Monday, June 18, 2007

Immigration and Sacrifice

I visited a United Church of Christ congregation this week, and the sermon was almost entirely on the issue of immigration. The pastor said he had intended to give a feel good sermon about God as Father but the events of the week didn't allow for that.

Last week a Del Monte plant was raided in Portland. There were 167 illegal immigrants arrested and sent to a deportation facility. The incident led to a wide spread panic among immigrant workers in the community. For instance, schools were reporting abnormal absentee rates as immigrant parents were afraid to let their children leave home.

The pastor's sermon hit some of the usual points about how those of us present were all descended from immigrants and so on. He said he wasn't so naive as to think we could simply open our borders -- there were issues of civil order and economics which couldn't be ignored -- but he was hopeful that if we truly intend to we could work out a just solution. Overall, it was a pretty good sermon.

I'm much more naive than this pastor. I don't see why we can't just open our borders. I'm not suggesting we close down the customs department completely -- by all means keep asking people why they're coming into the country -- but I don't see why we need to turn away anyone who is coming here looking for work.

People say that it can't be done because of the impact it would have on our economy. The cost of social services is often mentioned. I don't doubt that it would cost us a great deal, but that doesn't mean it can't be done. What it comes down to is this, the people of our country are willing to offer help to the poor in neighboring countries, but only so long as it doesn't hurt.

I would like to suggest that the situation of the wealthy United States closing its borders to Mexico's poor is a direct acting out of the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Lazarus lay at the rich man's gate and longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man's table. And I'm sure the rich man would have been happy to let Lazarus have what fell from the table -- just so he didn't have to give Lazarus something from his own plate.

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