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Hoosier Musings on the Road to Emmaus

Friday, July 11, 2008

Our immigration laws at work

Once a month or so, Father Ouderkirk drove back to St. Bridget’s to officiate at a wedding or baptize a baby. He savored those rituals, proof that the Hispanic immigrants who had arrived over the past decade to work in Postville’s kosher-meat plant were setting down roots. Some had bought homes. Their children had graduated from high school, even been selected for the National Honor Society.

Then came the morning of May 12, when both satisfaction and retirement ended for the 75-year-old priest. Federal immigration agents raided the Agriprocessors factory, arresting nearly 400 workers, most of them men, for being in the United States illegally. Within minutes of the raid, with surveillance helicopters buzzing above the leafy streets, the wives and children of Mexican and Guatemalan families began trickling into St. Bridget’s Church, the safest place they knew.

The good father had dealt with immigration issues before, but nothing on this scale.

“It’s like God saying, ‘I gave you a little practice,’ because this is the worst,” Father Ouderkirk said in an interview late last month at St. Bridget’s. “This has happened after 10 years of stable living. These people were in school. They were achieving. It has ripped the heart out of the community and out of the parish. Probably every child I baptized has been affected. To see them stunned is beyond belief.”

The rest of the article can be found here (registration required).

I read this over on another blog-- one that I visit only occasionally (and read the comments even more rarely, as I have a hard time with the... vehemence expressed there). I noted in the comments that some of my brothers and sisters in Christ were delighted to "support the ruthlessly efficient enforcement of our immigration laws."

Like another priest I am privileged to call friend and colleague, I have now and then been accused of... not meeting the standards against which some self-proclaimed "bible believing orthodox Christians" measure themselves and one another. However, I will say that I hear another point of view in scripture: in the law and the prophets, as well as in the teaching of the One to whom they point.

When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God.

"This is what the LORD Almighty says: 'Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other.'

Jesus asked, "Which of these three do you think was a neighbor...? The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."


Blogger Young fogey emeritus said...

I sympathise with the open-borders views of other libertarians.

In a truly free and free-market society America should be like it was 150 years ago: come on in, no hassle; there's plenty of room and work to go round. The question is, is that really so? Economics 101: scarce resources, unlimited wants, even in a super-sized country (both Pennsylvania and Montana probably could swallow up Great Britain).

And of course I hate the fear-mongering/(usually anti-Hispanic) race-baiting of the anti-immigration crowd.

That said, I have to agree with the necessary evil (for now) of some controls.

You probably know the classic argument: illegals are stealing jobs and resources from citizens, and protecting those citizens is likewise loving your neighbour.

Put another way the end doesn't justify the means. Suppose I siphon off a few tens of thousands from your bank account and use that to set down roots somewhere, then my kids leave school with honours and so on. Illegals taking citizens' income and other resources to do that is the same thing, the argument runs.

(I know the counter-argument: they take jobs natives don't want. My guess is if that were so and there were no economic-survival issue there'd be no strife on the matter.)

And there's the matter of big business wanting cheap labour to exploit, a helot class, a nasty real reason why some politicians of that kind want continued uncontrolled immigration (ironically pretending to be the best friend of Hispanics by so doing).

So of course I see what you do: probably good God-fearing folk with no other options being harassed by the almighty state. But I can also filter out the cr*p from the right and agree with one of the other side's points.

July 12, 2008 8:08 AM  

Blogger Jane Ellen+ said...

Oh, I understand the "protect American jobs for Americans" argument. And perhaps there is some merit to it. Certainly illegally "importing cheap labor" is something to wholeheartedly oppose-- for the benefit of citizens who need jobs, as well as to prevent victimization of aliens who deserve better than the near-slavery treatment they often receive.

However, the folks I hear virtuously proclaiming their concern most loudly never seem to be the ones who would even consider taking jobs like those left open after an immigration raid.

Additionally, it has been my experience that if the illegal immigrants in question look and sound "like Americans," (rather than having darker skin and a non-Euro accent), the heat in the argument seems to drop dramatically.

July 12, 2008 11:37 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one seems to bother with the fact that immigrants also create jobs- they do spend money in the local economy, particularly if they are able to bring their families with them. Speaking anecdotaly, in my area if it weren't for immigration many inner-city areas would have no new business of any sort going on, except of the worst underground sort...

Also, the problem of business owners oppressing immigrant workers could be easily dealt with by simply granting said workers legal status- giving them far greater power against the oppressive employer, and anyone else who would use their undocumented status against them.

July 12, 2008 7:14 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for this, Jane. In the conversation that will, of course, continue, I confess I am yet to be persuaded that any sort of market, economic system, government, or necessary (or lesser) evil outweighs or even competes with the witness of scripture and the saints. The fact that it's hard to imagine how we can do a better job of Christian discipleship does not convince me that we should therefore offer our primary allegiance and citizenship to anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ. And, just to be clear, I am referring to the "we" that is the adoptive members of the body of Christ, not a particular color, class, or nationally-affiliated group of people. I pray that we can help each other behave as the one body we are.

July 13, 2008 5:59 PM  

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