By Patrick Harris
I was encouraged by the recent LA Times article about conservative groups lobbying to change our immigration laws to actually encourage immigration instead of continuing to criminalize and discourage it. It is time to have some common sense discussion on this issue because the endless rhetoric and pointless debates are not only victimizing a group of people struggling for self preservation, its slowing our economy, costing too much taxpayer dollars and adding an additional workload to law enforcement.
While I consider myself a conservative, I disagree with the rhetoric defending our outdated and insanely difficult methods of immigration that were well intentioned but short sighted. Securing our borders and protecting our population from potential terrorists are legitimate concerns, but we have used those excuses to build an system of gaining citizenship that is not only cumbersome, but can be expensive. Throughout history population movement has been caused by the desire to escape situations that threaten ones survival. War, famine, natural disasters and economic pressures drive people to find better locations to settle and provide for their families. America has a history of finding solutions to large populations of people moving to our country.
We, as a largely Christian society, should understand that it is our social responsibility to first extend loving support and then find reasonable solutions to include these people in our communities. Our current system has caused us to commit inhumane acts like separating families and returning people to the hands of criminals intending to murder them. I would like anyone to provide me with a passage in the Bible that justifies victimizing a defenseless people in this manner. Most of whom are our Christian brothers and sisters. Alabama’s current law (the most strict in the nation) can have the Pastor or Elders/Deacons of a church arrested for having illegal immigrants attend services or allow them to ride the bus to church. That is a level of ridiculousness that no real Christian should dare to defend.
I get nauseatingly tired of the “exonerating lawbreakers” argument as if the practical solution is to herd 11 million people across a border, intern them in concentration camps or lock them in prisons. This would not be the first time in our history that we changed a Federal Law that turned millions of “lawbreakers” into law abiding citizens overnight. All we have to do is look to prohibition. In one day, bar and restaurant owners, liquor distributors and importers and their customers who were in violation of the law became law abiding citizens. In one day, the government stopped spending millions of dollars on enforcement and started collecting millions in revenue. Yet, we are not talking about young white speakeasy patrons and white business men with immigration law. We are discussing darker skinned people whose culture is different from the majority of immigration opponents and most law makers. In my experiences with the Latino community, what I have found are very conservative devout family people with a strong work ethic and a commitment to God. All the things we value in each other, yet packaged differently by God himself.
By legitimizing this population of people and streamlining our system to gain citizenship we turn millions of decent hard working mostly Christian people into valued tax paying, industrious and productive members of our society. We ease the pressures on law enforcement and free up some of their time to investigate and prevent real crime. We legitimize what is now a non-taxed underground economy and unleash it to become the job and revenue producer our society so badly needs.
I know Alabama was caught in a Catch 22 between the pressures of illegal immigrants using hospitals and schools without paying taxes and the Federal Government’s refusal to enforce their laws or to change them. Our state lawmakers were forced to act due to budgetary concerns. All the states in our nation are still struggling with this same situation. It is time for the Federal Government to take action on this issue and resolve the problem. It’s time to bring Jesus’ teaching of forgiveness and love to the debate. I would be extremely proud of Alabama if our Senators, Congressmen and Congresswomen would lead the debate to reform Immigration Law and allow us to move past this issue. I would hope they do it with the Christian heart that Alabamians pride ourselves.