Loving the San Francisco Bay Area... Community development, urban ministry, trying to defeat poverty, faith, religion, politics, good music, the quest for the perfect pizza, the Yankees, motorcycles... All in a 'day's life'

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Immigration and Amnesty

Last month Time did an excellent article on the immigration debate. It addresses specifically why a smart amnesty program would be good for the US.

I've been deeply disturbed by the fervor around this current debate. I understand the issues around national security. I'm sensing a meanness in the rhetoric flowing from one of the viewpoints. We must remember that we're dealing with real people and real families. Could Bull Conner's dogs be barking again?

I agree that we need a comprehensive review and rehabilitation of our current immigration system. We must deal with an international border that is porous. But, let's work for a way to stem the flow of illegal immigration while allowing for sufficient visas to satisfy our country's labor needs.

However, the fact of the matter is that there are over 12 million undocumented immigrants in our country. They have become a integral part of the fabric of our society. Many are have children who are legal American citizens. It's illogical to believe that we could effectively and justly remove over 12 million of our residents in a way that doesn't do dramatic damage to our economy.

I had the stomach flu last week. While recuperating I popped in a copy of the movie Godfather 2. While watching the movie again I thought a lot about my own family's immigrant experience. I'm far enough down the generational line to really have a grasp of what my immigrant ancestors endured. But I imagine it's not altogether different from the my neighbors who hail from Mexico and Central America. I thought about famous words from the Statue of Liberty that my ancestors saw when pulling into Ellis Island.
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
I'm not an expert and, frankly, there are many who are smarter and more informed on this issue than I. However, each day I look into the eyes of hard working immigrants who love their family and just want a safe and peaceful place to thrive. When I look at the photos of the immigrants of the last century, I see the same look in their eyes. I'm the product of that longing and struggle.

The tenancy is to be pollyannish and assume that blanket amnesty is the answer or to be draconian and insist that kicking everyone out is the best course of action. I'm sure there is a safe and just middle ground. However, the war drums are beating and even a staunch right wing president doesn't seem able to inject sensibility into the hard liner's platform.

Above and beyond the political discussions, I believe that there is a Biblical mandate for justice and fair treatment of the aliens in our midst. The often overused idiom comes into plan, "What would Jesus do?" How would Jesus call us to act toward the 'huddled masses' who have found their way into our nation? I, as are all Christians, am called to live by a different creed, dictated by the life of Christ and the Word of God. This is what we will be judged by, not by the political ruminations of the Right or Left, Fox or CNN.

Read the Time article and please let me know your thoughts. As I mentioned, this is beginning to disturb me greatly. I think there is a justice issue brewing where the church is being called to action.

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