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:
SEC. 202. ALIEN SMUGGLING AND RELATED OFFENSES.
(a) IN GENERAL- Section 274 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1324) is amended to read as follows:
ALIEN SMUGGLING AND RELATED OFFENSES
SEC. 274. (a) Criminal Offenses and Penalties-
(1) PROHIBITED ACTIVITIES- Whoever--
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.