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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Immigration and the Gospel

At the end of the sermon of the mount, Jesus uses a parable that involves hell. That parable can be found at Mathew 25:31-46.

http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2025:31-46;&version=31;

Jesus says that the eternal judge will decide whether you go to hell based on whether you fed the least of these when they were hungry; gave water to them when they were thirsty; gave clothes to them when they were naked. (If you follow the biblegateway passage you can link to a commentary that says Jesus was not talking about the poor in general, but how people treated his messengers. Whatever lets you sleep at night, buddy.)

Our immigration policy is broken because it is exploiting people. These people, the least of these to use the phrase attributed to Jesus, work for less than the minimum wage, die in the hundreds in the Arizona desert, and are subject to the wrath of the people who benefit from their service.

When people are allowed to work in the United States without documentation they become victims; and we who enjoy the fruit of this low wage work force are culpable.

The greatest effort to address this problem has been to make life more difficult for the exploited workers. Maybe they'll stop coming if we treat them bad enough seems to be the logic. That is as evil as it is stupid. If people are literally risking their lives to come here and be underpaid, do you think they'll stop coming because they cannot be released on bail? because if they're hurt an ambulance wont respond? because they can't attend junior college?

Here's my suggestion: Make it possible for employers to verifying status (National ID, National database, if it really is hard now); Prosecute employers who employ undocumented personnel; Issue sufficient work visas to accommodate work force need.

People here legally will be able to stand up for themselves, they will be less of a drag on wages. If they are in the tiny, tiny percentage that makes enough money to pay income tax they can. (Although, obviously most people working these low wage jobs, even if paid a minimum wage, will not make enough to pay income taxes.) We will take money out of the hands of they coyotes. We will end the horrific environmental tragedy created first by humans trampling the desert and next by the construction of walls and fences. People living on the border will no longer fear constant trespass. Human beings will stop dying by the hundreds.

I believe it is a moral imperative and a mandate from Jesus Christ to end the exploitation these people.

3 comments:

Josh Gentry said...

I mostly agree with you. I'm not as motivated by the teachings of Christ, but I come to similar conclusions, but with more self interest.

I guess the sticky point for me is how many Visas. I think some immigration is good for the country, but I think at a certain point a lot of desperate people willing to work for lower wages than non-immigrants undermines our economy, particularly for citizens at the bottome of the economy, and I'm not willing to do that to help immigrants. To the point it is mutually beneficial, we should make it easier to do legally and then enforce the law. That definitely included cracking down on employers, as you suggest.

A point we might differ, I think enforcement comes first. Crack down on the employers, and we might need the fences and deportations. When enforcement has some teeth, only then will legal immigration mean something.

JimII said...

The number of Visas should be driven by unemployment and wage pressure in the United States. This is bound to be a contentious issue regarding what good numbers are for these, but it would be a logical parameter to monitor.

The last major immigration reform allowed employers off the hook for accepting fraudulent documents by setting the standard so low. Basically, the employer would have to be an accomplice in the effort to be here illegal. Any "good" forgery removed liability for employers. That has to go away.

I agree about the importance of enforcement. Of course, our current enforcement efforts on the supply of the undocumented workforce have surely done all they can. We need to enforce laws restricting the demand for the undocumented work force.

I also share your concern about lowering wages. That is my political motivation for wanted to end the black market work force.

Josh Gentry said...

So we agree. And I think lots of people agree with us. It's one of those issues where its hard to understand why this isn't policy alreay. The debate is driven by greed on one pole and xenophobia on the other.