The Sojourner

“Then I will draw near to you for judgment. I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, against the adulterers, against those who swear falsely, against those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me, says the Lord of hosts.” -Malachi 3:5.

Honestly, I could write about 10 posts on that one – but I only have time to write one today. When it comes to theological matters and divisions in the American church, I find that the more “conservative” groups (church groups, mind you) tend to be right more often. That is, they tend to hold unashamedly to the gospel and the difficult messages in it, without fear of consequences. When this observation starts to unravel (and it does often enough), politics are usually involved. Many an organization of good, God-fearing folks  has been corrupted by the politics of the day.

That’s what brings us to today’s post. One area where I am confounded by the ceding of moral high ground by “the right” is on the issue of immigration … “the sojourner in the land” as the old King James puts it. There are millions, literally millions, of people in this country illegally who have come here to flee deplorable living conditions in their homelands and attempt to make a better life for themselves. Our attitude toward such folks ought to be “come on in”. It isn’t though. Instead we make some nonsensical claims about “these people don’t respect our laws – they broke them by just coming here”. Look guys, when you’re fleeing oppression, pain, and death, you really don’t care about picking up a speeding ticket along the way.

It is at this point that the twisted logic of the political conservatives begins. Let’s consider a few arguments, shall we?

“These people don’t respect our laws” – we already covered that one.

“Criminals are coming across the border and causing havoc for law enforcement and the citizenry.” We’ve created a wonderful atmosphere in which those who come here with honest intentions and those who come here with nefarious intentions must follow the same path (likely through the Arizona desert). This argument basically leads to throwing the baby out with the bath water. If we were willing to let the good, hard-working types in then maybe we could be a bit more discerning with those having criminal pasts. But as long as the door is slammed shut, the good and bad will continue to flow in by the only means possible.

“They don’t speak the language” – then they should learn. With the exception of the Irish and English, most European immigrants in the last great boom didn’t speak English either. But their kids learned to.

“They are putting an untenable strain on social programs” – GOOD! maybe we’ll get rid of those ill-conceived attempts to “help” people and look for a better solution. Don’t get me started on the “those who oppress the hired worker in his wages, the widow and the fatherless” portion of the Malachi quote. I only have time for one post. I will say that the conservatives are missing a golden political opportunity (one that carries, in my humble opinion, the benefit of being on the right side of the moral debate). If pro-immigrant groups will agree with us to end all federal-level social programs (particularly welfare, but medicare, medicaid, and social-security also have their problems though supposedly not directly wealth-transfer programs and should probably all be scrapped), then we will agree to open up the immigration policy to let folks in. (No need to end the state programs – people can vote with their feet.)

For those who’ve read this post, you know that I’m pretty libertarian on a lot of things. I think the war on drugs has created an environment in which drug dealers prosper and entire political systems of South American countries are turned upside down due to a huge profit opportunity in exporting narcotics to the US. Violent crime rises, and all in the name of making people do the “right thing”. Great harm has been caused by our moral crusade. Similarly, great harm has been caused by our border/immigration policies and “thrusting aside the sojourner”. When people can’t come here legally they’ll find another way – their conditions are utterly untenable. How many people are forced into narcotics transfer as a means of getting to the US – and they become enslaved to the drug cartels and street gangs? How many women are forced into sexual slavery by the very people who promised to get them to the US? (That ought to get me a few amens from the ladies.)

As you well know I’m ardently and unapologetically pro-life. But, I would like to borrow and modify a slogan from the pro-choicers (if nothing else, they have good PR people). We need to “keep immigration safe and legal.” And those of us on the right, in the church-world, ought to reach out to the sojourner, and thereby honor our Maker. Wouldn’t we want somebody to welcome us in if we were fleeing unlivable conditions to make better lives for our families? “So whatever you wish that others wold do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” – Matt 7:12 (ESV).

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5 Responses to The Sojourner

  1. Jessee says:

    I agree with you wholeheartedly, but suppose we were to open the borders to anyone and everyone who wants in. Do border communities have the infrastructure to support the sudden population growth? And when I say infrastructure I mean housing, utilities, schools, law enforcement, etc. Transitions like this are tough for immigrant and resident alike. What should the people/government do to make the transition easier?

    • nomasir says:

      Jessee,

      Sorry for the delayed response … kids (I blame just about everything on them). First, a technical point – I don’t think we should let everyone in. American citizens have pretty heavy “presumption of innocence” rights that potential immigrants do not. We would certainly want to apply a reasonable screen to such things as criminal record.

      As for infrastructure, yes, it would be a difficult transition. Although, I’m not sure just how many more people would come (from Mexico anyway) than already are here. I would guess that other countries (such as India) would see a rather large spike in immigration to the US. But, this would be fantastic for the US. We’d be getting all of the most capable workers who just want a shot to make it on their own. As for infrastructure, the economic growth from the influx of effective work forces would afford us the ability to build more infrastructure. The place it gets tricky, in my mind, is limited resources such as water. We may have to push some technology forward (like desalinization). But, these challenges don’t daunt me.

      I think PEOPLE (and here I usually mean “the Church”) have a great calling / responsibility to make the transition easier. To help “the sojourner” fit in an be a part of society. I don’t think it has to be anything more than a welcoming environment though. Somebody to let the immigrant know “you are welcome here, let us know if we can help get you pointed in the right direction”. Like I said, with no more federal social programs they would have to be coming here with the intention of working for a living. (OK, they could have a few other intentions – so law enforcement would have to be at the ready – but economically I still think we’re ahead.)

  2. Eric says:

    I thought this was, as usual, a very interesting post. I also agree with most of it… which is less usual :). Of the arguments that you mention, I have heard one in particular, “‘They’ don’t speak the language,” often enough to find it tiresome. The response, in my mind, is, “What is ‘the’ language?” What one language is essential– and *legally mandated*– for normal societal function in the United States, particularly in places like Arizona, south Texas, etc.? English? From a perspective of simple technical merit, English seems to me rather obviously broken, derivative, inconsistent– and thus more difficult to learn than many other languages, including Spanish, which is likely the language most relevant to this discussion.

    Yet even from a more practical perspective, there are a large number of people, many of them legal citizens of this country, who, for example, speak Spanish because they want to, and English when they have to, usually for the benefit of those of us less willing or motivated to make similar effort. How many people complaining most loudly about this issue are similarly multilingual?

    It’s enough to make me start blogging…

    • nomasir says:

      Yeah, my wife (Native American for those not aware) loves to point out how none of the white-men spoke “the language” when they got here either. From a “freedomist” point of view (when I say “libertarian” folks ascribe views to me that I don’t hold) I don’t see a legal mandate to speak English. Lots of immigrants who didn’t speak English (and never learned) typically forced their kids to learn English. This was really pragmatic though – English was THE language to speak if you were going to be profitable. That may well change with a large enough segment of Spanish-speakers.

      On the one hand, I’d say that the government shouldn’t be required to maintain multilingual capabilities for official business. Then again, if I had my way the federal government would do A LOT LESS official business, making this a real small issue.

      Ultimately it’s a small point. If English were established as the “official” language, then I see no trouble making a cursory understanding a requirement for citizenship. However, citizenship is not the bar for the Christian in the context of “thrusting aside the Sojourner”. People are people, and we should treat them as such. A point my friends on the right often miss with their, in my opinion, nonsensical justifications for a closed border and immediate deportation.

  3. Kristin says:

    I agree , but a path to citizenship as Reagan eloquently put it. It is not that they DESERVE a right to live in America and not pay taxes. Yes, they are leaving desolate conditions many of them and they suffer greatly, but there is also what is right.

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