Toward a Balance in the Immigration Debate

on October 22, 2009

Bishop Clyde M. Hughes
International Pentecostal Church of Christ

 

Below is a statement posted by the International Pentecostal Church of Christ in response to the recent NAE resolution on immigration reform and concern raised by members of this denomination.

The International Pentecostal Church of Christ was formed in 1976 when the International Pentacostal Church (IPA) consolidated with the Pentecostal Church of Christ (PCC). More information about this denomination can be found on their website: www.ipcc.cc.

Hundreds of letters are pouring in to member denominations of the National Association of Evangelicals in protest of the resolution passed by the Board of Directors at their October 8 meeting at Washington , DC . The International Pentecostal Church of Christ has not been exempt from receiving these letters. As the representative of the International Pentecostal Church of Christ, I abstained in the vote. Although I may have agreed with the words, there were omissions I would have liked to have seen included and the tone could have been and has been interpreted as slanted toward the amnesty side of the issue. The following statement would not conflict with the NAE resolution. However; numerous news reports and interpretation of the resolution sound too much like amnesty for all. The NAE President’s appearance before the Chuck Schumer Senate Committee was reported to have been supportive of wholesale amnesty. The words differ with that assessment, but the Schumer connection lends itself to that assumption. NAE has a policy that difference with its positions first be discussed with the leadership. For this cause, I will not discuss the document. However; due to the angst seen in these hundreds of letters addressed to us and the proliferation of reports that the IPCC is among the Evangelical denominations attacking American workers, it seems imperative that we address the issue. Should you differ, we beg your indulgence. These are complicated issues during complicated times. We must have unity of spirit even when we can not find unity of opinion. Permission is granted to reprint.

– Clyde M. Hughes

 

TOWARD A BALANCE IN THE IMMIGRATION DEBATE

 

Immigration Reform. The International Pentecostal Church of Christ is strongly for immigration reform. The current system is dysfunctional to be polite and cruel to citizens and non-citizens alike to be honest. But we encourage the reforms to protect the nation (Provide for the common defense) allow would-be Americans to proportionately and legally apply for that honor as so many millions in our great heritage have.

Who is the immigrant? The immigrant, legal or not, is our neighbor, our fellow human, and often our brother. In the sight of God, he is our equal, having been bestowed with the same degree of the Imago Dei (Image of God.) There is no room for prejudice or racism in this or any discussion. One need not to become an American to become a fellow Christian. We must also be aware that most undocumented immigrants aren’t terrible people, but simply people seeking a better life for their families.

Understanding the root of the immigration issue. Employers, (Demand side) more often Republicans, help create the problem by enticing undocumented immigrants (Supply side) with jobs. Liberal politicians, mostly Democrats, create the problem by refusing to address the issue to gain political clout. Are not most political debates about power? So, both political parties are accessories to crime, if not the main culprits in handing us a terrible crisis. When immigrants were limited to picking fruit and produce, few objected. When they began to fill more common jobs, tensions rose. Contrary to some statements, unemployment now has citizens and non-citizens vying for the same positions, but often with an inequity of pay disrupting fair labor competition. But every problem has a spiritual root. Had we not aborted 45 million babies and the possible single offspring of each of them would have provided 90 million extra Americans would have prevented a need for undocumented immigrants to perform the tasks they now do. So sin, as always, is the cause.

A call for a strong balance between compassion and the rule of law. Xenophobia has no place in the church. America , the Melting Pot, was made strong through immigrants. E pluribus unum, Latin for ” Out of many one ” has been our nation’s mantra. Those who came through Ellis Island added strength. While keeping much of their culture, they assimilated through language and other cultural characteristics. They became Americans first. During the two World Wars, Americans of German heritage retained their loyalty to America . They never marched in protests carrying their former flag. They loved America and came to add to rather than take away from their new nation. Immigrants willing to transfer their loyalty are those that are needed. The Bible demands little, except humane treatment from us of those unwilling to become one with us. One advantage we have over Europe : they import Muslims to replace missing laborers while we allow Christian based Mexicans to do our work. While we are thankful for this Christian heritage, it does not defy compassion to expect some responsibilities along with the privileges of remaining in the country.

God forbids hatred and prejudice and expects compassion to all. Does this mean providing the undocumented the same social support of a citizen? Probably not. Reality demands we consider the drain upon our schools, health systems, and jobs through illegal immigration. Should undocumented immigrants be protected from abusive employers and criminals? Of course. Should they be provided emergency medical care? Yes, but until we stop the flood of undocumented immigrants, our health system, schools, and the entire economy will remain in crisis. Should the anchor baby policy continue? The abuse of the natural born child policy could reasonably be stopped through a change in the law. Requiring identification to vote or receive other benefits is not racist. Criteria for benefits is established to protect the proper recipients. To not require proper documentation is encouraging fraud and taking from the deserving.

The autonomy of our nation. There is nothing racist about protecting our borders. Mexico , hypocritically, has a much tougher border policy on their southern border than she allows America to have. But compassion above the border remains silent for compassion below the border. The first step in solving the immigration problem is to seal the borders which neither party has had the courage to do. Many who want immigration reform are for open borders. A substantial majority of Mexicans are said to have no compunction against breaking American immigration laws. Many of them believe that America stole the southwestern states so they are just reclaiming what is already theirs. In a Zogby poll, an overwhelming majority (69 percent) of people in Mexico thought that the primary loyalty of Mexican-Americans (Mexico- and U.S.-born) should be to Mexico . Just 20 percent said it should be to the United States . The rest were unsure. 1 Resisting balance and demanding absolute compassion without responsibilities would have devastating ramifications. Before Mexico , First Americans ruled our southwest. Uncontrolled compassion would require every American and former Mexican to find a First American and deed their home over to them without charge. It took centuries to get to the mess we are in and extricating ourselves will be no easy task. Compassion without qualification makes victims out of every benefactor. Open borders also take no consideration of terrorists posing as Mexicans entering in our country.

Full amnesty would be cruel discrimination. Amnesty, as many would apply it, unfairly and terribly discriminates against Mexicans who limit their border crossing through legal channels. It discriminates against the most poor who can not afford an attorney to secure a visa or pay the coyote’s fee for sneaking him across. Having dealt with a number of people desiring to visit the United States from other nations, the numbers of illegal Mexicans already in the United States makes it nearly impossible for persons of other nations to obtain a visa. A strong amnesty program would grossly discriminate against people in nearly every other nation on earth. Discrimination is the epitome of a lack of compassion.

Civil Disobedience and the Bible. One Evangelical leader likened the breaking of immigration laws with the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement. Such frivolous comparisons cheapen the price African-Americans paid during those difficult days. Such comparisons fail to see that Blacks were demanding their humane rights promised them by the Constitution. They were demanding nothing of a foreign nation.

Immigration Reform and Evangelism. Some denominations have become pro-amnesty so as not to jeopardize their ability to reach the ever fertile Hispanic community. The history of missions has been filled with the challenge of ministry within or in spite of the nation’s laws. But those laws have been those which have limited religious speech and liberties. Nowhere in Scripture are we admonished to practice the condoning lawbreaking as the first step to reaching the lost beyond witnessing of Christ and living out the Christian experience. A core principle of forgiveness is that it initiates when the seeker of forgiveness acknowledges his wrongs. Those who do this should be first to be considered for charity.

Social consciousness. The Bible demands social consciousness of believers and their nations. The United States is the most generous donor toward world poverty and Third World development. Here at home, fifty-five per cent of the nation’s largess goes to social services for the aged and disadvantaged. Lenient immigration policy advocates who say we need to be more compassionate should be asked, “At what point will there ever be sufficient compassion?”

Toward a solution. So what is the answer? Legitimizing all undocumented immigrants with citizenship? Adding them to the proposed healthcare policy? Making them legal so Congress can say they are not including undocumented immigrants? Loading 13 million undocumented immigrants in cattle cars and returning them to Mexico ? None of these ideas fit with a balance of compassion and law. Sealing the borders, reasonable penalties commensurate with the offense, such as back taxes, fines, returning to Mexico to apply, a vow of allegiance, worker status cards, etc. may be ways for those who are otherwise complying with American law and are not receiving social services.

Eliminating borders denies the concept of American exceptionalism with its belief that God has blessed America so that she can bless the world. Proponents of open borders see no inconsistency in constructing exterior walls, windows, fences and locked doors around their personal places of abode. We can still believe America is the greatest nation in the world and yet protect our borders and handle those within, regardless of the status of entry, with compassion and balanced justice.

1 http://www.cis.org/ZogbyPoll-EffectsOfAmnesty

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