What we do matters, not just to ourselves, but to our others. It’s a primary lesson in life. Tots learn to share. Schoolchildren learn to take turns. And adults learn that life is never just about themselves. At church, we learn that we are part of something larger than just each individual. Our churches learn that when they are at their best, they are good for the larger community. Widen that scope, and we see that it’s true that what we do in this country affects more than just this country. From carbon emissions to immigration policies to covert activity, America’s business becomes our neighbors’ business. Of course, we have concerns about ourselves. And we Christians have the Law of the Hebrew Scriptures demanding that we care for the foreigner or sojourner, and we have Jesus saying that our neighbor is whoever needs us. When we talk about immigration, however, folks tend to split along partisan lines rather than Biblical ones. Let’s look at a few misconceptions.
Open borders? Our borders are not “open.” Yes, there has been quite an increase in emigrant encounters. By the way, “emigrant encounters” means they are encountering the Customs and Border Patrol. Many are turned back. Others are permitted to begin the process of seeking asylum or other legal routes. There are strict rules and a process for vetting. Of course, there are those who might slip through, despite the increase in border patrols. It’s a 2,000-mile border.
Are they taking our jobs? Although immigrants often take jobs that others don’t want, because they are arduous, dangerous, or distasteful, increased immigration creates more consumers. As more consumer goods are needed, more jobs are created. In fact, granting citizenship to undocumented people would boost our GDP by $1.7 trillion over 10 years and create more than 438,000 jobs, according to the Center for American Progress. https://thehill.com/latino/558276-report-pathway-to-citizenship-for-10-million-would-boost-gdp-by-17-trillion/
Do they take government benefits? Some do, particularly those with young children, may receive assistance with food. But they are not eligible for many services. On the other hand, they pay sales, gas, and property taxes. They pay into Social Security, even though they cannot receive those benefits unless they have been authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to work in the U.S. Many legal immigrants have a five-year waiting period before they’d be eligible for Medicaid.
According to the Congressional Budget Office, in 2016, 50 – 75% of undocumented workers are paying payroll taxes which include Social Security and Medicare. But because they are undocumented, they will never receive Social Security payments or Medicare benefits. Undocumented immigrants pay a higher state and local tax rate than the richest 1%. They use schools and EMS but they support these programs through sales, and property taxes.
Why don’t they just stay in their countries? Many of them would love to if they could. People are coming here to escape political upheaval, wars, gang violence, climate change, and loss of land due to corporate greed. They are coming here to earn money to send home to their families. They are coming in the hope of opportunity, safety, and freedom. They want the same chance at life that you and I have.
What about criminals? Immigrants are actually half as likely as native-born Americans to commit a violent crime, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. For undocumented workers, even getting pulled over for speeding could lead to deportation.
What about drug cartels? This topic often comes up when we talk about the southern border and immigration. Some folks will be irate that I included it, while others would be irate if I didn’t. The truth is there’s hardly a person among us whose circle of family and friends has not been touched by the opiate/fentanyl crisis. But it is not being perpetrated by those seeking asylum or coming to the U.S. to seek a better life. Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas said this just a few weeks ago: "The vast, vast majority [of fentanyl] is sought to be smuggled through the ports of entry and tractor-trailer trucks and passenger vehicles,” often by American citizens.
It’s worth learning about why people are trying to come to the U.S. It’s a bigger story than what we hear on the news, regardless of which news you watch, read, or listen to. Here are some suggestions of things we can do.
Continue support for the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or “Dreamers”) students at our local colleges and universities.
Advocate with your Senators and Congressional Representatives to develop a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.
Listen to and support Entre Nosotras Radio which helps in building, supporting, and informing the Latinex/Hispanic community as well as the non-Hispanic community (http://entrenosotrasradio.com). Our Presbytery is helping with this thanks to an Ignite grant to our Immigrant Justice Committee. You are encouraged to listen every Thursday from 11:30 to noon at 93.9 FM or watch the YouTube recordings.
Keep learning. Keep asking questions. And remember that our first allegiance is not to partisan politics, but to Jesus, and to see his face in our neighbor’s need.
Grace and Peace,