Q: Illegal immigrants are flouting U.S. laws, but does affluent America (or Arizona for that matter) have a larger moral or spiritual obligation to help illegal immigrants who are trying to better their lives? What about religious obligations to welcome the stranger? Are we our brother’s keeper?
While I don’t thank God for being an American, since I don’t believe there’s a God to thank, I do appreciate some humanistic biblical passages, like Luke 12:48, “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
I recognize how fortunate I am to have been born in a country and into a family where I had ample opportunities to attain a decent education and standard of living. What should we do about those to whom much is not given, whether born in this or another country? Those opposed to helping illegal immigrants also seem less charitably disposed toward some of our least fortunate Americans.
(To give but one example, Americans who want to abolish estate taxes use the misnomer “death taxes,” and have as a silent mantra, “To whom much is given, much more should be given.” Passing tax-free wealth to the next generation of family members who have been financially privileged since birth is nothing more than welfare for the rich. In fact, any estate can provide more than adequate tax-free support for family members, as long as the remainder of the multi-millions goes to charitable causes.)
As bad as things are for some of our poorest Americans, they are worse for illegal immigrants, who live in the shadows of our bountiful American plenty. As a humanist, I believe I should be my brother’s and my sister’s keeper. It is pure chance of birth that many of us, myself included, are not sneaking into other countries to find jobs because our own country can’t provide the work we are willing to do to feed our families.
We cannot open our borders to everyone, but we can provide a rational process consistent with available jobs. We know we can employ millions of illegal immigrants, because we already do. They are grateful for even the most menial jobs (dishwashing, farm work, lawn care). Further, the status of illegal immigrants keeps their wages so low that most Americans think such work is beneath them.
Some Americans take pride in having pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. Let’s at least give immigrants some bootstraps with which they can pull themselves up. It’s the humanistic thing to do and, I believe, a precept in most religions.