishonest about its implications. Honestly, you’d think Arizona was gonna round up all the Hispanics and throw them in an internment camp! But, this kind of “poor us, we are so oppressed” thinking is ridiculous!

Arizona Protesters with "We Are Human" signs

Protesters against Arizona immigration law (Monica Almeida / NY Times)

Arizona’s lawmakers and its governor are just trying to reinforce the law and the idea that illegal entry is indeed a crime and punishable as such by law. What a concept! If people, including LEGAL immigrants, want somebody to yell at, try the federal government, who let the situation get so bad in the first place. (Yes, that includes prior administrations, not just Obama’s.)

I won’t get into it all, but I do have a few thoughts on the immigration mess and, in particular, the new law passed in Arizona.

1) Ninety-five percent of those crossing illegally into Arizona from Mexico are, indeed, Mexican. If those being asked about their citizenship status are Mexican, then that’s certainly not untoward discrimination as far as illegals go. If the problem were hordes of red-headed Irishmen, that’s who would be questioned. That’s called playing the odds, which leads to my next point….

2) Generally speaking, “racial profiling” has become a racially-charged term decried by civil rights protesters. But, is this fair? Law enforcement (and everyone else) knows, for example, that modern terrorists are predominantly (by far) of Middle-Eastern extraction — and, in particular, devout Muslim. So, identifying terrorist suspects will by nature involve “profiling” those that fit the description. (That’s what “profilers” do, for cryin’ out loud, to narrow the list of suspects!) By the same token, if a cop is already confronting someone over illegal activity and they fit the general description of someone guilty of another crime, he/she has every right to demand valid identification. This is not open license to hassle anyone who looks a certain way just because you feel like it, and measures do need to be taken to make sure law enforcement — whether agencies, departments, or individuals — doesn’t become “overzealous”, just because most of the criminals they deal with share a certain appearance. Beyond that, profiling based on whatever characteristics make sense for a particular type of crime is reasonable.

3) According to anthropologists, Hispanics are part of the “Caucasoid” race. They are not their own race any more than Jews are. These are better called “ethnic groups” or “ethnicities”. Many forms (e.g., the Census) consider both groups Caucasian, too. So, how does this law or any immigration crackdown have anything to do with “racism”? And, lest you accuse Arizona (or anyone else) of “ethnic profiling”, please re-read #1 and all but the first two sentences of #2.

4) If you listen to President Obama or the ACLU or even some conservative politicians (e.g., Marco Rubio) and news shows (e.g., Fox News) that should know better, you would think the new Arizona law allows for law enforcement officers to approach and hassle anyone just for speaking Spanish or having brown skin. Wrong! The law actually specifies that a “lawful contact” take place first. This could be anything where an alleged crime (other than illegal entry into the U.S.) has been committed — e.g., domestic violence, drug trafficking, robbery, bar fight, etc. It also applies for certain traffic violations, like speeding — often an indicator of more serious infractions. The cop can demand they produce some form of valid, government-issued ID that indicates the individual is legally in Arizona (and, thus, the U.S.). Failing this, the individual may be subjected to additional questioning. If the officer believes he/she has probable cause, they can make an arrest.

5) The law makes it a crime for an illegal immigrant to be in the U.S. That is, it is illegal to be illegal. Someone who has committed this crime shall now be treated as a criminal. How about that! If the federal government had been doing its job, the leaders in Arizona wouldn’t have felt it necessary to enact such an “obvious” law. But, it wasn’t, so they did. Good for them.

6) My advice to the legal immigrants (who shouldn’t have an issue with this) is to stay calm, stay friendly, speak English, and cooperate. That’s it. If you panic or do something stupid or suspicious, you’ll just cause yourself more problems. (Same goes for anyone, regardless of race or ethnicity, of course.) And don’t listen to the Leftie activist groups and individuals. They either haven’t got a clue, or they’re purposely trying to rile you up and cause racial & ethnic tensions, which keeps them in business. (Yes, Al Sharpton, I’m talking about you. And the ACLU. And many in the mainstream media. And….)

End.

UPDATE 5/2/2010:  As LD said in a comment below, a new bill (or amendment?) was passed on Friday, April 30, that already changes this new law. See my new “Update on Arizona Immigration Law” post for more.