Last month, Reverend Stephen Phelps of the famously liberal interdenominational Riverside Church in New York City gave a sermon on U.S. immigration policy. Of course, as is always predictable when the Religious Left sermonizes about “immigration,” the real issue is the 12 million illegal immigrants and has little to do with the legal immigrants who have obtained work visas, green cards, are naturalized residents, or who are refugees. But of course, the Reverend was careful never even once to utter the word “illegal” anywhere in the speech, a simple but effective trick to confuse the reality of the issue at hand.
Preaching from the former pulpit of famed liberal preachers like William Sloane Coffin and Harry Emerson Fosdick, Phelps began by offering his interpretation of the conservative view on immigration. He cited the famous quote from Robert Frost’s poem The Mending Wall that “good fences make good neighbors” as an illustration of the conservative position that supposedly is all about protecting against outside influences. Phelps did concede that there is some merit to this position, which wants to protect what is good, just as cell membranes protect cells, and immune systems protect organisms. But, he chastised supporters of law enforcement for being anxious, fearful, and therefore wanting too solid of a wall that which would suffocate and destroy the U.S. just as suffocating an organism will kill it as well.
If you haven’t caught on to how this is a gross misrepresentation of the mainstream conservative position of immigration policy then I’ll lay out the flaws in Phelps’ portrayal. The erroneous conclusion that conservatives and others don’t want illegal immigrants because they believe “good fences make good neighbors” or because they want “walls” that are tight and suffocating is a fantasy. And this brings us back to the Religious Left trick of dropping that nuisance of a word, “illegal,” from its vocabulary, which is primarily a tactic to smear conservatives. Similarly, throwing out words like, “anxiety” and “fear,” when describing the conservative position is also a petty smear meant to dismiss legitimate concerns about illegal immigration.
If the Revered Phelps’ interpretation of the conservative position on immigration was correct, then conservatives would be up in arms about ALL immigrants, not just the illegals. But of course conservatives do not typically protest against the 27 million persons who are currently immigrants in America legally, only against those that have entered illegally and committed a federal crime in doing so. Many Americans have an issue with illegal immigrants because they have violated federal immigration laws. They don’t want an airtight border as Phelps’ erroneously claimed; they want law and order and are generally welcoming to legal immigrants, of whom there are about 1 million annually.
Reverend Phelps then tried to compare illegal immigrants to the Biblical character Ruth and called her the “manifesto of the undocumented worker.” The reasoning is that she moved from Moab to Bethlehem and didn’t do so following any immigration protocol, therefore it must be okay for immigrants to enter the U.S. without following any immigration protocol either. Of course this argument does not pass the most basic test of logic since, as far as we know, Ruth did not violate any laws; the same cannot be said for the 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States.
Phelps finished by bringing out the big guns, the piece de resistance of the Religious Left’s argument for amnesty and the cessation of U.S. immigration law enforcement against illegal aliens: if you want to enforce immigration laws then you’re mean and you should be ashamed of yourself for not being a cuddly Christian.
Okay, the argument had a little bit more depth than that, but not much. Phelps’ reasoning comes from the verse Exodus 22:21 where God commanded the Israelites: “Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him.” Basically, Phelps is making the case that punishing someone for breaking perfectly reasonable immigration laws constitutes mistreatment and oppression.
Again, the logic here is ridiculously flawed. What would happen if for instance, such reasoning were consistently followed and applied to private property? If we followed Phelps’ logical reasoning, and someone squatted on your property, then you would be mistreating them and oppressing them if you forced them to leave or prosecuted them for violating your rights.
Even more absurdly, Phelps made the case that since the illegal immigrants are already on American soil and part of society, Americans have a responsibility to take care of them. Furthermore, Phelps argued that as they have become part of our society, to deport any of them would be to destroy part of America.
Back to the application of Phelps’ logic to private property, his reasoning would lead to the conclusion that squatters who have invaded your personal property are now your moral responsibility. And on top of that, according to Phelps, it would be detrimental for yourself to enforce your legal rights and clear the squatters off your land because by being on your property, they are now part of you, and getting rid of them would be destroying part of yourself. Absolute rubbish.
Property rights, like national borders, are protected by the rule of law (or should be anyway). It is therefore moral and reasonable that violations of the sovereignty of either would be punishable by legal means. The supremacy of the rule of law is the foundation of civilized society and the state has as much right to protect itself from the unwanted invasion of persons just as individuals have the right to protect themselves and their property from invasion.
Furthermore, violations of sovereignty and the rule of law are not the only transgressions made by illegal immigrants. While it may come to a surprise to Reverend Phelps, Latinos are not the only people that are desperate to immigrate to the United States. There are tens of millions of people all across the world who have applied through legal avenues to obtain green cards, asylum, or other immigration statuses. Millions in overseas nations live under the fear of political, religious, or ethnic persecution. Millions more live under repressive regimes or live in economic circumstances that are far more desperate than those of most of the illegal immigrants who now reside in the US.
Reverend Phelps says that his position is based upon his humanitarian concern for the illegal immigrants and their situations. Where may I ask is his concern for the tens of millions of far more desperate persons around the world who are waiting hopefully for a chance to immigrate to America? Why are humanitarian concerns for them apparently less important than the illegal immigrants who have taken advantage of their geographic proximity and jumped to the front of the line ahead of those who follow the rule of law? Illegal immigrants do not just offend the United States, they offend the tens of millions who wait their turn to enter the U.S. legally.
The conservative position on illegal immigration is not based upon fear, racism, anxiety, or any of the other fantasies and smears that liberals have come up with. The conservative position includes the desire to humanely welcome persons who wish to immigrate to America to build better lives for themselves and their children. But, this position understands the rule of law is the foundation of civilized society, that illegal immigration undermines the rule of law as well as national sovereignty, and that illegal immigrants, along with their supporters, are acting unfairly to the tens of million who try to immigrate to this country legally.
Unless liberals like Reverend Phelps can convince Americans that it is moral to be against the unbiased implementation of the rule of law, or that it is moral to support persons who unfairly force their way into a nation ahead of others who follow the rules, those holding a conservative view will continue to be opposed to the legitimization of illegal immigrants or any attempts to reward them with citizenship without some measure of punishment for their offenses.