I recently had an interesting conversation with a friend about illegal immigration. She drew a parallel between East Germans escaping tyranny through Checkpoint Charlie and illegal immigrants from Mexico escaping the tyranny of poverty. Her point was that we tend to celebrate one escape to freedom and condemn the other…and that America is evil for keeping out desperate people who just want to feed their families. Add to that her insistence that America’s laws don’t reflect a Biblical response to poverty and you have the makings of a serious guilt trip. I’ve run across this kind of reasoning before, and thought it should be addressed. There are many reasons, but primary among them is the fact that the argument is wrapped in piety…making it sound good, and getting emotional agreement from some who don’t take the time to think about it. Because I think it’s a bad argument, I’d like to suggest a better line of reasoning.
East Germans wanted to escape a tyrannical government, which meant that they had to leave their country. For the parallel to work, poor Mexicans would have to have no way to escape poverty without also escaping Mexico. This isn’t the case. There are plenty of examples of Mexicans who have escaped poverty, just as many in America have. Mexicans seeking a better life can, for the most part, find it in Mexico.
When it comes to illegal immigration, the current climate among political liberals tends to suggest that only America is intrinsically bad, while the rest of the world is intrinsically good. Unfortunately, they haven’t thought it through. You and I can’t move to Mexico without the permission of the Mexican government, but nobody condemns Mexico for it. Mexico keeps out poor Guatemalans who seek a better life in Mexico, but only America is the bad guy. To be consistent, my friend would have to condemn not just America, but every country in the world – including Mexico – for maintaining immigration laws. My friend, and those who think like her, simply isn’t consistent on this issue.
But wait, you might say: don’t Christians have an obligation to serve the poor?
Of course Christians should feed the poor…but America isn’t a Christian. The Bible never indicates that our responsibility to God and to others is based on our national affluence. Instead, individual Christians are called to be stewards of all that God has entrusted to us. That means that it’s my responsibility and your responsibility to help where we can. Confusing American political policy with Christianity is a serious mistake.
Think clearly about it: Mexican illegals aren’t a nameless, faceless mob. They’re individuals, like you and me…and they’re as responsible to God as we are. Should Mexicans rely on God for their needs, or on illegal entry into America? The Bible addresses the situation of Christians in poverty pretty directly, and the answer was never that they should turn to the government for a handout.
Finally, more Mexicans consider themselves Christian than Americans, but while many suggest that America sins by not letting them in, very few suggest that they are sinning by breaking our laws and entering illegally.
As the Bible says, poverty is a curse. Those who have should share with those who do not. Poverty-stricken Mexicans seeking to come to America need help. There are lots of ways to serve the Mexican poor, and most of them don’t include turning them into Americans. If you need ideas, I can help.