I’ve been doing a little thinking about the current immigration debate. The two main lines of argument that seem to be dominating discussions are as follows (in broad strokes).
Illegal immigrants are hard workers who just want a piece of the American pie and are willing to do jobs that Americans aren’t willing to do. Leave them alone.
Illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes and heavily burden America’s educational and medical services. They’re also a security risk. Kick them out.
I think both are right and both are wrong.
Let’s start with the first. I agree that most illegal immigrants are hard workers that do jobs others won’t do. Some have argued that others won’t do them because they’re demeaning, low-paying, and offer no health benefits. This may be true, but it’s a red herring. The point is that some people are humble and driven enough to do them. There are plenty of poor Americans who burden our social programs by refusing to do unpleasant jobs. Instead of cursing the darkness, illegal immigrants choose to light candles. However, I think those in favor of guest worker programs are trying to have their cake and eat it too. We can’t extort work from the downtrodden and not give them the same compensation we give citizens. Equal work should result in equal pay and benefits.
Looking at the second argument, I do believe that illegal immigrants are burdensome, but as an essentially Judeo-Christian nation, we should welcome those burdens and share of the wealth God has allowed us hold for a while. However, that doesn’t mean that illegal immigrants should be left as they are. We may welcome them and willingly shoulder their burdens, but that doesn’t mean we can do so indefinitely. Compassion doesn’t come without a price tag and there is indeed a security risk associated with porous borders. The answer isn’t to close up our borders more tightly, though. Rather, we should make legal immigration easier by ditching quotas.
This nation was founded and made great by immigrants, not all of whom were legal. Let’s let more of them in so that they can continue to help America be a great nation of hope and prosperity. When listening to the main lines of argument about immigration, I can’t help but wonder when our nation abondoned the ideals represented by the Statue of Liberty. On the base of that great symbol of our nation is a portion of the poem "The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.
Addendum: I’ve decided to add some bits of Scripture related to immigrants and foreigners to see how they affect the debate in the comboxes.
"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." – Exodus 22:21
"You shall not oppress a stranger; you know the heart of a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt." – Exodus 23:9
"When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God." – Leviticus 19:33-24
"For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who is not partial and takes no bribe. He executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing. Love the sojourner therefore; for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt." – Deuteronomy 10:17-19
"You shall not oppress a hired servant who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brethren or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns; you shall give him his hire on the day he earns it, before the sun goes down (for he is poor, and sets his heart upon it); lest he cry against you to the LORD, and it be sin in you. You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge; but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this. When you reap your harvest in your field, and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow; that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat your olive trees, you shall not go over the boughs again; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. When you gather the grapes of your vineyard, you shall not glean it afterward; it shall be for the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow. You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt; therefore I command you to do this." – Deuteronomy 24:14-15,17-22
"’Cursed be he who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’" – Deuteronomy 27:19
"Thus says the LORD: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place." – Jeremiah 22:3
"The LORD watches over the sojourners, he upholds the widow and the fatherless; but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin." – Psalm 146:9
"Father and mother are treated with contempt in you; the sojourner suffers extortion in your midst; the fatherless and the widow are wronged in you. The people of the land have practiced extortion and committed robbery; they have oppressed the poor and needy, and have extorted from the sojourner without redress." – Ezekiel 22:7,29
"(the sojourner has not lodged in the street; I have opened my doors to the wayfarer);" – Job 31:32
‘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 hireling in his wages, the widow and the orphan, against those who thrust aside the sojourner, and do not fear me’, says the LORD of hosts." – Malachi 3:5
"Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy each to his brother, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor; and let none of you devise evil against his brother in your heart.’" – Zechariah 7:9-10
"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’ Then he will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it not to one of the least of these, you did it not to me.’ And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." – Matthew 25:31-46
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares." – Hebrews 13:2
"Beloved, it is a loyal thing you do when you render any service to the brethren, especially to strangers, who have testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey as befits God’s service." – 3 John 1:5-6