Christians & Illegal Aliens
It seems as if the issue of illegal immigration simply will not go away. What was earlier pretty much a political subject has now morphed into an ecclesiastical/political matter. Truly, that was to be expected. Moreover, the modern Church should be reflecting on this ethical issue in order to bring biblical clarity and the Christian voice into the public arena.
In the August 2006 issue of byFaith magazine, a Presbyterian Church in America pastor, David Moran, weighs in on the question of illegal immigration. Pastor Moran pastored in a nearly 100% Latin community in Houston, TX for nearly 20 years, establishing congregations in both Spanish and English. He is currently pastors at Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Florida. He contributed an article to the current issue of the magazine entitled “Is It Right to Love Illegals?”
When I returned from my recent vacation I had two more articles dealing with this subject on my desk. I shall interact with both of these in subsequent issues. What is most disconcerting to me at the present is that both articles are written by PCA men (J. Allen Thompson, Ph.D., Coordinator of Multicultural church Planting [MNA] and Dr. David Moran (author of the byFaith article), who spoke at the MNA Hispanic American Ministries Convocation in October 2005.
In the byFaith article Dr. Moran raises a number of provocative matters in his article that I would very much like to respond to as part of the ongoing discussion on this important matter.
Getting Our Terminology Correct
The large print that introduces the article reads, “There are an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Responding to this influx represents a challenge to our nation—but it’s also a challenge to the Church of Jesus Christ.” With these opening words Pastor Moran informs us where he will be going with the remainder of his article. Rather than speaking the unvarnished truth, Pastor Moran chooses to go the route of euphemism. Granted that others resort to the use of the term “undocumented” when the appropriate term is actually “illegal,” but I had rather hoped that any defense from a PCA perspective on the subject would begin by stating clearly what a major part of the problem actually is.
Whether we called them “undocumented,” or “guest workers” the meaning is still the same: they are in this country illegally; they have violated our sovereign laws as a country. What Pastor Moran does is similar to the media calling terrorists insurgents. No, they are terrorists.
Disappointingly, Pastor Moran continues this trend in the second section of his article, “Experience Shapes Perceptions” where he writes, “We, as American Christians, react in diverse ways to the undocumented immigrants in our country. Some call for generalized deportations and military help to secure our borders. Others believe that our welcoming attitude toward all immigrants comprises the essence of what makes us ‘American.’” It should be duly noted that the second “belief” is clearly wrong, wrongheaded, and severely lacks historical underpinnings.
Pastor Moran explains that he is “disheartened by negative and unfair portrayals of the undocumented as violent, drug trafficking, welfare-abusing tax evaders.” Naturally, not all illegal aliens fall into those categories. Many are good people trying to find a better life. But if Pastor Moran is going to present us with ideas that will both challenge and inform us, it would seem that he might be concerned to make some effort to enlighten us about why so many are upset about the huge influx of illegal immigrants into our country. Why, for example, have Congressmen Tom Tancredo and J.D. Hayworth taken time out from their busy schedules to write books about the matter? Why are the Minutemen making such a fuss about illegal immigrants? Are they all bigots and racists or are there substantive reasons for what they’ve written and what they’re doing?
Some Stubborn Facts
Admittedly, Pastor Moran gives us 3 “bullet” points that are supposed to bolster his statement. I would counteract, however, with the following data attributed to the LA Times, (certainly no conservative newspaper) June 2002:
· 40% of all workers in L.A. County (L.A. County has 10 million people) are working for cash and not paying taxes. This was because they are predominantly illegal immigrants, working without a green card.
· 95% of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens.
· 75% of people on the most wanted list in Los Angeles are illegal aliens.
· 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 25% of all inmates in California detention centers are Mexican nationals here illegally.
· Over 300,000 illegal aliens in Los Angeles County are living in garages.
· The FBI reports half of all gang members in Los Angeles are most likely illegal aliens from south of the border.
· Nearly 60% of all occupants of HUD properties are illegal.
· 21 radio stations in L.A. are Spanish speaking.
· In L.A.County 5.1 million people speak English. 3.9 million speak Spanish (10.2 million people in L.A.County).(All 10 from the Los Angeles Times)
· Less than 2% of illegal aliens are picking our crops but 29% are on welfare. See http://www.cis.org/
· Over 70% of the United States annual population growth (and over 90% of California, Florida, and New York) results from immigration.
· 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].
· The lifetime fiscal impact (taxes paid minus services used) for the average adult Mexican immigrant is a negative.
· 29% of inmates in federal prisons are illegal aliens.
I find these data especially interesting and enlightening and I believe that Pastor Moran’s article would have been greatly enhanced if he had taken the time to present this material to us. In point of fact, these data fly in the face of the point that Pastor Moran wants to make. All that Pastor Moran is doing is reciting the worn-out mantras of those who want to turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the baneful effects of illegal immigration into our country. He might have had many positive experiences in a church setting, but others have had opposite experiences. Moreover, if the church contained illegal aliens that is a clear violation of our laws.
As I wrote recently to my ethnically diverse congregation: “It is quite true that unless we put a definitive halt to illegal immigration that we will continue to import poverty. As was pointed out above, more and more illegals are learning how to milk the system and social scientists are more than willing to fill the welfare trough with our tax dollars. In essence, since so many Hispanics make some use of our welfare system we are effectively importing poverty.
“These people are paid under the table at a drastically reduced rate. Our entire economic system as well as our rule of law is being undercut by Americans who hire illegals and a welfare system that is overburdened. Hospitals are having to close because they are going bankrupt and pubic schools are becoming increasing torpedoed by the problem of kids who don’t want to be there and who have trouble learning English because they remain, by and large, in a Spanish-speaking environment.”
What Pastor Moran offers actually is detrimental to his argument when he states that “96 percent of undocumented men are employed.” This is a kind of double whammy. First, we need to keep in mind that undocumented is a euphemism for illegal. What is it that the PCA/MNA does not understand about the word illegal?
Second, it is illegal to hire an illegal, even if a pastor calls the illegal an undocumented immigrant. There is a rule of law in our country and Christians above all others should be very circumspect in upholding those laws.
It’s really humorous—or sad, depending on how you look at it—that Pastor Moran attempts to gain our sympathy by telling us that when illegals obtained false documentation they begin paying income taxes and Social Security tax from their illegal jobs. This is known as the “if-two-wrongs-don’t-make-a-right-why-not-try-a-third syndrome?” Unbelievable.
Pastor Moran also wants us to believe that simply because these illegal immigrants come from traditional cultures there is a higher regard for human life, family, and reproduction than in other parts of the world. And your point is…? Clearly he is correct on the reproduction matter. Santa Ana, California, just down the road from where I live and has the largest Hispanic population per capita than anywhere else in the United States, and also has an out of wedlock reproduction rate that is twice the national average.
I would agree with the author when he points to the fact that America has a problem dealing with a decimated population growth rate that is not yet as bad as Europe’s but is getting there. However, that is certainly no argument for glutting our country with illegal aliens! Moran’s concern is how to replenish the labor force for those retiring in a country that has fewer children than before. But this country has had to face this problem before. After the Civil War the male population was severely decimated. The same is true about the end of World Wars I and II. We survived without illegal intervention. Moran’s solution, however, is to import poverty at an alarming rate so that we don’t have to pay a 67-cents a head for lettuce. Moreover, there are numerous states in this country where there are substantially fewer illegal aliens and Americans there still are able to get their grass cut, tables bussed, and hotel beds made.
The red herring is still “the jobs that Americans won’t do.” Moran expects us to embrace his statements gleaned from Many Ann Glendon of Harvard University that “The issue is not who will do the jobs that Americans don’t want. The issue is who will fill the ranks of a labor force that the retiring generation failed to replenish.” What should be said is this: Americans won’t do them at the ridiculously low wages some businessmen, farmers, and general contractors are willing to pay illegals. We are duped if we think the 67-cent head of lettuce we buy in the grocery store is a good deal. The excessively high costs of medicine, welfare, incarceration, and other negative effects of illegal immigration in our country are passed on to us in myriad other ways and what is most disconcerting is that Dr. Moran is not prepared in this article to even address those issues. Make no mistake: the high costs associated with illegal immigration will be passed along to the U.S. taxpayer.
Who is Going to Pay and for How Long?
Allow me to touch on just a couple of issues that I believe form a very different picture, an opposite picture than Pastor Moran is giving us. The first example that I want to use involves a set of Siamese twins recently separated here in Southern California. The family is Mexican and the parents intentionally overstayed their visa so that their children could be born here. That intentional breaking of the law had two immediate consequences. First, it meant that the birth of the child would take place on the U.S. taxpayer’s dime. Second, it also meant that these children were automatically American citizens. Let’s look at these results in order.
The operation to separate the joined twins took approximately 24 hours and involved about 80 people all told. The cost to the American taxpayers is astronomic, in the millions of dollars. The parents were little concerned about that fact. They had no compunction about passing along a million-dollar-plus medical bill to the Southern California public.
Second, there is the phenomenon known as “anchor babies.” What is this and how does it work? Tancredo explains, “By simply being born in the United States, a child automatically becomes an American citizen eligible for a range of welfare and public-assistance benefits.” He continues, “Mexican mothers frequently come to the United States just to give birth. Ambulances from Mexico routinely bring patients to American hospitals because they are aware of the U.S. treatment mandate.”
In these cases, an appeal is often made to the Fourteenth Amendment. Senator Jacob Howard, who was the coauthor of the citizenship clause to the amendment, wrote in 1866, “Every person born within the limits of the United States, and subject to their jurisdiction, is by virtue of natural law and national law a citizen of the United States.” That seems to “seal the deal” even if we grant that Howard’s intent was to prevent states from denying citizenship to newly freed slaves. However, if we read further, Howard goes on to add, “This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of person.” Judges tend to interpret this however they wish and it has come to mean that anyone born in the United States is an American citizen. This is highly unusual. Four of our six children were born in Holland. Even though I was a student and then later a pastor in a Dutch-speaking church, those four children were all Americans. Tancredo is right, therefore, when he states that America is one of the few countries—maybe the only country in the world—that has such “birthright-citizenship” laws.
After all this, Moran is still willing to say, …our disposition toward the undocumented should be welcoming and grateful.” To make matters substantially worse Moran continues and says, “They have come to our aid, and we have become dependent on them. They raise our crops, chicken, and tomatoes. They cook our food, wash our dishes, and build our houses. How blessed we are. The next generation will treat our wounds, teach our children, represent us in court, and preach the gospel to us.”
Let’s break this down. Does Dr. Moran truly expect us to believe that illegal aliens flooding into our country, taking jobs from the lower level income groups, filling our ERs to overflowing with people who know that they can get free medical treatment have truly come to our aid? A quick review of the bullet points above should be sufficient to convince us otherwise. Saying that having somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-15 million illegals in our country is a blessing is tantamount to calling evil good.
In addition, it is not a foregone conclusion that the illegals will be treating our wounds, etc. in the next generation. Many statistics demonstrate clearly that a disproportionately high number of children of illegal aliens do not even finish high school. Surely, some will rise above their educational disadvantages, but that is hardly the point. Medical lawyer Madeleine Pelner Cosman revealed in her report “Illegal Aliens and American Medicine” that violence by illegal immigrants served as one of the largest causes of financial loss to emergency departments around our country. Cosman went on to say in her Spring 2005 report (The Seen and the Unseen), “many illegal aliens harbor fatal diseases that American medicine fought and vanquished long ago, such as drug-resistant tuberculosis, malaria, leprosy, plague, polio, dengue, and Chagas disease.”
What is glaringly missing from Dr. Moran’s article is a strong, healthy emphasis on legal immigration. It is mentioned, but certainly not emphasized. There are rules—the rule of law—that must be followed in this country if America is still to be the shining light on the hill she has been. Everyone entering this country must play by the rules. The concept of law casts no aspersion on a person’s country of origin; it simply states the laws of the land that the Church of Jesus Christ should be more than willing to uphold unless they are contrary to Scripture. To this point, I have heard no substantial biblical argument that our current immigration laws are out of gear with the Bible.
Other parts of Dr. Moran’s article comprise what I call “truth by declaration.” That is to say, Dr. Moran merely makes a statement and we are supposed to accept it unreflectively. For example, he writes, “The deportation of 11 million people, equivalent to the populations of Chicago and New York combined, is not feasible. Nor would it be humane.” My initial response is: why not? Granted that it would be a daunting task, it is still an option for some. It would take quite a while, but it is not as if it could not be accomplished. What is inhumane about deporting illegal aliens, especially in a post-911 world and where a diabolical plot to blow up ten airplanes was just thwarted? Mexico has sealed its southern border but ours remains porous. One of the best and easiest ways for terrorists (undocumented insurgents) to cross over into the United States is via Mexico.
Like many, I concur with Dr. Moran’s plea for mercy. Of course we should offer food, clothing, water, and other necessities of life to those who are here illegally—and then send them back to their country of origin. Dr. Moran also suggests giving them “language instructions.” Giving ESL classes requires more time and gives the semblance of permanence. If and when the immigrants return to this country legally certainly we should offer them ESL classes.
Dr. Moran also explains that his home church in Key Biscayne recently hosted a Cinco de Mayo celebration to assist children of migrant farmers. I have no problem with doing that. Children often merely follow their parents. Our hearts go out to children, as they rightly should. But if the family makes the choice to come here legally they should truly become Americans. A Cinco de Mayo celebration smacks to me as the beginnings of multiculturalism. The illegal families are a different, separate story.
My family and I lived in Holland for ten years. During that time we celebrated numerous American holidays, but we did not expect the Dutch to hold a special celebration for us on those days. We were in Holland; we spoke Dutch; we wore Dutch clothing, ate Dutch food, sent our children to Dutch schools, and pretty much fit into the culture. What I am saying is aptly summed up in the following: In 1915 President Woodrow Wilson spoke these words to newly sworn-in American citizens: “I certainly would not be the one to even suggest that a man cease to love the home of his birth and the nation of his origin. These things are very sacred and ought not to be put out of our hearts. But it is one thing to love the place where you were born, and it is another to dedicate yourself to the place to which you go. You cannot dedicate yourself to America unless you become in every respect and with every purpose of your will thoroughly Americans. You cannot become thoroughly Americans if you think of yourself in groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American, and a man who goes among you to trade upon your nationality is not worth to live under the stars and stripes.” I wholeheartedly agree.
Dr. Moran concludes his article in this manner: “In summary, it is not un-Christian to say that immigration laws should be changed and enforced consistent with today’s realities. It can be argued—as I do—that this would be the ‘most Christian’ response to the legal aspects of the issue. Our disposition should be one of hospitality to the new immigrants—appreciating their contributions to our society and serving them with Christ’s mercy and protection. Rather than being threatened by their presence, we should maximize the situation. It’s hard to imagine a more strategic disciple-making opportunity.” Where to start?
No, it is not un-Christian to say that immigration laws should be changed, but that is hardly the thrust of Dr. Moran’s article. We might argue that the laws should be changed but we must also be prepared to follow the proper steps to get them changed and to obey the existing laws of the land until those laws are changed. If, by popular vote, the laws do not change, then we must be equally prepared to live according to those laws.
The phase “enforce consistent with today’s realities” is more than disturbing. It could mean reverting to situation ethics or ignoring the laws altogether. What are “today’s realities?” Who defines them? What is the difference between today’s realities and today’s perceived realities? Does Dr. Moran mean that we should simply accept the status quo?
His sentence “It can be argued—as I do—that this (changed and enforced consistent with today’s realities?) would be the ‘most Christian’ response to the legal aspects of the issue” is left wide open to a variety of interpretations. Does Dr. Moran mean that the “most Christian” thing is to continue to allow illegal immigrants to flood into our country and then welcome then and consider ourselves blessed? I certainly hope not, for that would be a very naïve and short-sighted approach. The problem is that we are left to guess at what Dr. Moran means.
Should we set up disciple-making booths in the desert or at our borders? Who will man them? Should they be manned 24/7 since a number of illegals tend to come across under the cover of darkness?
I am all for reaching out to the legal Hispanic immigrants in America, helping them, extending mercy where mercy is needed, and getting them integrated into American churches. From experience, I have seen the destructive forces at work when ethnic groups tend to stay together and not to integrate into their respective cultures. Whatever “strategic planning” the PCA and MNA enter into, it must be with a view to upholding the laws of this land. That, too, is a strategic disciple-making opportunity.
In order to take the debate to another level, I’m re-posting an article on my blog site (http://rongleason.blogspot.com) that deals with a biblical approach to aliens.
 byFaith, Aug. ’06, pp. 30-36.
 The Stranger in Your Midst: Attitudes and Actions toward Undocumented Aliens in the United States. Emphasis mine.
 Towards an Ethical View of the Undocumented Alien. Emphasis mine.
 Moran, Is It Right, 31.
 J. Allen Thompson uses the same language.
 Moran, Is It Right, 31.
 See Samuel P. Huntington, Who Are We? The Challenges to America’s National Identity, (NY: Simon & Schuster, 2004) & The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, (NY: Simon & Schuster, 1996).
 For further annoying enlightenment see David Kupelian, The Marketing of Evil, (Nashville: WND Books, 2005), especially pp. 83-14 & Tom Tancredo, In Mortal Danger, (Nashville: WND Books, 2006), Part 2: Our Broken Immigration System where in chapters 8-16 Tancredo discusses Our Porous Borders, The Myths of Immigration, System Breakdown, Politics of Immigration, Breach in Security, Mexico’s Lawless Border, The Economics of Mass Migration, The Threat to Our Health System by Illegal Immigration, and Environmental Impact from Illegal Immigration.
 Moran, Is It Right, 33.
 Tancredo, IMD, 166-167.
 Ibid., 167.
 Ibid., 170.
 Moran, Is It Right, 33.
 Ibid. Italics mine.
 Cited in Tancredo, IMD, 165.
 Ibid., Note: Chagas disease (also called American trypanosomiasis or the “kissing bug disease”) is transmitted by the reduviid bug, which prefers to bit the lips and face. The protozoan parasite that it carries, Trypanosoma cruzi, infects 18 million people annually in Latin America and causes 50,000 death. The disease also infiltrates America’s blood supply. No cure exists!
 Moran, Is It Right, 34. Emphases mine.
 Ibid., 36.