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?
Lady Liberty has a conundrum. What should she do with those who heeded her call, illegally? What do we do with the undocumented immigrants currently here? Do we deport them? Are we morally obligated to embrace them? Are we truly our brother’s keeper? To answer the aforementioned queries we must first lay out two suppositions.
First, human beings should never be described as illegal. One may commit an illegal act but one’s existence is never, in the eyes of God, illegal. This labeling process historically facilitated the legitimacy for horrific atrocities ranging from the Holocaust to Rwanda, Cambodia and Serbia. Human beings are made in the image of God, therefore they cannot be illegal. As a pro-life advocate, I personally find it hypocritical that the same “Family Values” voters who vociferously defend life in the womb seem so inclined to label another human as illegal.
Second, the answer is yes. We do carry a spiritual and moral obligation to help even those who came into our country illegally. Our Judeo-Christian heritage demands it, our history supports it, our ethos endorses it and our future requires it. Let me explain. Leviticus 19 and Matthew 25 provide the theological framework for the moral obligation that requires us to look at these undocumented individuals via the prism of grace and compassion.
As a Christian, I am obligated to assist those in need in the same spirit of the Good Samaritan. The problem really centers on the lenses we use to view our world. If I view the immigration issue via the lens of political ideology, then I will view those around me either through the spectacles of Glenn Beck or Rachel Maddow.
However, If I wake up in the morning and I begin to view the world not as a Republican, Conservative, Democrat, or Liberal, White, Black or Latino but rather as a child of God, then the world around me emerges as a stage of opportunity for mercy, compassion, renewal and hope. Tolerance becomes my moniker, charity my beacon and justice my aspiration.
Let me be clear. We must stop all illegal immigration. We need legislation that will protect our borders, put an end to all illegal immigration, create a market driven guest worker program and facilitate avenues by which the millions of families already in America that lack the legal status can earn such status in a manner that reflects the Judeo-Christian Value system this nation was founded upon.
But here lies the challenge; can we reconcile Leviticus 19 and Romans 13? Can we repudiate xenophobic and nativist rhetoric, push back on the extremes from both the left and the right and converge around the nexus of the Center Cross where righteousness meets justice, border security meets compassion and common sense meets common ground?
Yes, and here’s how. We should allow the millions of undocumented and otherwise law-abiding persons living in our midst to come out of the shadows. The pathway for earned legal citizenship or temporary residency should involve a program of legalization for undocumented persons in the United States, subject to appropriate penalties, waiting periods, background checks, evidence of moral character, a commitment to full participation in American society through an understanding of the English language, the rights and duties of citizens and the structure of America’s government, and the embrace of American values.
We must return to a rational immigration policy that acknowledges that we are both a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. It is our obligation to provide a just solution to those people who are currently undocumented under the present policy. That solution is neither amnesty nor mass deportation. A just, rational policy would put otherwise law-abiding undocumented persons on one of three paths: One path leads to pursuing earned legal citizenship or legal residency, one leads to acquiring legal guest-worker status, and one leads back across the border including a swift process for the deportation of undocumented felons.
For at the end of the day, Lady Liberty still stands tall with a message for the world to read, “‘Give me your tired, your poor,Your huddled masses yearning to breathe..” The moment we cease to be our brother’s keeper, we cease to be America.