Christians & Illegal Aliens (II)
In the last issue, we discussed a paper written by Dr. David Moran, D.Min. I promised to respond to two other papers: a separate work written by Dr. Moran entitled “Towards an Ethical View of the Undocumented Alien” and another written by Dr. J. Allen Thompson, Ph.D. with the title “The Stranger in Your Midst: Attitudes and Actions Toward Undocumented Aliens in the United States.”
The two papers are very dependent upon each other and there is a great deal of overlap and repetition between the two. To that end, therefore, I shall begin with Dr. Moran’s speech/paper and then deal with Dr. Thompson’s paper in a subsequent issue.
Dr. Moran’s Preface
Dr. Moran begins his paper with examples of how people enter the U.S. illegally. The first example describes how a young Cuban boy drowned off the coast of Key West, Florida on October 14, 2005 when the small boat he was in capsized while being pursued by a U.S. Coast Guard craft. His other example—predictably—pertains to the often inhumane treatment illegal aliens receive at the hands of “coyotes,” “polleros,” or “agents.” I have no reason to doubt that Moran’s examples are accurate. These “coyotes” are human predators who are dealing with people who want to violate our laws. Some coyotes have no compunction about demanding more money without explanation, leaving their “cargo” to die in the desert, or marketing the women as sex slaves. Corruption breeds more corruption. We need to face the reality that Mexico is a country that is rife with corruption from the top down.
It is not unusual to hear that these illegal immigrants pay huge sums of money to get into the United States. I’ve read instances where illegals have paid upwards of $10,000 a piece or more to get across the border. The price varies, no doubt, but that is some serious pocket change. In fact, it begs a couple of questions: First, where did they come up with 6-10K a piece? If they saved it, they’re doing better than the average American. Second, if they have saved that much money, why wouldn’t they put it toward coming here legally? If they scrimped up enough to pay a coyote why wouldn’t they enter the U.S. legally, get a job, and save even more? If, under conditions of poverty and squalor they can pony up large sums, just think of what they could do if they were in this country legally.
Dr. Moran also chronicles the illegal entry of his good friend, Antonio, who, “Choosing remote areas…has brought his wife and daughter back and forth numerous times undetected.” The way this is written, it sound like we’re supposed to be pleased and proud. In a few instances, Dr. Moran mentions the entry of illegals from El Salvador. What he fails to mention is that most, if not all of those known as Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, are from El Salvador. They are so notorious that the FBI has set up a unit devoted solely to this criminal gang.
Congressman Tom Tancredo points out that “Mara Salvatruch is one of the most violent and bloodthirsty gangs ever to pray on our society.” Statistically, most of MS-13’s tens of thousands of members already in the United States are illegal aliens. The gang originated in the 1980s when many Salvadorians fled civil war in their country. Of course, with Mexico’s southern border sealed, how do these people get into our country now? Recall that I mentioned that Mexico is corrupt. There is a group know as dragones (known for the dragon tattoos that they bear) who transport their human cargo from El Salvador through Mexico by train. But how do they accomplish this with sealed borders? Simple: they bribe conductors and railroad officials. Some media outlets have featured intelligence officials warning of a connection between MS-13 and al Qaeda.
On a personal note, Dr. Moran relates a story of how he helped a family from El Salvador get into the U.S. Probably the best bet is to allow Dr. Moran to tell his tale: “My friend Juan and I went with a mild sensation that this might be illegal but gave it little thought.” Moran was arrested by the Border Patrol after stopping for gas on his return trip. He writes, “I spent the next 24 hours in detention awaiting my trial—charge: ‘transporting illegal aliens’ which is a felony.” I guess that cleared up any questions about whether his actions might be illegal! The friend that he went to pick up was deported was Moran tells us that he came back in to the U.S. through our porous borders. The following day after his arrest, Dr. Moran, did some plea bargaining and pled guilty to “aiding and abetting an illegal alien, which is only a misdemeanor, paid a considerable fine, and was given 10 years probation.” The man that he picked up at the border showed up at his church several months later and continued worshipping with the congregation. Both the man and Dr. Moran knew that he was in the country illegally.
Dr. Moran closes his Preface with this question: “In my case, was I a criminal?” Short answer: yes. Longer explanation: The Border Patrol would probably not have arrested you, fined you, and given you 10 years (!) probation if you were innocent! You were a criminal and everyone you attempted to bring into the country was also a criminal. Why is this so hard to understand? Can a man of God, leading a congregation in of Christ not know the answer to that question?
This portion of the paper is quite short. Here Dr. Moran simply gives us the underlying thesis of the paper. What is that? Succinctly, it is that the Church of Jesus Christ has a mandate to offer a “wholistic gospel” to the alien in our midst whether they are documented or not. I’m not really sure whether the “wholistic” gospel is synonymous with the “whole” gospel, but one certainly hopes that it is. The whole gospel contains a number of elements that include obedience to God first and to the country in which we reside.
Dr. Moran reminds us that loving the (illegal) alien as our neighbor “includes doing him justice.” Yes, but it also might entail the illegal alien having lawful justice administered to him as well.
I tend to believe that definitions ought, in some sense, clarify matters. I raise this point because when Dr. Moran defines the phrase undocumented aliens, he uses the following words: Undocumented aliens refers to those persons who have immigrated without INS authorization or who have overstayed the terms of their entrance. These persons are not illegal in the sense that they have committed a crime. They are unwelcome by the government.
Let me see if I understand this definition. According to Dr. Moran, if someone has immigrated to the U.S. without INS authorization they are neither illegal nor have they committed a crime? This is, at best, tortured logic and playing with words. If they are not breaking the law, why are they arrested? Why was Dr. Moran arrested if he were merely bringing “unwelcome” people into America?
In the last issue I touched on Dr. Moran’s views that we are not reproducing rapidly enough so that there is going to be a labor shortage in the not too distant future. In order to make his point, he cites what he calls “unethical birth control practices and abortion…” Does unethical have the same connotation as illegal? Given the current situation it can be argued that abortion in America unfortunately is not illegal. Dr. Moran and I stand on the same side when it comes to abortion. My major concern is his use of the word unethical in some instances and in others—where an established law of our country is involved in illegal immigration—he resorts to euphemism.
There is a clear agenda being worked out in this paper and it is this: “the immigrant in general and the undocumented immigrant in particular has stepped into the void in the United States created by aging and low birth rates.” This is both short-sighted and wrongheaded. In the first place, why is it the undocumented immigrant in particular as opposed to a naturalized citizen that is helping this country? Are there no drawbacks? Why have so many said so much about the actual costs associated with illegal immigration? I bring this fact to your attention again: The cost of illegal immigration to the American taxpayer in 1997 was a net (after subtracting taxes immigrants pay) $70 billion a year, [Professor Donald Huddle, Rice University]. Hold on to this because we’re going to use it again when Dr. Moran attempts to convince us that illegal immigrants pay $7 billion a year in taxes. It doesn’t take a genius to do the math on this one.
Dr. Moran cites the Pew Center’s research that states that between 80-85% of the migration from Mexico has been undocumented. Personally, I don’t think this statistic helps him make his case. Rather, it ought to make us more ready to close our porous borders.
In addition, Dr. Moran would have us believe that “Virtually all undocumented men are in the labor force” except, of course, those in gangs, prisons, or who aren’t in the labor force. Morever, “Undocumented workers earn considerably less than working U.S. citizens.” The urge to respond with “Duh!” is overwhelming, but I suppose “Duh!” isn’t all that scholarly or culturally aware. Dr. Moran has already cited examples of how coyotes cheat some of the illegal immigrants. Does he have to scratch his head and wonder why someone who would hire an illegally (which, by the way, is illegal) would have any scruples about cheating him out of his wages or paying him substantially less than a gringo? He has the illegal alien over the proverbial barrel. The illegal won’t report the employee because—well, he’s illegal too and might get deported. Rather than being a solution, Dr. Moran’s proposal begins to look more and more like corrupt Mexico and an ethical morass.
May I Overstate My Case Please?
In the section entitled “Reflection: Compassion and Obedience” we’re given precious little actual reflection. The opening paragraph is more of a salvo that demonstrates the unfairness of Dr. Moran. He writes, “What is the Christian to make of 10 million undocumented primarily Hispanics who live all around us? If ones listens to the political conservatives (Pat Buchanan and Fox News) what we have is an invasion of criminal barbarians, drug addicts, marauding gangs, and welfare abusers who are here to trash our culture, repossess their territories, and maximize all their entitlements. Minutemen armies (underlining his) have begun to take the law into their own hands in the name of national security going to the borders to challenge and threaten immigrants as they cross.”
Let’s break this down into its constituent elements for just a moment. In answer to the opening question—supposing that Moran really wants us to answer it—we might say, “That they are illegal and are here illegally.” But then Dr. Moran takes a swipe at political conservatives and names Pat Buchanan and Fox News. Would Greta van Susteren and Alan Colmes, both of whom work for Fox, qualify as conservatives? I don’t think so! At bottom this is an ad hominem abusive argument that the conservatives are slanted in the wrong direction. Have some people overstated their case? Yes, of course, but that does not excuse the skewed view that Dr. Moran presents to us.
At the same time, it is equally true that there are some decidedly negative aspects of some illegal aliens. No one is advocating that every illegal alien is a criminal, member of the gang, or someone looking to milk the social system. At the same time, Dr. Moran should be willing to give us a more realistic look at some pertinent facts. Again, I return to his statement about how much Social Security illegals pay when they finally get their falsified documents. If they are paying $7 billion in taxes but costing $70 billion and sending $17 billion back to Mexico yearly (this U.S. money is the second largest import in the Mexican economy, oil being first) we’re still stuck with an $80 billion annual deficit. Why won’t Dr. Moran say this?
I also take great exception to his characterization of the Minutemen. In the first place, they are not an “army.” They are U.S. citizens remaining within the bounds of the laws of this country to protect our borders. It is patently untrue that these people are taking the law into their own hands as Moran suggests. I would be very interested in what types of threats are coming from that quarter. The reports that I have read state that typically what happens is that when there are illegals crossing the border from Mexico into the States the Minutemen report the crossing to the Border Patrol. Dr. Moran’s comments are like making Abu Graib normative for the way U.S. troops treat prisoners of war.
With more than a hint of irony Dr. Moran then writes, “Most Christians in the PCA with whom I have talked including KBPC church members are of the opinion that these lawbreakers, i.e. illegal aliens, must be stopped.” Oddly, most Christians in the PCA with whom I have talked including KBPC church members are of the opinion that these lawbreakers, i.e. thieves and robbers, must be stopped. I cannot see the logic in what Dr. Moran is trying to say. Is he upset because law-abiding PCA members are upset when the law if clearly broken and—in Dr. Moran’s case—flaunted?
Attitudes and Perceptions
In keeping with his now unrealistic picture, Dr. Moran moves on to his next point, which has to do with attitudes and perceptions. What seems to escape him is that this is a double-edged sword that cuts both ways. There can be just as much misinformation on his side as there is on the side of his opponents. He begins, “Many who take up a position for deporting illegal immigrants do so because of a widespread belief that the undocumented either over utilize or abuse public assistance programs. These programs include Medicaid, SSI, AFDC, Public Assistance, and food stamps.” You can add the WIC program to the list. While I cannot speak about the costs to the rest of the United States, I am aware of some of the great costs that accrue to the taxpayer in my state of California.
Just for the record, I’ll give you some statistics that appeared in the politically liberal (George Soros and Air America news) LA Times:
· Over 66% of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on Medi-Cal whose births were paid for by taxpayers.
· Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.
· Less than 2% (! Don’t you get the impression that there are many more? 2%) of illegal aliens are picking our crops but 29% are on welfare. Over 70% of the United States annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida, and New York) results from immigration.
· The lifetime fiscal impact (taxes paid minus services used) for the average adult Mexican immigrant is a negative.
If illegals don’t put such a drain on our economy then perhaps Dr. Moran can explain to us all why a number of hospitals in Los Angeles and San Diego counties have closed their doors due to a glut of illegals using the facilities for free. Dr. Moran seems stunned that a group like FAIR (Federation for American Reform) is “emphatic about their beliefs that the undocumented are costing taxpayers for services like education, medical care and incarceration.” Actually, Dr. Moran, FAIR stands for Federation for American Immigration Reform. Apart from that, I would strong suggest that Dr. Moran take a couple of hours and read Congressman J.D. Hayworth’s Whatever It Takes. Illegal Immigration, Border Security, and the War on Terror.
In chapter 1, to which we’ll return in just a moment, Hayworth deals with “Overrun.” Then in chapters 2 and 8 he discusses “Crime and Illegal Immigration” and “Is Illegal Immigration the Answer to Social Security?” respectively. Without going into extensive detail, I will simply cite a Bear Stearns study that documents that an “estimated five million jobs have shifted to the underground economy, where workers collect wages on a cash basis and avoid income taxes.” Further, the study states the following: “The social expenses of health care, retirement funding, education, and law enforcement are potentially accruing at $30 billion per year…. On the revenue side, the United States may be foregoing $35 billion a year in income tax collections because of the number of jobs that are now off the books.” The school costs associated with educating (how can that happen in our public school system?) children of illegals is estimated at approximately $29 billion per year.
Dr. Moran cites a study by the RAND Corporation stating that the net cost of immigrants being “nearly impossible to establish.” While this might be correct—give or take a couple of billion dollars—it is equally clear that illegal immigration is an enormous drain on the American economy and a huge burden to the U.S. and Canadian taxpayer.
As far as “perceptions” go, Dr. Moran is eager to inform us of the following: “It is essential in an evaluation of the ‘facts’ that one realizes how desperate the undocumented are (who already feel like personas non grata) to be registered and accounted for to be a part of the society in which they live.” This begs the question: how does Dr. Moran know this? If this is as patently true as he asserts one has to wonder why they will not become legally registered? Why, for example, don’t they begin their stay in America legally if they are so eager to be registered?
Equally confusing is Dr. Moran’s citation of an article in the April 5, 2005 edition of The New York Times by Eduardo Porter about a man named Angel Martinez. In that year, Mr. Martinez paid around $2,000 toward Social Security and about $450 for Medicare through payroll taxes. Of course, Mr. Martinez had a bogus Social Security number. Dr. Moran seems totally surprised that “…unlike most Americans, who will receive some form of public pension in retirement and will be eligible for Medicare as soon as they turn 65, Mr. Martinez is not entitled to benefits.” Here’s a shocker: If I enter Germany illegally and get a fraudulent work permit and then pay into the German system I wouldn’t be entitled to any benefits from Germany at the age of 65 either! Mr. Martinez is here illegally, is being hired illegally, and has a fraudulent Social Security card. He is not an American. Should he be rewarded for this? Naturally, Dr. Moran doesn’t tell us if Mr. Martinez has children—remember part of his argument has to do with the great family values and number of children to replenish our rapidly depleting work force—or if he, his wife, or children made free use of American medical facilities and schools. The net result might have exceeded the $2,000 he illegally paid into the system.
What about Romans 13?
Dr. Moran anticipates that someone who watches Fox News or reads Pat Buchanan might object: hey, what about Romans 13? Some conservative like myself would add 1 Peter 2:13-17 to the previous text. The point he is trying to make is that there is what he calls a “law of subjection.” Dr. Moran cites a hermeneutical principle of priorities that in John Frame’s words goes like this: “We have been looking at various factors that determine whether particular biblical laws are currently normative. But even among laws that are normative at a particular time and place, there are priorities to be observed, and those priorities also should influence our decisions.” Can you see where Dr. Moran might be heading with this? He further cites Frame who says, “…within the system [of God’s law], some elements are more important, more pressing than others.” Okay. Would you now like to give us a few examples? We are in agreement that in Matthew 23:23 Jesus speaks of “weightier matters of the law.” In light of the topic, it might have been more than helpful if Dr. Moran would have fleshed this out for us a little more.
He does describe what he calls “situational priorities.” Ethically, “In various situations of life, it becomes more important to follow one principle of the law than another.” His example, however, hardly makes his point. He illustrates what he is trying to say by a driver who, attempting to avoid a sinkhole that unexpectedly appears (differentiated from sinkholes that expectedly appear while you’re driving), veers onto the opposite side of the road. It is normally illegal to drive in such a fashion (unless, of course, you live in Boston), but the situation dictated a higher principle.
Dr. Moran’s illustrations do not fit the point he’s attempting to make. Swerving to avoid one of those pesky unexpected sinkholes is a far cry from and poor example of defending illegal immigration. Moreover, as I have consulted the English, Dutch, and German commentators on this subject, none of them takes Dr. Moran’s point—thankfully.
The “law of subjection” comes back into play in the last paragraph of his section bearing that title. He writes, “As for my conscience, I believe I am in subjection to the law of subjection by welcoming the alien, making his life easier, and by encouraging and helping him to improve his legal status…. I believe I would be in violation of the law of subjection and the law to love the alien as myself, if I did not welcome and show mercy, grace and justice to the alien.” It is foreign to me—no pun intended—how Dr. Moran can believe that he is in subjection to the law of subjection especially since the examples that he has put forward in no way make his case. He has offered a general “hierarchy” of commands without dealing in specific detail—and that is precisely what he needs to do to make his case—with how the law of subjection applies in the case of illegal immigration. How can you have a clear conscience when you have not dealt with the import of Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2:13-17 but have simply summarily dismissed them without a shred of solid exegesis? Since it is against the law to welcome illegal aliens, how can that assuage Dr. Moran’s conscience? The immigration laws do not cause us to violate biblical principles.
What is standing in the way of Dr. Moran—or any of us for that matter—loving the alien as ourselves? Loving them doesn’t mean that we should encourage them to break the law, however, and that is precisely what illegal immigration does. Are we tracking on this at all?
Should we show mercy and grace to those in our midst? Absolutely. If they are hungry we are to feed them. If they are without adequate clothing we are to clothe them. We are to go the extra mile to provide them with physical and spiritual care. This involves witnessing to them about the love of God for sinners. We should present the full-orbed gospel to them, which, according to Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:9-12 comprises holy, righteous, and blameless conduct as well as exhortation, encouragement, and a “charge” (Greek: marturómevoi). The “gospel of God” (v. 9) includes this charge. The full gospel includes obedience as well as the presentation of the love of God for sinners.
Some Points for the PCA to Ponder
This whole discussion is not something I wanted to enter into, but Dr. Moran and Dr. Thompson seem to make the question of how the PCA ought to respond to illegal aliens an issue and I know it’s already a situation in the PCA. Therefore, I have chosen to enter into the fray, not because I enjoy polemics, but more precisely because I firmly believe that if the PCA adopts what these two brothers are suggesting that we, as a denomination, will be the poorer and weaker for it.
It has come to my attention more than once that when you broach the subject of how many illegal Hispanics are currently in our “multicultural” congregations that there is an awkward silence. Few, if any, want to go there, but go there we must. Why are we so silent on this matter? Are we aware—or probably aware—that a number of our Hispanic congregations contain illegal aliens and don’t want to face the facts? What kind of message are we sending when we put our heads in the sand and pretend the problem doesn’t exist?
Are we also, by our negligence opening the door to substantially more serious charges as well as violations of national security? Last evening on the dastardly conservative Fox News, I heard a report that a number of al Qaeda terrorists have learned and are learning Spanish in order to infiltrate this country. Given our porous border to the south, this is a both a smart and easy move militarily. Unfortunately, a number of pastors fail to take this into consideration, wanting only to be “loving.” Being loving entails quite a number of facets. As parents, we do not “lovingly” allow our children to break the law or to disobey us as God-ordained authority figures in their lives. At times—like in the thoroughly wrongheaded thinking still by some in the PCA regarding women in combat—, I believe that some pastors are simply naïve and ignorant about the dangers posed by illegal immigration. What shame would be brought to the name of Christ, for example, if such a terrorist was a “member” of an Hispanic PCA congregation where no one ever did any serious background check and that man, who was a member of al Qaeda, set off a dirty bomb in San Diego, Long Beach, San Francisco, or Los Angeles that killed hundreds of thousands of women, children, and men? With the five-year anniversary of 9/11 just around the corner, that’s something to ponder.
What Dr. Moran is suggesting could have very far-reaching implications and applications for our country. It startles me that not one mention was made in either paper about the matter of national security. I believe that it is incumbent upon our Hispanic congregations to do a thorough search to ascertain if we are harboring illegal aliens. If we are, we need to go the route of biblical love and care for them in every way that we can, but we also need to get them back in their country of origin and then help them come back in according to the rule of law. While they are waiting to return to their country there are a number of steps that we can undertake to aid and help them. At the same time, we must not; we must never be accused of promoting antinomianism.
The suggestions of Dr. Moran are verging on advocating civil disobedience. I for one cannot and will not follow him in this. At the same time, as the pastor of a multicultural congregation, we welcome with open arms any and all who come to this country legally irrespective of country of origin. If we encounter illegal aliens in need of food, clothing, necessities of life, and who have not heard the gospel, we will make every effort to help them—within the confines of Scripture and the laws of our country.
One cannot help but wonder why if there is such a deep concern about the Hispanic that we don’t send more MNA/MTW church planters into the most impoverished areas of Mexico so that we can witness to the Mexicans in their own country? I’m not suggesting that we don’t already, but why not greatly increase our strategic planning that will send substantially more church planters into places other than Acapulco?
Does Dr. Moran suggest that merely because Mexicans are poor and destitute that we should welcome them into our country anytime they want to come? If the answer is yes, then why stop with Mexicans? If the issue is poverty, then shouldn’t the United States open its borders to all poor nations and the impoverished citizens? Shouldn’t we have a policy that allows anyone to come? We have immigration policies because we cannot care for the world anymore than we can adequately care for disgruntled Canadians (who really likes the G.S.T.?) and poor Mexicans and OTMs? These are question I would very much like for MNA, Dr. Moran, and Dr. Thompson to answer for the entire denomination.
 According to the paper, this was a speech that Dr. Moran held at the Presbyterian Church in America’s Mission to North America Ministries Convocation in October 2005.
 Dr. Thompson’s title reads “Coordinator of Multicultural Church Planting, Mission to North America, Presbyterian Church in America.
 Moran, Undocumented, 2.
 Ibid., 3.
 Tom Tancredo, In Mortal Danger, (Nashville: WND Books, 2006), p. 81.
 Ibid., 82.
 Moran, Undocumented, 3. Italics mine.
 Ibid., 4.
 Ibid., 5.
 Ibid., 9.
 Ibid., 10.
 Ibid., 11.
 Ibid., 16. Italics mine.
 Ibid., 17.
 J.D. Hayworth, Whatever It Takes, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2006). Also, compare Tony Blankley, The West’s Last Chance, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2005).
 Ibid., 18. Italics mine.
 Ibid. Italics mine.
 Ibid., 19.
 Moran, Undocumented, 17.
 Ibid., 18. Italics mine.
 ESV: Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.
 Moran, Undocumented, 24.
 Ibid., 25.
 Ibid., 27.
 Other Than Mexicans. By the way, a number of MS-13s continue to enter our country as well.