“I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else” – C. S. Lewis
I was at a birthday party this weekend for a friend and, oddly enough, the topic of politics and government policy came up. I have a
bad habit of talking about things you’re not supposed to talk about in polite conversation.
One of the topics that seemed to get the least cordial smiling as it bounced around the room was illegal immigration. Naturally this rolled around in my head all weekend and resulted in this post.
The Simple Answer: You Were Once An Illegal Alien …
The first answer I usually provide in the discussion of illegal immigration is the notion of kindness to foreigners living in the land. Consider Deuteronomy 10:17-19
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.
God tells the Israelites to remember that they too were outsiders when they lived in Egypt all those years, and that they should not shun the foreigners.
I’m typically struck in the immigration debate by how much of the argumentation from the “right” boils down to a defense of “white America” – as if we weren’t once immigrants to this country; immigrants that could have been stomped out by the native population but instead were largely allowed to live unmolested. Now, the fact that we are a nation of immigrants is not by definition a reason to have open borders, and I’m not saying we should. I’m merely pointing out that the angst directed at many illegal immigrants (or immigrants in general) from the right is out of bounds.
The illegals came here oftentimes because they were fleeing deplorable conditions in their home countries. The least we can do is make sure that whatever their business here, they are afforded simple legal protections from oppression. When we push them outside the law they are often taken advantage of by opportunists looking for cheap labor (or worse).
Make Good Arguments; and There Are Good Arguments …
When you have good arguments to make, you should make them. It frustrates me to no end when there are well-based points to make about an issue and folks turn to the most trite, “red-meat” type of derisive arguments. For instance: “they have no respect for our laws, they came here illegally.” Stop it, they fled oppression. Rambling on about respect for laws is absurd in the face of human calamity. (By the way, when you speed to work this morning, what does that say about your “respect for our laws”? I would say it means that you value your time more than you value some dictate of a legislator who probably breaks the very laws he passed. And that’s fine by me; and fine by the illegal immigrants too – who value their time, and their very lives, more than US immigration policy.)
So what is a good argument on the point of stopping illegal immigration? I would begin with 1 Cor 7:23 – “You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings.” Slavery. I think the question of illegal immigration, and a proper opposition to “amnesty” should begin with slavery. I don’t here mean outright, bound-in-chains slavery. No, I mean something more subtle, but quite the same depending on how you squint at it.
In the early days of American slavery we saw some people (the landed-gentry) appropriate for themselves the lives and labor of foreigners (captured Africans). As a side note: this isn’t quite the same as slavery in Biblical times; consider Paul’s admonition to “not become slaves” – people were selling themselves into slavery. By human terms, at least they were selling something that was their own, their very lives. This, of course, is Paul’s point: that their lives are not their own but the Lord’s, and they shouldn’t sell what belonged to the Lord.
While there is still some of this form of slavery going on in America (though not landed-gentry-versus-expropriated-Africans), what I’m more interested in for this post is the soft-slavery of majority rule. We once lived in a republic, where a man’s freedoms were given some manner of defense above majority-rule. Sure, any freedom can be taken away by 2/3 majority in Congress and 3/4 of the state houses (that’s a constitutional amendment) but this is a difficult condition to broach. We have trended toward democracy over the past 100 years or so, where the majority can do just about anything they want to through various previously sanctioned mechanisms such as taxation and spending “for the general welfare”. (Remember Chief Justice Roberts’ argument for Obamacare? It’s just like a tax-and-spend program for the general welfare.)
It is in this new majority-rule world where we see the “majority” voting for themselves the lives of other men. When the majority votes itself a share of my paycheck, a share of the productive labor of my day, it is voting for itself a share of my life. The majority is voting for itself a slave, at least in some percentage of your life (what’s your slave percentage?).
Side note: in light of Deuteronomy (and many other verses of scripture) where the Lord commands the Israelites to be kind to foreigners because they were foreigners, I am always flummoxed by the overwhelming support for majority-rule-slavery by African Americans. You’d think that the group most impacted by this country’s historical slavery would oppose enslavement. But I digress …
It is in this context that opposition to amnesty for illegals, and making the border air-tight, makes perfect sense. When we live in a country where individual rights are subject to majority enslavement at a moments notice, then we have every reason to be trepidatious about allowing new members into the slave-master class.
This argument is obviously conditional. There is a way to remove it. If we simply moved away from majority-rule slavery, and restored a man’s rights to life, liberty, and property – the right not to be enslaved by a vote – then I’d see no reason to oppose an open and flowing immigration policy. Heck, even amnesty, but only if there is no risk of slavery. Otherwise, I must refuse to become (even moreso) the slave of men.
Even still, there is some middle ground that keeps us from becoming slaves of (new) men, but affords those men reasonable legal protection from oppression.