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Immigration remains a volatile issue in the United States, particularly in this presidential election year. It's an issue that doesn't really come and go, just grows quiet for a time only to come rushing back when a politician makes a comment or something happens on the border.

What should Christians think about immigration? Are there ways we can contribute to the discussion and, hopefully, resolution of the issue? I believe there are. In particular, we could help both political parties by simply reminding them that the "immigration issue" is really about people. Here are a few of my thoughts to stimulate your thoughts:

The immigration issue is not irresolvable. But it won't be resolved without honest, principled debate and a will to work toward the American Dream for both citizens and would-be citizens.

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2012

This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

It bothers me when presidential candidates talk about immigrants as if they’re all terrorists. Or at least riff-raff we should keep out of America at all costs.

It bothers me when politicians and pundits refer to immigrants as some kind of blight. In a recent article on the "immigrant problem," I said, "We didn't awaken one morning to discover millions of illegal immigrants had entered the country overnight. Porous borders, ineffective policy, lack of leadership--and will, and sporadic enforcement have co-existed for a long time." We don't have an "immigrant problem." We have a "political decision-making problem."

It bothers me when political leaders make ridiculous proposals like building a two thousand mile electrified fence between the United States and Mexico.

It bothers me when immigrants are referenced in the same breath with “the criminal element,” especially when the people making the references are conservatives who supposedly embrace the American ideal of freedom of opportunity and justice for all. Yes, it is true, we have a border enforcement problem and a huge number (estimated 12 million) internationals living on U.S. soil without benefit of legal recognition as immigrants-in-process-toward-citizenship. But it’s frankly not immigrants’ fault our border enforcement and citizenship policies and processes haven’t worked well. It’s our political leadership's—or the lack thereof—fault.

Especially in a culture that's committed to having fewer children and aborting others, immigrants are an important source of future vitality, ideas, productivity, and output for this nation’s future. If we insist upon demonizing them for wanting what everyone wants—freedom—than they will not be as inclined to take correct legal steps toward citizenship. Nor will they be as inclined to work productively.

Both the Republican and Democratic politicians running for high offices must come to grips with this challenge. Candidate Newt Gingrich is taking some heat for recent comments that seemed to offer a bit of common sense and compassion about immigrants. Perhaps his comments were merely a politician’s ploy and an appeal for votes, but hopefully his attitude is authentic. If so, it’s a step in the right direction.

Immigrants are not the enemy. They’re part of our future, so we need to provide them with a doable process toward legal recognition. And of course they need to take this step. They will if what we offer them is a path to meaningful American citizenship and not a road to second-class status.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

Few people of any political persuasion deny the United States has an “immigration problem.” By this, they recognize that perhaps 2 million individuals enter the United States illegally each year and perhaps 10-12 million “undocumented” (the old phrases were “illegals” or “illegal aliens”) individuals already reside in the States.

The highly vitriolic debate gets started when anyone suggests what should be done about our “immigration problem.” Somehow, what one might think would be a fairly straightforward proposition—define American citizenship, put in place a process by which legal immigrants may become citizens, and police borders to assure the law is observed and American security is preserved—is not straightforward at all. In fact, it’s a political quagmire. Meanwhile, more individuals enter America illegally, more Americans are pressed into supporting undocumented individuals’ social and healthcare needs, and more bile taints political discourse whenever “immigrant” is mentioned.

Now, in frustration, some politicians are suggesting so-called “birth tourism” be stopped by changing the longstanding definition of citizenship stated in the Fourteenth Amendment: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and the State wherein they reside.”

These pols claim pregnant women enter the States illegally, then birth their children on American soil so the children will automatically become U.S. citizens, thus becoming so-called “anchor babies” making it possible for Mom to stay. The pols who disagree with this “birthright citizenship” want to change the law so children of illegals will not qualify automatically for U.S. citizenship.

All this is a rather said state of affairs getting to the heart of the fact that Americans no longer agree on what an American is. Some people, responding with compassion or other motives to the millions of illegal immigrants already here, or even those yet to come, seem to want to blithely throw the concept away as if it has no value. What of citizenship? Why does it matter? We’re all one and one for all? Anyone may come, the government will pick up the tab, and somehow it will all work out in the end.

It’s a wonderful utopian vision however misguided and ungrounded in reality. Ultimately, “the government” is us. We pick up the tab, and truth be told, a system built on the backs of a few to pay for the many simply doesn’t work.

In terms of national interest, defining American citizenship allows it to become a boon and blessing to all; it makes sense. Other countries define what it means to be a citizen. Why can’t America do this without being accused of bigotry, racism, or worse?

On the other hand, the anti-birthright citizenship movement is a kneejerk reaction that undermines some of the most precious principles in the American story. We are a nation of immigrants. Nearly all Americans come from somewhere else. It’s part of the genius of America’s free and open society, a land of opportunity, a land where one worships, works, and pursues happiness freely. Progress and plenty must be earned, but they are open to all. Lawyering away a baby’s citizenship because his or her mother is from another country flies in the face of what it means to be an American, not to mention the fact such a law would create an enforcement nightmare.

The open-the-floodgates perspective on immigration is unwise and in the end unhelpful to both Americans and undocumented individuals. The anti-birthright-citizenship perspective on immigration is equally unwise and in the end unhelpful. Neither approach is viable long-term or in the best interests of the nation.

Yet immigration policy and practice needs to be reformed, clearly. And reform isn’t rocket science. As I’ve said before, it can be done. What we need is common sense proposals led by articulate political leaders of integrity. We need immigration law that defines and defends American citizenship with appropriate patriotism. We need immigration law that respects the worth of American citizenship even as it offers this special privilege via legal process to individuals who care to work to attain it.

 

© Rex M. Rogers – All Rights Reserved, 2011

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Rex or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/RexMRogers.

 

The so-called "immigrant problem," or what has now become the immigrant rights movement, is producing disagreement among religious conservatives and leaders. Some, like Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention, are arguing for stiff penalties against illegal immigrants along with beefed up efforts to secure U.S. borders. Many Catholic leaders have argued for citizenship grants and “justice,” some white evangelicals have weighed in via surveys saying immigrants are a burden and a threat to American values and stability, Hispanic evangelicals are noting their support for pro-life, pro-marriage, and other issues dear to evangelicals and, thus, expecting some reciprocity. Still others like Focus on the Family have uncharacteristically stayed out of the fray.

I would qualify as a “religious conservative,” and I’m already on record as generally supportive of immigrants’ desire for American citizenship. I do not consider immigrants a threat to American values and way of life.

But clearly the current situation needs to change. While both Republicans and Democrats posture on Capitol Hill, offering quick “solutions,” the current immigrant issue remains a complex one. We did not awaken one morning and discover that as many as 12 million illegal immigrants entered the country over night. Porous borders, ineffective policy, and sporadic enforcement have co-existed for a long time.

I don’t understand evangelicals who make illegal immigrants sound like terrorists. It’s not too much of a stretch to surmise that a handful of illegal immigrants are connected with terrorist cells, but certainly not 12 million of them. Categorical rejection of these people borders on ethnic prejudice and parochialism. I don’t consider these attitudes Christian.

This issue calls for statesmanship, rationality, and measured response. Immigration is nothing new. We are a nation of immigrants, and we’ve developed reasonable legal processes before. We can do it again.

At a minimum, Congress needs to do the following:

--Recognize that the vast majority of immigrants do not want to come to the United States to blow it up. They want to come to secure the prospects of a better life for them and their children via the freedom this country and economy affords.

--Secure American borders from those who wish to do us harm. This means we must develop a more sophisticated, coordinated, and administered system of accepting or rejecting internationals who wish to enter this country.

--Develop a guest worker program that makes sense and is easy to administer.

--Create a process through which illegal immigrants presently in this country can work systematically toward American citizenship.

--Develop a better and more extensive approach to teaching English as a second language and require immigrants seeking American citizenship to enroll, learn, and pass conversational English tests.

The recently named “immigrants rights movement” needs to demonstrate some leadership and established values as well:

--They need to more clearly and consistently convey their desire to become Americans, not simply legally recognized residents of the United States. There is a difference. Americans buy in to the ideals this country represents, speak English, and evidence gratitude for the blessings this citizenship affords. Legally recognized residents seem to work harder to maintain their distinctive heritage than they do to assimilate.

--Assimilation is not a bad thing, and it does not mean a person must reject his or her heritage. It means that the person who wants to become a citizen of this country works to develop basic knowledge and skills that allow him or her to function productively in this free country.

I am not anti-Hispanic or anti-Spanish language. Far from it. I’m simply saying that when I travel to the Dominican Republic and certainly to France, I am expected to at least try to speak their language—and I’m just a tourist. Surely if I took up residence in those countries and sought Dominican or French citizenship, I would be expected to learn the language of my adopted country,

Expecting immigrants to learn English is not a form of cultural imperialism. It’s a practical economic and social necessity. Those who do not learn English are forever hindered in their ability to better their condition and support themselves. Those who learn the language of their adopted country can then fully participate in the freedom of opportunity this capitalistic system offers. They can earn and they can contribute.

So, as a religious conservative and as a white evangelical, I do not reject illegal immigrants carte blanche. I do not think that as a category they are a threat to what makes America great. I think they are an asset who should be assisted, treated with dignity and respect, and then given certain incentives or expectations for attaining citizenship. If they do not respond to these overtures, then they can be sent back to their country of origin. But if that happens, it will result from their choices, not our walled off rejection.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

The immigration demonstrations or “protests” of the past few days are a truly historic phenomenon. They bring us back to the foundational ideals that made this country what it is today: freedom, access, opportunity, work, self-improvement, desire for a better future for one’s children.

I recognize the United States’ legitimate need to better police its borders and to assure as best we can that the American people remain secure. But I am not in favor of building a 700 mile between the United States and Mexico. I recognize that among some 11.6 million immigrants, some are not “pulling their weight,” some are “costing American taxpayers,” some are unwilling to work, and some may be involved in periodic criminal activity. So we need to develop new laws and immigration procedures that allow us to identify those that do not really want to be Americans in the best sense of that term. But I do not favor making illegal immigrant status, ipso facto, a felony, nor do I favor prosecuting those who assist illegal immigrants with humanitarian aid.

I believe America’s shores should remain as open to freedom-loving and freedom-seeking people as, in a day of terrorism, we can make them to be. I do not believe that immigrants always “drain our economy” or that they are always “threats to the American way of life.” Perhaps a few may be, but the flip side of these observations is that most immigrants bring talent, dreams, and a work ethic that often puts the American work ethic to shame. Rather they enrich the American culture and economy with their presence and contributions.

So I am a bit perplexed by the strong voices urging Congress to “deport them”; “send them all back where they came from.” This is more about nativism, bigotry, and fear than it is about concern for American ideals.

I am struck by the beauty of American citizens and “illegals” marching together, asking for legal mechanisms to provide immigrants with a path to a better life. I salute them.

I also think present-day immigrants, like the millions who have come before them, including my forbears from the British Isles, should learn American values and governmental structures, should learn English, and should seek to assimilate in American society even as they maintain the best of their own cultural heritage.

Immigrants and immigration are not the issue. Evil moral choices, criminal behavior, bigotry, and hatred are the issues. We must learn how to discern and how to identify those who choose the evil path, rather than assume anyone different from ourselves must be “bad people.”

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.

Immigrants are as American as apple pie. Yet we seemed to have entered a brave new world wherein we’re not as brave as we thought we were.

With some 12 million undocumented immigrants in the country and more finding ways to come across the borders every day, what is the U.S. to do? Is it really possible to send back to their home country a population roughly the size of the state of Ohio?

Some 40% of illegal immigrants came to this country with work, student, or visitor visas. Many of them now have children who are American citizens by virtue of the fact they were born in this country.

Building a wall the entire length of the 2,000 mile U.S./Mexico border is not the answer and smacks of Berlin and the Great Wall, images I don’t want to associate with the United States. Summarily deporting illegals is not the answer. Levering felony charges on people who provide illegal immigrants with humanitarian aid is not what America is about. Posturing by politicians wanting to be re-elected is also not helpful.

America’s “immigration problem” does not lend itself to a quick fix. It will require not a few sound thinkers and some statesmen who can rise above sectional politics and self-interest.

America is a “nation of immigrants.” We’re about freedom, and we don’t want to deny this opportunity to others. But we can and should establish systems of admission and citizenship, expect immigrants to learn English and work for the benefits this country affords, and evidence a loyalty to the ideals America represents. If immigrants take these minimal but important steps they will be both welcome and productive, sharing the American dream.

 

© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at www.rexmrogers.com or follow at www.twitter.com/rexmrogers.