Dr. Paul J. Dean Christian Blog and Commentary

Immigration and Public Policy, I


Immigration is a topic of discussion these days as the number of illegal immigrants into this county increases at an almost exponential rate. With that increase comes an increased risk of terrorists, drug dealers, and other criminals streaming into this land unchecked. With eleven million undocumented immigrants currently living here, this issue is no doubt a serious one and cannot be handled casually, particularly if one holds to a Christian worldview. What is the Christian response to this problem? In answering this question, at least two broad issues are raised. Those two issues include public policy and biblical perspective.


The first issue is that of public policy. Congressman Bob Inglis was our guest on "Calling for Truth" Monday. Let me also say that we appreciate Congressman Inglis and his hard work for us. He outlined three guiding principles in dealing with the immigration problem. The principles may be summarized thusly: 1) there must be an orderly process in dealing with immigrants both legal and illegal; 2) those individuals who are not citizens of the United States should receive no social benefits including but not limited to social security, food stamps, subsidized housing, other forms of welfare, free medical care, voting privileges, driving licenses, etc; 3) and immigrants must learn the English language.


Surely these principles at a bare minimum should be agreeable to most Americans. No one wants chaos in dealing with this issue whether it be in terms of vigilantism, accidental death in any form, unjust prison time, or bureaucratic red tape. There must be an orderly process in dealing with immigrants. At the same time, for the Christian, these principles do raise some questions. And, of course, the question remains: what is that process?


At the same time, we affirm principle two. If the forced redistribution of wealth (stealing; welfare) is wrong from a biblical perspective for anyone, including citizens, then welfare benefits to non-citizens who contribute little to the well-being of this country at best, and harm this country at worst, would be unthinkable.


Concerning the issue of language, when dealing with immigration, this principle only serves to cloud the issue at best. It may appear to contribute to the solution of the problem but in reality does nothing but politically inject something that some people want to hear in an otherwise serious endeavor. Three broad points may be made.


First, state policies create a distortion that leads to the appearance that language issues are not grappled with in the market. The reality is that markets do in fact take care of the issue of language. Those areas where the Hispanic population is quite large make accommodations for that particular group in a number of ways including printing signs in both English and Spanish. The average English-speaking citizen in those areas understands the need. Those from other areas of the country may be dismayed to see such. But, in areas with large Hispanic populations, they are simply part of the landscape. I’ve been to other parts of the world where English is not the national language. Yet, signs are printed in the native language and in English because of English-speaking immigrants. Particular markets take care of this issue.


Second, there are those individuals who lament the fact that persons they have to deal with speak another language. Practically, one may go into a hotel and the clerk speaks English, but, with a heavy accent. Frustration or anger sets in on the part of the English-speaking American and he complains privately about how people here ought to speak English and speak it in an understandable manner. From a biblical perspective, this reaction is nothing but nationalistic pride. In other words, it is a sinful reaction to another human being trying to make a living in this world.


Third, from a biblical perspective, the issue of language is irrelevant. Why should Christians care what language people speak? To force immigrants to learn English in an arbitrary manner, as noted, stems from nationalistic pride. Those who immigrate to this country will learn English if doing so is necessary to advance in this culture. Again, the market dictates here. A migrant farmer may have little reason to learn much English while a CPA may have great incentive to learn and speak English clearly. But, to force people into something as a matter of law is untenable for the Christian.


Inglis further outlined four action points in dealing with the issue of immigration. They may be summarized thusly: 1) the borders must be controlled; 2) employers must be required to check social security numbers; 3) a guest worker program could be put in place so that immigrants could take jobs that Americans would not want and honor the law at the same time; and 4) legal immigration must be increased.


Again, these action points are not objectionable on their face, but they do indeed raise more questions for the Christian. The biggest problem we face is that of illegal immigrants pouring across the borders including those who would seek to do us harm in some way. How are we going to control the borders? The government offers a few options including the military and/or fences/walls. These options are problematic. In addition to government solutions being typically inefficient and ineffective, the wall that keeps the immigrants out today will keep us in tomorrow. While many scoff at such a notion, not only is the Berlin Wall a case in point, but the Scriptures are clear on the evil nature of state power and its increasing hunger for control over people's lives.


In terms of social security numbers, the government is too slow in checking social security numbers and thus employers could handle that burden as part of their civic responsibility. A system is now in place for that to happen. At the same time, there is the question of whether or not we really want to require all citizens to have social security numbers as those numbers formally attach people to the welfare state. Do we really want to foster an unbiblical welfare state? Would you want a Christian immigrant to be prevented from working because he has no welfare state number? The Amish, for example, have no social security numbers as a matter of principle. In a country built on religious freedom, would we set aside that freedom and force the Amish to violate their consciences?


Guest workers who honor the law should be no problem in that criminals are the problem; not immigrants per se. They would either go home at some point or seek to become citizens.


Only point number four does not raise other questions. Legal immigration is part of that greatness upon which this country was built. Many Americans and all Christians hopefully still adhere to these words inscribed upon the Statue of Liberty: "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-tost to me." Moreover, immigrants only increase the knowledge and skill base of America's human resources. Not all immigrants are impoverished or uneducated. Even immigrants of the latter variety can contribute to economic growth if here for non-criminal reasons.


[Part II Tomorrow]


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