[This is the last in a series of posts to probe thinking and responses on this issue. Click to access Parts 1 & 2. Keep thinking, stretching, learning and growing.]
6) Consider fear
Any time you have a group of people who have no recourse to due process means you have less freedom as a country. That’s why we rationally need to address what to do with the 11+million people who are here illegally: We do not want a permanent underclass.
The human temptation to exploit is too real for us to take this lightly. Employers who know workers won’t complain will be tempted to abuse them. Landlords who know tenants are at their mercy can become derelict.
Moreover, you do not want a group of people who view the police with suspicion or the government as the enemy. This is common sense. But for someone who is afraid of being deported, the officer’s uniform is to be feared.
Another glimpse of life: An American woman fell in love with and married a Mexican man who was here illegally. They had several children and opened 4 restaurants in the Midwest. He was deported, and they have not seen him since. The children are growing up without their father. The wife has lost 3 of the restaurants. And the government adhered to the letter of the Law and oversaw the destruction of a family, jobs for dozens of servers, and great places to eat.
This is one story of many. It seems to me that we are better than that as a country. Yes, if that person had not been here illegally there would have been a different outcome. But, that person was an integral part of the flourishing of his community. Is deportation really the best solution?
7) Consider Scripture & the Gospel
Three quick thoughts from Scripture.
“Sojourners in your midst.” There are several references in the Law of Moses to the treatment of sojourners. It’s always with a view to their protection and the extension of mercy to them. God is saying that a people who please him will take care with those who are aliens and most subject to danger: When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with 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. (Lv 19:33-34) This verse is but an example of the heart of God: take care to be kind, just and compassionate to the sojourner.
“Do unto others what you’d have them do to you.” Jesus is stark here in Matthew 7:12. It’s true. It’s convicting. And, it’s just this simple. If I lived in a violent place with no future prospects, would I want a neighboring country to invite me in to do the back-breaking work (i.e., mutually beneficial) or not?
Extending grace always beats exacting justice. This is hard for us, because there is just so much injustice in the world. But, with the Lord, an open, gracious hand always trumps exacting justice to the letter of the Law. A country that will deny grace to those needing it will find less grace abroad in its land. A county that extends grace—even if, for a time, it is taken advantage of—is a country where grace will continue to grow.
This is not “throw open the prisons, because we show grace.” No. People ought to be held accountable for their wrongs. But, by now we have seen that with change of status, with dishonest handlers, with extreme poverty in the home country and ready jobs here, with employers hiring people who are undocumented (anchoring them here)… well, there’s so much more nuance than simply to call everyone ‘illegal’ who is undocumented. And to treat everyone en masse.
The thing about grace is that it is uniquely a divine trait. Only God originates grace. Every act of grace on earth has the same source. Therefore it is in never-ending supply. The more grace you give, the more grace you have to give, and the more grace is in play. This works on the level of countries, too. Think of the after-effects of World Wars 1 & 2: After WW1, The Treaty or Versailles exacted extreme reparations from Germany, and set the stage for another war 21 years later. After WW2, the Marshall Plan for Europe (and its equivalent for Japan) saw the quickest turnaround of destroyed enemies into vibrant allies that the world has ever known. It was a display of grace in the political sphere.
Can we think there is a grace-filled solution to our problem? Do we think we have to support deportation or else we’ll be denying the rule of law? Is there a creative third-way through this dilemma? I think so.
Consider each person as a person with dignity and potential. Consider each person’s past: (a) the universal longing for a better life, (b) their status (which is not ‘one size fits all’), and (c) the contribution they’ve made since they’ve been here. I think on balance, we can figure out a way to address their immigration status in a way that upholds the rule of law, while seeing the potential increase they bring to our country.
Based on these considerations, might God grant believers like you and me a different outlook than what Left or Right are serving up?