This post is a bit different from what I usually post here, as I usually deal with apologetics issues or sort of a “Christian living” approach. But something that happened this week made me want to post a few thoughts on the subject of illegal immigration in the United States.
My wife’s cousin posted a status on his Facebook account that said this: “How does being an illegal immigrant make you inherently more dangerous to society?” What followed initially were a couple of responses like this one: “I think illegal is the operative word in that sentance.(sic)”
WIFE and I had a discussion as she responded with her own opinions and went back-and-forth in a debate with one of the posters. But at the heart of the issue is not the illegality of the immigration, but of the inherent danger it supposedly triggers.
Now we obviously don’t live in a vacuum. Some illegal immigrants do commit serious crimes. But so do legal citizens! According to an article in Time magazine from 2008, illegal immigrants were responsible for 21% of crime in the U.S. in 2005. That means 79% of crime was caused by U.S. citizens. So the statistics show that there isn’t actually more danger inherent to illegal immigrants.
This objection (paraphrased) was thrown out in response to the initial Facebook status: “If they’re willing to commit a crime to be here, they’re willing to commit other crimes once they’re here.” There are two very good refutations to such logic. One is given in the above Time article by Prof. Daniel Mears, a Florida St. criminology professor: “‘If someone is here illegally,’ Mears asks, ‘why would they call attention to themselves by committing a crime?'”
The second one is a very basic turn of the word “illegal.” It means, in its simplest form, “breaking the law.” However, someone going above the speed limit on the road is also breaking the law, or to even it out to the language used of immigrants, “committing a crime.” Does that mean we should imprison or deport everyone who is speeding, since those speeders (of which I am one, sadly) have shown a willingness to commit a crime? Under the same logic, speeders would be willing to commit other crimes if they’re willing to speed. So why do speeders get only a ticket but illegal immigrants get deported or jailed? The argument just doesn’t make logical sense.
In my opinion, there are two big issues with many who are vehemently opposed to illegal immigrants in the United States:
1) Most strong objectors don’t actually know any illegal immigrants
2) An already “too strong” sense of entitlement
Let me speak to these together, because they sort of go hand-in-hand. I know of (for a fact) at least one person who is here illegally. I consider this person a good friend. This person has been here over five years and is married to a U.S. citizen. This person is also one of the nicest and hardest-working people I know. This person is here to try to make a better life for themselves and their family. This person has never committed a crime, contributes to society, is a member of a church and tithes to that church, and pays taxes on their income.
Here’s the kicker: this person has spent the better part of the past two years trying to become a legal citizen. What’s stopping them from achieving this? Initially this person was swindled out of thousands of dollars by a crooked lawyer (who is an American citizen) that had no intention of helping them see their case through. After getting a new lawyer, this friend of mine has been waiting months to hear from the American consulate in their home country for when they might get a hearing on their case. This has since been postponed with new immigration laws pending here. So even if an illegal immigrant wants to try and right the ship, the odds are stacked against them.
In contrast, I know of an American woman who wants her teenage daughter that just had a baby to move in with her so she can be on welfare and not have to get a job. This is a citizen who would like to abuse the system in order to perpetuate a laziness that comes from a sense of entitlement. After all, the government makes these programs, so we might as well use them if we can, right?
The old adage “give them a hand up, not a hand out” seems fitting here. Many illegal immigrants simply want a hand up. Many American citizens simply want a hand out. And yet the perceptions about which is more dangerous seem drastically skewed when you’re not acutely aware of how each side actually behaves. Again, these are generalizations about each group of people, but since the scope of the initial topic was broad, the principles are applicable.
As with many situations on the political landscape, it helps to be informed. My initial thought is this: if you don’t know any illegal immigrants, don’t act like you know what they are or aren’t capable of and therefore have a right to judge.
As a Christian, part of my value system is that everyone is loved by God and equally important, so trying to diminish one’s opportunity at success because it may infringe on your potential is selfish. After all, Jesus said, “Judge not, lest you be judged yourself.” Maybe if we spent more time trying to better ourselves instead of looking at the possible flaws of others, things would be far less dangerous. I’m pretty sure Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” not “love yourself and not your neighbor.” We’d be wise to heed such an ideology.
And now we return to our regularly scheduled programming.
P.S. For those of you wondering, I’m a registered Republican and may be in the minority here. But I’m a Christian first, and so will follow the words of Jesus before the words of my political party. 🙂