Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Immigration and Our Friends in the City

News of an extremely strong immigration reform bill working its way through the U. S. House of Representatives reached us about two months ago.

One provision of the proposed legislation got our attention big time. The way I read the bill it would become illegal, and punishable by severe fines and imprisonment, to render any compassionate, social services-type assistance to undocumented immigrants.

Sounded so impossible that I ran the language of the bill by Ken Koonce, one our lawyers. Sure enough, Ken reported back that my reading of the law was correct.

H.R.4437, officially titled "Border Protection, Antiterrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005," has been reported out to the U. S. Senate that begins debate on the controversial bill this week.

Hmmmm. . .terrorists of Mexican descent???

The language in the bill is fairly clear:


(a) IN GENERAL- Section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1324) is amended to read as follows:


SEC. 274. (a) Criminal Offenses and Penalties-
knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien;

(C) assists, encourages, directs, or induces a person to reside in or remain in the United States, or to attempt to reside in or remain in the United States, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that such person is an alien who lacks lawful authority to reside in or remain in the United States;

Ken tells me that it would be a hard case to bring against people like those at Central Dallas Ministries who interact on a daily basis with hundreds of undocumented residents who live and work in Dallas.

Still, the law out of the House is clear in language and intent.

Over the past weekend, hundreds of thousands of people marched in the streets of cities as different as Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

The protesters were simply calling for the nation to recognize the reality that is at work everywhere.

Here in Dallas undocumented immigrants help make the city work.

Remove them and the city is crippled.

Thankfully, there are very different ideas over on the Senate side.

Senators McCain and Kennedy have co-sponsored a bill that would help 11 million undocumented persons move over a six year period to legal status, including paying fines, back taxes and learning English.

Texas Senator John Cornyn stands somewhere in the middle between the extremely conservative ideas of the House and the clearly expressed needs of business leaders who feel the need for immigrant labor.

Does faith have anything to contribute to this debate?

The Hebrew Bible exalts the place of the "alien" and the "stranger" in Israel's national law, recognizing that the Israelites were at one time immigrants in Egypt. Such persons were to be welcomed and treated with justice.

Jesus identified with the "stranger," telling his followers on one occasion that when they welcomed, cared for and included such persons, they were welcoming, caring for and including him.

The notion of paying fair wages for labor rendered also has a prominent place in both Hebrew and Christian literature and values.

I know one thing for sure, the hatred I've witnessed at work among some anti-immigrant protesters cannot be right.

And then, there is the whole "Stature of Liberty" thing--the welcoming immigrants tradition and national value that I always thought was a part of what it meant to be America.


Anonymous said...

How many generations have those congressmen been removed from the time that their families, too, were undocumented immigrants?

What a strange world, when our perspective on morality is no more wide than the immediacy of our bloodline, than the scope of our earthly eyes.

Mike said...

Larry - Thanks so much for grounding this in the words of scripture. You are right on target!

Charles said...


Last night Daily Show was examining the names of congresspeople supporting the bill - all seem to have connections to European immigrants.

And there's nothing conservative about this bill - it's protectionist and isolationist which should be 100% against the get-government-out-of-the-way ethos the Republicans claim. The sad thing is that the people who will matter the most in defeating this bill are the employers who want to keep exploiting these workers.


Todd Ramsey said...

Doesn't the current system exploit illegal immigrants?

I don't know how I feel about the entire debate. The fact that people are here illegally violates federal law. The fact that businessess illegally hire illegal immigrants violates federal law.

If it's true that Dallas would collapse w/o illegal labor, that's a sad statement for Dallas.

Jack said...

Thank you Larry for your post today. We have a distorted view of illegal immigrants - one that I beleive is driving the debate in congress and passing the House version of this bill. Many illegal immigrants are in this country - working multiple jobs, obeying the law, joining churches, participating in civic events. These are good people - not the people described by many as moochers off the government, criminals, terrorists, etc. (If I remember correctly, the terrorists on 9-11 entered the country legally, not via the Mexican border.) I hope our government will help those who have obeyed the law to become citizens and part of this country. I hope compassion wins out.

Anonymous said...

I am in support of legal immigration. I do not feel that it is wrong of our country to have strong enforced standards for immigration, to my knowledge all other countries have immigration laws, and far more punitive laws that go with them if those laws are broken. All other countries also require anyone who works there to have proof of status.
There are those who say that this country is founded on immigrants and that is true but the vast majority of them came here legally.

If anything I would say that the United States government has made some serious errors in thinking when taking a lackadasical attitude toward enforcing immigration in our country. There are those who say that the illegal aliens do jobs no one else wants. I do not believe that is true, those jobs were held by young people who were just starting out, older people who needed a job. The construction industry jobs were held by those who were most comfortable in working with their hands.

Our citizens, and young people no longer can compete with the "greed" of low wages by business and industry. Business and industry have said no one wants the jobs, but there are many who want the jobs. Business and industry say it keeps our costs down, however for tax paying citizens that is not a true statement. We are paying taxes for increased school costs, welfare costs, hospital costs, and for increased costs to the legal system. In Harris County alone that is billions of dollars in the last 10 years.

No one is looking at the fact that the first and perhaps second generation of illegal aliens are almost and perhaps are a form of "slave labor". They are prey to those who wish to harm them because of their fear of being illegal. In Houston we now have one quarter of the citizens who live on a poverty level and I believe that many of those are the illegal citizens. I honestly believe that they live on a poverty level because it is possible for those business to take massive advantage of them due to their illegal status.

One of the parts of this comment is that the Mexican government is falling it's citizens by not providing a better place to live and work. It is very obvious that a solution for them is illegal immigration which provides money to the Mexican economy because many many of those who are here send billions of dollars home to Mexico. It would seem a part of our attention should be focused on how to make the Mexican government work to better it's citizens life so they would not have to leave home.

One of the things that I see happening is the Catholic Church and others religious groups being involved in the issue. I have a real problem with them advocating that there be no laws to curb the tide of illegals. I have a problem with them taking issue with Cesars laws and not tending to their own house.

I do not decry those students voicing their opinions about the focus on immigration, but I do decry the fact that they do not think beyond the one message. Their lives will be dramatically affected if there are no immigration laws. The very thing that their parents came here for the better quality of life is being erroded, and the United States is now and will further turn into a poor country just like Mexico, because the resources are being strapped by the major unplanned influx of immigrants. It is like having too many children on a fixed income. After awhile there is no money for food, clothes, or anything else.

One other thing I have to obey laws of the government, the state and the city. If I do not I am punished. We in this country have been making a mockery of all laws by allowing them to be broken and condoning it with only one thing and that is really about how much money someone can make off of immigrants. Why should I have to obey the laws here, if they are held in such disregurad?


Larry James said...

Marci, thanks for your post.

Please see my comments on my post for Friday, March 31 in response to a similar post.

Some laws should be opposed and dramatically if necessary.

Remember Jim Crow.

RC said...

I really appreciate your spirit, but I disagree with so much of what you say. I know that I am a decendent of European immigrants, and they were poor, but they were legal immigrants. I wish you would at leat use the correct term, "illegal immigrant." I find it very interesting that the Mexican constitution has immigration laws that are extreemly harsh compared to our own and no one says a word. There are many Mexicans who have immigrated into this country legally. If there are laws they should be inforced until they are changed. Larry I do appreciate your willingness to allow people to diagree with you, and I am always open having my views challanged and changed.

Larry James said...

Thanks, RC. I am always glad to see every post. This is a place for civil conversation like your comments.

I understand your point of view about the law and obeying the law.

It is just, in my view, that there are times when unjust laws need to be challenged. The Mexican-U. S. border problems are unique it seems to me.

First, the motive for people coming here is like almost every other immigrant in U. S. history--a better life for individual and family.

Second, and sadly in many respects, U. S. employers need and exploit the cheap labor--but, if the choice is .50 a day or $50, then the game is on.

Third, "Jim Crow" laws and slavery laws that kept African Americans shut out of opportunity and hope were also laws to be obeyed, weren't they? Thank God there were people who stood against those laws with their courageous disobedience. We have only two choices in the face of bad law: change it or act against it in via non-violent, civil disobedience.

Fourth, talk about obeying the laws: take a look at the traty of 1848 that ended the Mexican-American War. The provisions of that settlement that protected the lands of Mexican families inside Texas, for example, were systematically ignored as those people were robbed of their land, land that had been in families for generations.

Let me say again, the Mexican-U. S. situtaion is really unique and calls for a special solution. This is not India or China or Russia or Thailand. This is Mexico, our neighbor. The current thinking in the U. S. House is draconian at best and unjust to the core. Just my opinion.

RC said...


Let me again say that I not only appreciate your spirit, but I also appreciate your willingness to allow disagreement and you are always respecful of those who disagree. I am still in the process if trying to figure this whole border thing out.

To me one of the saddest chapters in the entire restoration movement was our almost total disregard for the civil rights of African Americans. I have spent many hours reading the racist views of men such as Foy Wallace Jr. I doubt many people have a clue of some of the almost surreal things he said. I just got back from a medical mission trip to Ghana, West Africa. Everyone ought to spend a couple of hours walking through one of the slave castles there. I remember being there once and I encountered a black woman who appeared to be American by her dress. I walked up to her and all I could say was that I was sorry. She seemed to deeply appreciate my words. We embraced and I later found out that she was a professor from Yale who had brought a group of students with her. I am so ashamed at our total silence at best and our active participation in the racism of the first part of the 20th century. I remember having a lengthy conversation many years ago with a black preacher from Jackson, TN. He told me that when he was a young preacher in Nashville that he and a group of other black ministers from Churches of Christ asked then president of Lipscomb, Athens Clay Pullus, if they could be taught Bible classes by LIpscomb faculty. They didn't ask if they could attend LIpscomb, just if some Lipscomb professors would come to one of their churches and teach them. The answer was no. It made me cry. I grew up in Memphis, and am about to move back. One of my most vivid memories was the afternoon of April 4, 1968. Our house was within sight of the expressway. I saw what seemed like a hundred police cars headed downtown. I then saw the special report that Martin Luther King had been shot, followed by the report that he was dead. When he marched, we were no where to be found. After all he was a "communist." I wish that once in a while our churches would be at the fore front in the fight for justice and equality instead of being at the fore front of being the first to build a new church in a new white neighborhood. How in the world can we call ourselves a restoration movement when the very thing that God seems to care the most about restoring, justice and mercy, are at the bottom of our lists of what is important? The border question is a tough problem, but I fear that our motives are little different from those that moved up to do nothing in the 50's and 60's.

Larry James said...

Thanks, RC.