Discussing
The illogical injustice of Alabama's immigration law

Jenny Yang

Thomas Morgan
November 29, 2011

So your saying if you don't like the comment you will not post it, sounds pretty liberal to me. The article would have meant more and had more meaning had it come from a person other than a liberal.

Mara
November 29, 2011

Alas... Comedians attempting to enter Canada illegally are blocked by our comedy immigration police LOL. Any Canadians wanting to view Colbert without the blackout can go to the following link:<br><a href="http://watch.thecomedynetwork.ca/#clip558287" rel="nofollow">http://watch.thecomedynetwork....</a><br>Colbert and your article do a good job of stating the facts. We would all do well to remember that unless our ancestors are truly native to North America, we are all immigrants. Many of the Mexican and Guatemalan people being accused of being illegal probably have ancestry that goes back longer on the continent than the people who are trying to kick them out.

Josh Larsen
TC Staff
November 29, 2011

Hi Thomas,<br><br>Would you care to elaborate on your comment? At TC, we don't seek out contributors because they are "liberal" or "conservative," but rather for their ability to offer a Christian perspective on the topic at hand. If you have an opposing view on Alabama's immigration law that also comes out of your understanding of the Christian faith, we'd encourage you to share it.<br><br>Thanks,<br>Josh Larsen<br>TC editor

Charlie
November 29, 2011

Christians...non-Christians. Citizens...non-citizens (or immigrants). <br><br>Do non-Christians get to enjoy the benefits of life in Christ and by the Spirit? No.<br><br>Should non-citizens get to enjoy the benefits of life in this country? No.<br><br>Should we, as Christians, do all we can to help those who are hungry, thirst, in need of clothes, etc., regardless of status? Yes. <br><br>Alabama is doing what the federal government won't take the time to do. I'd much rather see this kind of policy start small and grow bigger. Much of the same happens in our churches. We see things start small and grow, be it in individual members or whole bodies of believers. It's difficult for me to see how us enacting laws that protect citizens is "morally repugnant." Despite how many illegals we've deported in the last year, how is that a sign of progress? There are still millions of illegals taking advantage of scholarship programs, social security benefits and welfare, all at our cost. Alabama's goal is not "to deny hardworking families the means to live." Rather, their aims, I believe, are to make citizenship something to be valued. <br><br>It's a pretty bold statement to blanket all immigrants as brothers and sisters, in my opinion. I'd be very careful making that kind of snap judgment. I'd also be careful in limiting the church's ability to spread the gospel to immigration reform. <br><br>Point of information: you're not in favor of states cracking down on immigration reform, yet you're in favor of the federal government doing so. Hmm...

Jason Erik Summers
November 29, 2011

Charlie,<br><br>It is not clear that states ought to enforce national borders; just as it is clearly not appropriate for states to stand their own militaries. This was debated extensively by the founders (cf. the Federalist Papers). It's not simply a case of, "the federal government isn't doing its job, so we states will have to step in..." as it might be in a company or a church. Differentiated responsibilities matter very much in this case.<br><br>Moreover, I think the broadest concern over the Beason-Hammon act is state overreach in the other direction: making illegal acts of conscience by churches and other groups.<br><br>js

JCarpenter
November 29, 2011

Perhaps some perspective from Alabama farmers, liberal or conservative, Christian or non, might be important.  Know any?

Rickd
November 29, 2011

I’m inclined to be sympathetic towards the plight of illegal immigrants and I probably agree with many of the sentiments of the author, but the language just makes me a little angry. It feels like propaganda. The author constantly uses the term immigrant, never ILLEGAL immigrant. America’s problem is with ILLEGAL immigration. I love immigrants, my grandparents were legal immigrants. They filed paperwork, and became citizens. There is no sympathy here for the border states who feel the effects of a flood of illegal immigrants which strain social services and increase crime. Where is the federal government, the Obama administration, in this? They are ducking their responsibility Big Time! America was always called the great melting pot, the statue of liberty asks for your “tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free”. But what of the immigrants who don’t want to melt, who don’t want to learn English or assimilate into the culture. Who would rather be under Sharia law than yearning to be free? It was always presumed of the immigrants in Israel that they would assimilate, worship Jehovah and learn the customs. Israel never encouraged immigrants to establish separate enclaves that maintained their worship of Baal and their alien customs. This feels more like a polemic. God loves all immigrants, legal and illegal...these are dear people...fathers, mothers, valuable workers, tax-payers. However we still have to have sane border and immigration laws and one-sided polemical arguments aren’t all that helpful. I have to laugh when I hear the Roman Catholic Bishop say the law “attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church.” I would bet Southern Baptists, the majority Christian Church in the south, doesn’t share that same “core understanding”.

Mara
November 29, 2011

Rick you seem to be under the assumption that these families want to be American. When I was a child growing up in rural Canada, many of these same families, and work crews made their way up North to pick tomatoes, tobacco, detassel corn, and harvest whatever needed doing. The farmers had cottages built for them to stay for the season and they would make their way back south for a different crop somewhere in the States when they were done in our area. They would send money back to family in Mexico and South America. The crews from Mexico, etc had harvesting down to an art and worked as a team. They knew the craft, which fruit to take and which to leave and could pick a field mid-season without damaging a half ripened crop. These people wanted work not welfare. <br><br>Americans go to other countries to work quite a bit because they have something to offer. I don't see this is much different. Approximately 30% of teenagers quit detasseling corn the first day out because they can't keep up or take the heat. <br><br>If God calls a group of people to work the land and blesses them with the strength and patience to do so day after day, should we not look at empowering them to do so rather than hindering their work in American fields. Otherwise the food itself will be grown in Mexico.<br><br>There used to be a term "Migrant Worker". What happened to that? Or is that a Canadian phenomena?

Jamesggilmore
November 29, 2011

<i>It's a pretty bold statement to blanket all immigrants as brothers and sisters, in my opinion.</i><br><br>Why? Are they not fellow human beings, our brothers and sisters in humanity, deserving of basic respect, compassion, and rights?<br><br>Are many of them not Christians, your brothers and sisters in Christ, equal to you in every way at the table of fellowship, their names in the Book of Life in the same size print as yours?<br><br>They have broken US laws in coming here in search of a better life, and for that you label them "illegals," as if that is their entire ontological existence. Do you similarly label those who have committed other infractions against the law—like, say, speeding, trespassing, tax evasion, or shoplifting—permanently as an "illegal"? Have you followed each and every local, state, and national law your entire life, or are you also an "illegal"? (Did you buy anything on the Internet last year without declaring and paying your state's use tax when you filed state income taxes? If so, you're an illegal too, taking advantage of the state's benefits without paying your fair share.)<br><br>Your lack of compassion for those who are in this country without documentation—who, contrary to your assertion, do pay taxes, each and every time they go to the store, each and every time they pay their rent (part of which is property tax), and each and every time they are paid above-the-table—is rather troubling. This lack of compassion is displayed not just in your advocacy for public policies that are punitive towards people who are here to work hard and win a better life for themselves and their families, but in your apparent disdain for them as human beings and your desire to label them as ontologically, essentially "illegal" simply for having the temerity to exist in a place you'd rather they not exist in.

Todd
November 29, 2011

Food rotting in the field because "Americans" won't pick it.  Well, when they get hungry, they will start working.  When people get hungry, and the hand outs stop, they will work.  On another note, isn't unemployment over 11%?  And there is food rotting in the fields because "Americans" won't work to pick it.  Looks like the solution to two problems - stop illegal immigration to put Americans back to work.  2 Thes 3:10 "For even when we were with you, we gave yo this rule: "If a man will not work, he shall not eat."

Wmrharris
November 29, 2011

Several comments are in order. <br><br>To speak of these, our neighbors, as illegal serves to hide the situation rather than clarify it. Once I've labeled them then I have the excuse not to look at them, to see them. Yet the reality is more complex, as Newt Gingrich acknowledged a few nights ago: what do you do with some one who has invested 25 years of his life in a community, in his church, building a home and a family? In what sense is a person like this "illegal?" Or take the young people attending college or desiring to serve in the U.S. military -- what ever "illegal" means, it pales in the off-setting virtues of their life. <br><br>If we seek a term, the correct term is "non-documented." <br><br>Secondly, it is difficult to say that the present administration has done nothing when it has in fact deported far more than the previous one (as noted in the original post). <br><br>But all this stumbles when it comes to the Church. Scripture is clear that we are to be judged by how we treat the stranger in our midst. When a political faction indulges in xenophobia, we must prophetically state "that is not the Gospel." When Caesar acts foolishly, we must likewise state the fact, and point out there are other, wiser paths to take.<br><br>

Jamesggilmore
November 29, 2011

<i> The author constantly uses the term immigrant, never ILLEGAL immigrant. America’s problem is with ILLEGAL immigration. </i><br><br>That's because people cannot be "illegal," unless you're going to suggest that <i>anyone</i> who has broken the law is now "illegal." Have you exceeded the speed limit, or made an online purchase you didn't declare on your state income tax form and pay the use tax for?<br><br><i>I love immigrants, my grandparents were legal immigrants. They filed paperwork, and became citizens. </i><br><br>On one side of my family, I have "illegal" immigrants... some of my great-great-great-etc.-grandparents were among the first settlers on this continent. They didn't have the permission of the local Native American nations to settle here; they just took the land. I think it quite ironic that a nation almost entirely descended from people who came over from Europe to steal land, or whose ancestors (or they) bought their land from those who did so, now wants to put up a fence around it to say "no more."<br><br><i>America was always called the great melting pot, the statue of liberty asks for your “tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free”.</i><br><br>Those two statements have nothing to do with one another. The first, "melting pot" bit, is all well and good until you consider this nation's really dark history of excluding the folks they didn't want melting in the pot—Chinese, Irish, Italians, just to name a few, and now Latino/a people.<br><br><i>But what of the immigrants who don’t want to melt, who don’t want to learn English or assimilate into the culture. </i><br><br>I agree. Immigrants should assimilate. So why isn't your post in the Ojibwa language you learned from your grandparents?<br><br><i> Who would rather be under Sharia law than yearning to be free?</i><br><br>Who would rather live under Amish rules, or holiness Christian rules, or Hasidic Jewish rules, than yearning to be free?<br><br>Also, since when did the conversation turn from undocumented Latino/a immigrants to immigrants who follow conservative Islam?<br><br><i> It was always presumed of the immigrants in Israel that they would assimilate, worship Jehovah and learn the customs. Israel never encouraged immigrants to establish separate enclaves that maintained their worship of Baal and their alien customs. </i><br><br>Ancient Israel also was an explicitly ethnically- and religiously-linked nation, which had a monarch (not a democracy), amid a number of other ethnically-homogenous nations, in the first millennium BCE. The United States has always been ethnically and religiously heterogenous, with protections for religious pluralism in the highest law of the land, and is a democratic republic to boot.<br><br><i> I have to laugh when I hear the Roman Catholic Bishop say the law “attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church.” I would bet Southern Baptists, the majority Christian Church in the south, doesn’t share that same “core understanding”.</i><br><br>If the Southern Baptists' understanding of what it means to be a church doesn't include the idea that Christians all stand as brothers and sisters before the lord—as people forgiven, neither Jew or Greek, male or female, white or Latino/a, American citizen or immigrant—then I question whether their understanding of what it means to be a church is in any way compatible with Scripture or the teachings of Christ.

Rickd
November 29, 2011

Mara, I am not assuming most of these people want to be Americans. My Norwegian immigrant parents wanted to be Americans. I assume most of these people who are here illegally don’t want to be Americans. I have no problem with migrants with green cards and neither should anyone else. They have made their intentions clear and are simply Mexican citizens here temporarily to follow the farm harvests and they do a great service. The problem is with the millions who have crossed the borders illegally. They don’t want to be part of the great melting pot experience, they don’t want to speak english, they don’t want to learn american history or culture. They want to be Mexicans who enjoy the wages and benefits of America. Of course, that is a broad genralization and not true of all, especially the children. I grew up in California and my best friend's last name was  Santana. His dad, a legal immigrant, became a fireman, then the mayor of our city. Anglos were nearly a minority in Hayward but we never thought much about people with hispanic surnames, they were citizens just like us. I had several hispanic girlfriends. They owned houses, spoke english, drove Buicks, played football. Quite different than those who are here today illegally. I believe we need to find a quick and convenient path to citizenship for all who have been here for quite a while, who want to be Americans or have joined the armed services, as Reagan did and as Newt Gingrich is proposing. At the same time, we need to strengthen our national borders and Mr. Obama needs to get involved.

Jason Erik Summers
November 29, 2011

Mara,<br><br>Migrant workers still do exist, as they did in my (American) childhood of not so long ago. There are far fewer now, in part because of more sophisticated equipment on farms. But not all crops can be harvested by machine (e.g., sweet cherries or lettuce). The other reason, then, is that there are too few temporary worker visas (H2-A in this case <a href="http://www.dol.gov/compliance/guide/taw.htm)" rel="nofollow">http://www.dol.gov/compliance/...</a>. U.S. immigration policy is simply out of step with the needs of the job market.<br><br>In this respect it is amazing how economic realities open the mind...Despite Rick's claim above, those in the south who need immigrant labor or benefit from the dollars they spend are indeed open to increased immigration.<br><br>As an example, when I lived along the gulf coast for a few months a few years ago I would stop by a local laundromat. The proprietor there was big fan of the then nascent tea party and when he and I talked about politics he would express his enthusiasm for Sarah Palin (he even loaned me her book), lost American values, and the like. But his biggest customers were seasonal construction and agricultural workers from Mexico. Faced with economic realities, he learned Spanish, kept the television tuned to Telemundo, made Spanish signs, etc. And, over time, he learned to respect and value their work ethic that was much like his own, and to support their ability to work in the U.S.<br><br>Perhaps, as a knowledgeable autodidact of history, he was also helped in this as he recalled the foreign-language newspapers that still flourished in his parents' adulthood, and perhaps recalled the Italian-language churches still in the Bronx, or the degree to which marriage certificates were, like my grandparents', issued in German by American Lutheran churches---realizing that a desire to watch Telemundo or eat gallo pinto is not so un-American.<br><br>js

Bethanykj
November 29, 2011

I'm guessing the bishop was referring to the numerous passages of the Bible that mention caring for foreigners. Deuteronomy 10:17-19 is one example. It's my understanding that Southern Baptists believe in feeding and clothing the hungry and offering them the word of God. Am I wrong about them?

Mara
November 29, 2011

You should definitely keep us Canadians out. <br>We might try and force some extra vowels on you, eh?Maybe some French... We have 2 official languages up here.I know you secretly want to be Canadian. ;-)  Doesn't everyone? <a href="http://youtu.be/mWQf13B8epw" rel="nofollow">http://youtu.be/mWQf13B8epw</a><br><br><br>

Rickd
November 29, 2011

Of course they believe in feeding and clothing the hungry. My guess is that they also love their Mothers. I just know that Southern Baptists highest value is the salvation of souls. As is most conservative fundamental evangelical Christians. These are not mutually exclusive values and I mean no insult. However I would wager that southern Baptists are substantially more politically conservative and supportive of strong immigration laws.<br><br>Bethany, I would hesitate to use Deuteronomy as a defense of compassionate, equitable treatment for immigrants. Immigrants could have no leaven in their house during passover or they would be cut off, they were required to assimilate, give up their religion and follow Judaism. Immigrants were required to adopt the levitical laws, yet they had few rights regarding property. Strangers could not be in government “thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.” Immigrants could be charged interest, Israelites could not. Immigrants could not date or marry Israelites. And realize these draconian laws for immigrants only applied to certain strangers, woe if you were a Hittite, Perizzite, Hivite, Jebusite, Amalekite, you had no right to live.<br><br>I support an easier immigration path for immigrants, I support social services for the immigrant, equitable and compassionate treatment, but I also believe that if you desire to be in America that you should assimilate into the culture, learn the language, learn the history, obey the laws.

Rickd
November 29, 2011

Guys, I am not the poster boy for anti-immigration. I may be a fundamentalist evangelical Christian but when it comes to immigration I am a flaming liberal in my camp. I am on the Reagan/Newt Gingrich/Perry end of the spectrum on this issue. <br><br>For those trying to use the Old Testament as a support of ethical treatment of immigrants, I suggest reading it in more detail. For the few immigrants that were allowed to live, life was pretty harsh. I think James and I agree here though for different reasons.<br><br>James, if you are in a country illegally, it affects every area of your life. If you are from Syria trying to stay in England illegally it becomes the most important issue of your life, even driving you to pay money for documents that will change your identity. I suppose that makes illegal ontological. Fear of deportation defines everything you do or don’t do. It is not the same as someone who speeds on occasion or doesn’t pay a downloading tax. But I’m sure you know that.<br><br>And what is your point about throwing in “Ojibwa language”. That is a reductionist game that we could keep playing backwards till we get to Cain and Abel. Should those earlier realities somehow prevent us from coming up with sane, sensible immigration laws and policies today? Or is that rhetoric?<br><br>Are you arguing against assimilation, or adopting an American identity? As many European countries are finding out, strict multiculturalism as a social value creates ghettos and rips apart countries, creating countries within countries, or balkanization.<br><br>I agree completely with the statement that Christians should all stand as brothers and sisters before the lord—as people forgiven, neither Jew or Greek, male or female, white or Latino/a, American citizen or immigrant—then I question whether their understanding of what it means to be a church is in any way compatible with Scripture or the teachings of Christ. As any Southern Baptist would (which I am not). However, that is different from the Archbishop of the Catholic church saying that the Alabama law dealing with ILLEGAL immigration “attacks our core understanding of what it means to be a church.” The laws say nothing about preventing a spiritual relationship.<br><br>I believe in giving free food and medical care to poor illegal immigrants until a better solution can be arrived at. And here the church could have a real impact. I also believe in formulating strong immigration laws and protections, not just wholesale deportation as Obama is doing.

Rickd
November 29, 2011

What is this “correct term” business? You are either a legal immigrant or an illegal immigrant and there is a world of difference. Somehow saying “non-documented” doesn’t quite cover the act of spending your life savings hiring a greedy murderous guide to be smuggled into a foreign country in an over-crowded truck in the dead of night, risking death in the desert and then living in fear of the government, your employer, an informer or the police for the next few years. The legality issues affect every aspect of your life. You could lose your home in an instant, lose your belongings, lose your family even under the most liberal of immigration laws. You become an easy target for criminals. Obama has deported 1.3 million immigrants (and that is NOT a solution). You don’t simply lack documentation. You are an illegal immigrant. We HAVE to come up with an easier path towards legal immigration and more compassionate policies for dealing with the illegal immigrant, who may be our brother or sister in the Lord.

Jason Erik Summers
November 30, 2011

Rick,<br><br>My point above is that the "melting pot" is a fantastical construction. If it existed as we sometimes imagine, it is hard to understand the degree to which immigrants retained their cultural traditions. If speaking English at home, driving American cars, and playing American football is requisite for desiring to be an American, then I'm afraid many Americans will not meet the criteria; certainly many of our ancestors in this country.<br><br>The issue with temporary labor is that there are simply not enough visas relative to the demand. Thus some of the labor is done by those without visas (those here illegally). Protectionist policies harm American business by postulating American workers that do not exist while preventing the ability of those foreign workers who actually do exist from legally holding the jobs.<br><br>This has changed over the years: as Americans have become wealthier and better educated the need for foreign labor has increased even though the percentage of jobs that require low skill has decreased. It might be nice to imagine Americans will do low-wage labor because of high unemployment, but evidence suggests otherwise.<br><br>js

Bethanykj
November 30, 2011

I read this article to say that the Alabama laws are making illegal some actions of basic human kindness. The author writes "Most alarming to the Christian community is a section of the bill that <br>would criminalize certain behavior related to transporting, harboring or<br> shielding unauthorized aliens, which would criminalize ministries for <br>picking up undocumented immigrants for church or providing services to <br>immigrants through thrift stores."<br><br>Arguably, many of the activities made illegal by this particular law actually prevent immigrants from assimilating, such as attending school where you can learn the language, history and laws of the country.<br><br>I don't see a problem with the author trying to promote sympathy toward foreigners in our country, regardless of their documentation status.<br><br>Also, our country celebrates the heritage and contribution of many ethnic groups who have been here for generations. The town I grew up in, for instance, hosts a tulip festival celebrating our dutch founders. My childhood church was the first english language church in the city. Does this mean the dutch immigrants in Holland, MI resist and resisted assimilation? I am sensitive to the plight of recent immigrants, because I believe they have plenty in common with my own ancestors.

Rickd
November 30, 2011

Again, I am not a supporter of this particular law, My issue is with the attempt to frame the issue as a problem with immigrants, as if us second and third generation immigrants have suddenly become xenophobic. It is the language of this article I have a problem with, The issue is ILLEGAL immigration, those who spend all their money on a murderous coyote who packs families like sardines in the back of a truck, smuggles them across the border in the middle of the night, busting through a border fence and leaving them to risk death in the desert, victimization by other criminals, and a life in the shadows afraid of Obama’s power to deprive them of house, family and job. That is called illegal immigration. LEGAL immigration is a happy event, quintessentially American and should be made easier and more accessible. People here with work permits and green cards should be welcomed and encouraged as well. As I say, my immigrant neighbor two doors down became the mayor of our town in California. To jason's point, the melting pot was a concept, an ideal, perhaps short of a reality. My grandfather changed our Norwegian family name from Fatland to Clare at Ellis Island because he felt it sounded more American. My mother shortened my Scandinavian name from Eric to Rick. Misguided and unnecessary perhaps (though very common), but legal immigrants were buying into a dream called America. I agree with you that immigrants should be assimilated. However, if we are going to assimilate ILLEGAL immigrants then we might as well have no borders or immigration laws. I do not want to see ethnic ghettos and the virtual balkanization of America. I am hoping for common ideals and an aspiration for the American dream, however we define it. But if you simply want a free for all, no national borders or immigration regulation and the proliferation of foreign colonies on American soil, then I guess we just disagree.

Charlie
November 30, 2011

Homeboy, don't twist my words around. My statement should have read, "It's a pretty bold statement to blanket ALL immigrants as brothers and sisters IN CHRIST, in my opinion." <br><br>Your argument as to the label of "illegal" is completely invalid. If you're not a citizen of this country, then you're here illegally, therefore you're an illegal citizen. And no, that is not their entire ontological existence. That's a far stretch. Again, don't mince words. Just because some have broken a law, either intentionally or not, does not make you an "illegal." Being an illegal citizen is far beyond breaking a law or two in your lifetime. <br><br>And finally, read my post again. The fourth line reads as such: "Should we, as Christians, do all we can to help those who are hungry, <br>thirst, in need of clothes, etc., regardless of status? Yes." I have nothing but love for people, regardless of where you call home. I've never degraded or showed a lack of compassion for these illegal citizens (because that's what they are if they are here without documentation, bud). I'm fine if they want to be here. I'm fine if they contribute to our society. But they need to go through the proper channels. <br><br>Also, I believe that all throughout the New Testament, we are told to adhere to the laws of the land, unless they conflict with God's law. How does blatantly disobeying the laws our country has set up honor God, then?

Wmrharris
November 30, 2011

I agree with you, Rick, regarding the centrality of legal status for the immigrant; my thinking was heading in a different area. In our contemporary political discussion, the notion of being "illegal" is used as a justification for a set of rather draconian responses to the immigrant (Alabama being a poster child, but by no means the sole offender here). <br><br>Along with rhetoric, there is the presumption of guilt in the term "illegal."  I would think that illegality is something that is adjudicated, but without a trial, can any one be considered "illegal?"  <br><br>I think for these two reasons, those of rhetoric and of legalisms, we are better off using the term from other literature (e.g. the OECD), that of "non-documented."

Jcarpenter
December 2, 2011

or Canadien, oui?  :?)   My name was Carpentier several generations ago . . . .

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