Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Illegal aliens...What to do? What to do?

One of the satisfactions of blogging is posting something just because you want to, not necessarily because it is timely. This post is a re-run from two and a half years ago. It came up for one of my referrals last night and I had forgotten about it.

The immigration issue is one that the president and I agree about (as well as uncoupling health care from employment). I feel bad for him for blundering so badly in foreign policy, so it is time I said something positive. I don't want any new readers to think I routinely beat up the president for a pastime.

Come to think of it, the subject is not all that out of the news cycle. Opponents of universal health care advance the argument that "illegal aliens" are a burden on our otherwise wonderful health care system, causing those who pay (or have insurance paying on their behalf) face higher costs.

The effect of two million immigrants is incidental compared with the impact of forty million or so uninsured citizens, but this piece of arithmetic is not noticed in the debate.


La Shawn Barber has been complaining about Bush's plan to move illegal immigrant workers into a status where they can be kept better track of and abused less by the employers who illegally hire them. See also Sierra Faith, where I first saw this and commented before seeing it at La Shawn's site.
I agree with La Shawn on many things, but this is something I just can't come on board with.

Jeremy Pierce, writing at Parableman, picks up on an interesting point.
Read the whole post to catch the substance, but I want to copy here his reply to someone in the comments thread. This is inspired...

"It seems to me that coming into the country illegally should result in deportation, otherwise we may as well change our laws to avoid a lot of ballyhoo."

Bush was proposing a change in the law. Specifically, he was proposing that some of the consequences for entering the country illegally be removed. He never proposed that all of them be removed. If he had done that, given that it's bureaucratically easier to get in illegally than not, people will think it's easier to get in illegally than not, and therefore the same consequences for both would mean people would in effect be rewarded for illegal entry, simply because the illegal way would be easier.

Of course, that wouldn't be Bush rewarding illegal activity. For Bush to reward illegal activity, he would have to make things better for those who come in illegally than they are for those who don't. He hasn't proposed anything of the sort.

La Shawn, your point seems to be about fairness to different groups of illegal immigrants, not about the issues of this bill. Those who want to blow up our cities and government buildings aren't interested in permanent residency. They're interested in their goal. They're not interested in having someone be able to keep better track of them. They want to be invisible. There's nothing about this bill that weakens national security that isn't counterbalanced by the aspects of it that strengthen it.

"If George Bush wants to extend 'grace'to a 'frequently-abused' group, whatever that means, he may as well start extending it to everyone else. What right does he have to make up his own laws and ignore others?"

Um, he's the president, perhaps? He has every right to submit a law to the Congress for their consideration. That's in the Constitution. If it's a law that changes laws on the books, then that's what it does. That's how we change laws in this country, according to the Constitution. We write new ones that remove old ones.

It's hard for me to think of a civic leader's job as reduced to merely protecting the citizens, given the vast amounts of biblical material that says otherwise.

Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. (Isaiah 10:1-4, ESV)

Like a roaring lion or a charging bearis a wicked ruler over a poor
people. A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor, but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days. (Proverbs 28:15-16, ESV)

It is not for kings, O Lemuel,it is not for kings to drink wine, or for rulers to take strong drink, lest they drink and forget what has been decreed and pervert the rights of all the afflicted. Give strong drink to the one who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty and remember their misery no more. Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously,defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:4-9, ESV)

If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields. (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9, ESV)

And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel! Is it not for you to know justice?—you who hate the good and love the evil, who tear the skin from off my people and their flesh from off their bones, who eat the flesh of my people, and flay their skin from off them, and break their bones in pieces and chop them up like meat in a pot, like flesh in a cauldron....Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob and rulers of the house of Israel, who detest justice and make crooked all that is straight, who build Zion with blood and Jerusalem with iniquity. Its heads give judgment for a bribe; its priests teach for a price; its prophets practice divination for money; yet they lean on the Lord and say, "Is not the Lord in the midst of us? No disaster shall come upon us." Therefore because of youZion shall be plowed as a field; Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins, and the mountain of the house a wooded height.(Micah 3:1-3, 9-12 ESV)

A careful read of Nehemiah alongside the Torah will show that he as governor had to apply the principles of the Torah in a new context, and what they had to do as a result was implement laws that were different laws, based on the same principles. His only way to follow God's law was to apply the statements given to Moses to his new situation. The laws Nehemiah was revising were directly from God regarding the wilderness situation or through Moses later in Deuteronomy regarding the new situation in the land, which even in that case involved revision. If you understand something new about a situation even when you don't get your laws from God, then aren't those laws open to revision, if even ones directly from God are?

Bush is aware, in a way that most conservatives choose not to be, that there's a serious injustice being perpetrated under his watch against those who did something wrong to be here. The fact that they did something wrong doesn't make it just for people to oppress them. Is the Christian thing in such a position automatically to go with the letter of the law against the oppressed while imposing piddling penalties in comparison against their oppressors, or is it to figure out if there's a better way to deal with the problem by changing the law? Maybe you disagree with the actual law. I wasn't trying to argue in this post one way or the other on how he was changing it. Clearly something is immoral about the current law, if the Bible is to be any authority in judging laws.

Jeremy Pierce is spot on with this comment.
I have nothing to add.

1 comment:

Kobayashi Maru said...

Nice post. I just referenced you in another on my blog. This is where the rubber of 'compassionate' meets the road of conservatism. Look well skeptical liberals: this is the meat of it. Even the staunchest conservative wouldn't argue against changing any law any time. Rather he would argue (as you have, Hoots) for due process in changing that law, and for careful preservation (or reinforcement) of underlying (overarching?) principles while doing so... followed by stricter enforcement.