Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Illegal Immigration: perspectives from a struggling conservative

I struggle with illegal immigration. Let me explain.

Two of my sons attend a local Catholic high school for boys. We celebrated the freshmen liturgy last Sunday, and it was beautiful: the boys’ choir, I estimate 100 strong, were nothing short of amazing. The young men all looked fresh and hopeful in their shirts and ties. The main celebrant was upbeat and compelling. Then his homily punched me in the face.
They came to Capernaum and, once inside the house, he began to ask them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” But they remained silent. They had been discussing among themselves on the way who was the greatest. Then he sat down, called the Twelve, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to be first, he shall be the last of all and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35

Father’s point concerned the quest for fame and recognition so many share in our society. Whether seeking recognition as a great artist, writer, actor, sports figure, political leader, or perhaps on a more parochial level, in our quest for advancement and recognition in our chosen careers or ministries, “fame” is important for so many. If we are being honest, for many, blogging is a manifestation of that desire, and this blog is no exception in some ways. Yet in the Gospel reading this Sunday Jesus immediately points out the futility of our desire to be first, greatest, famous: He calls us who desire it to be servants to all. Even illegal immigrants.


He brought up the President’s speech to the joint session of Congress and spoke of the “Liar” outburst from Senator Joe Wilson. He stated that in the bill Obama referenced there would, indeed, be no health coverage for illegal immigrants, and quoted factcheck.org as a source. Whether reliable or not, the point is immaterial to the claim Father then made: if we are to live as Jesus calls us, we should not only offer health coverage to illegals, we should offer them the BEST health coverage available. The homily equated the status of illegal immigrants in the U.S. today as similar to the powerlessness of children in the time of Jesus; he stated that if Jesus told us then that whoever received a child received Him, in our day the illegal immigrant could be inserted in that statement.

In my work as a missionary I am familiar with many illegal immigrants. Some I consider personal friends. That said I must make sure I am clear that these thoughts are about illegal immigration, not illegal immigrants. Nit picking? I think not. The former concerns society. The latter concerns individuals. I respect the fact that a society has the right to choose who may or may not enter its borders and build a life. I understand that resources are finite. I am a father of nine children; if a family of six suddenly moved in to my home looking for help getting on their feet, no matter how well-intentioned our efforts to assist might be, I just don’t have the resources or space to care for seventeen people. As a Christian nation, as we believe ourselves to be, we must take a realistic look at our resources, wealth, space, available jobs, and many other factors to determine our capacity to allow those seeking a chance at improving their lot in life entrance into society. I believe we have the resources. I believe our borders are too tight. This opinion is in opposition to the opinion of many political conservatives, of which I number myself, yet I continually consider what I would do if my family was limited in its potential to rise from poverty and escape violence and political persecution: I would do whatever necessary to enter the borders of this nation. Inevitably, my thoughts return to individuals. Is that what Jesus would expect of me, of us as a nation?

I wish I held that conviction with greater strength than I do; it makes me continually uneasy.  Perhaps conservatism and Christianity don't always walk hand-in-hand...?

10 comments:

  1. Absolutely they don't, David. Glad to see you saying it.

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  2. praised be Jesus Christ!
    Now and forever!

    Well said..
    We must be concerned for all..
    but we need oil for our lamps too,
    like the virgins awaiting the bridegroom..

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  3. Over the past few years, I have changed my view on illegal immigration. One of the reasons is what you post about here - we need to receive others as Christ. (And after all, the Holy Family was an immigrant family when they fled to Egypt.)
    Now that I am really listening to the information on illegal immigration, I am surprised to find how much I need to learn.
    I recently went to a diocesan conference on peace and justice and a speaker talking about illegal immigration rattled off a bunch of interesting stats, one of which really surprised me.
    For example, areas that have hired immigrants actually saw the economy in their area improve. And those who deported all the illegals and refused to hire any, saw their economy slow down to the point of businesses closing etc. Seems that these immigrants often pay taxes for one thing. Also, many of them go on to start their own businesses which help the economy and create jobs. When illegal immigrants are kept away, businesses close because they have lost their customers! And there is no growth in business, etc.
    Seems like those who help others often help themselves. The first shall be last and the last shall be first.
    Sorry for being so long on this comment. God bless!

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  4. I just wrote this long comment and Blogger had a problem posting it. Maybe I was too long winded!
    I will keep it short. I have changed my views on illegal immigrants for a reason you mention here - we need to receive others as Christ.
    I also have learned some interesting stats - seems that areas that hire illegal immigrants find an improvement in economy and those who deport them, find a slow down in their economy.
    I guess those who help others also help themselves. The first shall be last and the last shall be first. Thanks for this post. God bless.

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  5. Blogger is acting a bit wierd today, Colleen...I have had some difficulty posting, too. Anyway, the long comment did come through! Thanks for affirming my thoughts. God bless.

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  6. Colleen's points are not necessarily so. I've spent a lot of years on this issue and spent several in the Border Patrol also. Statistics can be used to prove ANYTHING on BOTH sides. You have to be careful also about using the economy as your benchmark for the health of a nation and it's people. All that said, I'm not arguing against immigration here, legal or illegal, just bringing up that you can see what you WANT to see in anything to make it "fit" into what you already believe. It's tricky to be truly objective without politics or sentiment getting in the way.

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  7. Absolutely - case in point, my brother cited a website that claimed illegal immigration to be the cause of hundreds of hospital closures in California. But the sites were slanted, and didn't report the effects of HMO's, seismic retrofitting laws, the effect of increased competition and technology costs, and other stats that indicate that the problem is multi-faceted.

    And yes, it is funny that I am on facebook, although painfully un-funny to my teenaged children who find this incredibly gross. Therefore I love it.

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  8. What the heck is going on with blogger? Some things post, others not...I suspect the Illuminati are working in cahoots with Opus Dei to sabotage the internet. I'm calling Dan Brown.

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  9. You been reading Malachi Martin too? LOL (I ahven't noticed any problems lately, but have in the past).

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  10. Malachi Martin...maybe its the JESUITS!!!

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I am always interested and appreciative of your comments and thank you for taking the time. God bless you.