Further Thoughts on Immigration: Where my Fellow Conservatives Get it Wrong

I have been reflecting on immigration lately, spurred by the subject of the book I just read (generally rather than its content).  I probably get some things wrong politically, but I at least have sense enough to know that God’s grace covers both those of long memory and the asses that oppose them. I find that the rhetoric of people discussing the issue should probably be toned down, and the sort of emotional language regularly employed by, for an easy example, Sojourners isn’t really necessary. No one is in my mind a sinner for supporting one point of view or another.

Christianity has a long history of giving voice to the other. Our calling to share power and resources with the marginalized can by no means be denied. It is simply a part of who we are. I understand then, the powerful drive pushing compassionate individuals to disregard the law and throw their full support behind illegal immigrants. Whether they be right on this issue or not, God be praised for people yearning to look after those so easily swept aside or exploited.

I do not, however, agree with their conclusions regardless of their nobility. I think it not particularly egregious that the state control its borders and decide who to grant citizenship, nor do I think it wise to grant amnesty to those who have flouted the law for their own enrichment. I do have a problem with the way many conservatives have presented the issue, though. The discussion has been undeniably xenophobic, echoing the propaganda of the world’s ugliest age. They are the ones responsible for our problems. They have taken our jobs. They have consumed our resources. They. They. They.

There are few things more detestable than a pundit arguing what is, in my mind, the correct position by wrong means in catchy, hateful rhetoric. So here is my proposed solution. No amnesty for illegal immigrants coupled with an unprecedented easing of restrictions on legal immigration. If the problem is really the legality of the immigration, then make immigration easier. I suspect that a number of my fellow conservatives would be equally unhappy with this solution as with amnesty.

If so, I can only suspect that the reason lies somewhere past respecting the law and somewhere short of  racism. Xenophobia should not be confused with racism, by the way, and it doesn’t help when aforementioned good-hearted people start acting like it. The great inconsistency I find in right-wing Xenophobia is so astonishing as to make me wonder why no one has before pointed it out.

If competition is indeed the life-blood of the market and a free market produces the best results, then why should we limit immigration? If we conservatives really believe that competition achieves the best economic end, then we should be flinging open the doors of this country and welcoming in every hardworking Latino/a, African, and Asian that wants to come. I expect what motivates the desire to restrict immigration is a preservationist instinct, but if the only way we can keep what we have is to exert our power as American citizens to keep others from the money and the power then I suspect that we have a problem.

By my reading of Luke’s Gospel especially, I see that God is on the side of the lowly. Read the magnificat then tell me God is okay with us living in our giant walled city of America letting in only enough Mexicans to keep us well stocked in fresh produce and engine parts. Let us be compassionate, not by bending the law to preserve our wealth nor flouting it to fit our fancy, but by living justice so thoroughly that even the laws of our secular nation learn it. If the people are not the problem, let us agree to change the law.

  2 comments for “Further Thoughts on Immigration: Where my Fellow Conservatives Get it Wrong

  1. January 31, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Very incitful piece Jeremiah. I think it is about time our fellow conservitives took a long look at the exploitation of illegal imigrants and did something meaningful about it, not just blaming others. I personally feel that the real culprits are business owners who hire undocumented workers and pay them a criminal wage. There has to be stiff fines for employers who hire undocumented workers. If we are truly going to act as Christians we cannot allow those who simply do not have some paperwork to be mistreated. All it would take is a few businesses being hit with a 200k fine per undocumented worker and the problem would be solved. Of course we would then have to open our borders because our produce would jump to 100% of its orginal price. Good insight I hope that more people begin to feel as you do–on the conservitive side of things.

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