Friday, January 20, 2012

There Is No Such Thing As An "Illegal" Immigrant

As our United States citizens become frustrated over a very troubled economy and fearful of repeated terrorist acts around the world, we hear almost daily calls to “close the border” and to expel the “illegal” immigrants.  The loudest voice in this demand comes from the political right, the position that I happen to firmly occupy. There are many problems with this demand; however, three huge ones come immediately to mind.
The first problem is that this violates the very basis of what the United States stands for.   Borders are established between nations and states to restrict the powers of governments, not the rights of people.  It is inconsistent for us to cheer the brave escape of an East German to the West while we condemn the same act of a Mexican.  Each was simply trying to be free from want and servitude.  Would we applaud West Germany for building the same wall for which we condemned the East Germans?  Our founders recognized the higher rights of man to those of government and cited as much in the Declaration of Independence.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.
Declaration of Independence   Bold emphasis added

Reality requires us to recognize the brutal fact that poor people cannot always alter or abolish a destructive government.  In most cases their choices are to perpetually suffer or to flee.  Or consider the patriot who, while he struggles for the rights of his people, earns the wrath of his government.  Is he to wait for their permission to flee their persecution or for the permission of a host state to enter?  Our Lord Jesus Christ was hustled across the border of Egypt in an escape from Herod.  Should Joseph have waited for permission from Herod?  Indeed, this demonstrates the real function of borders.  They are the last bastion of freedom, an escape hatch from hopeless tyranny.  Thus, we do grave damage to our own liberties when we demand a wall of separation on the border of Mexico.  We make a lie of our Declaration, and we lock ourselves in our own potential dungeon.
Secondly, creating a barrier on the border against the free movement of people is a direct violation of our duty to care for our brother, as charged to us by Christ.

31. When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: 32. And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats: 33. And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. 34. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35. For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: 36. Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. 37. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungry, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink? 38. When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]? 39. Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? 40. And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me. 41. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: 42. For I was an hungry, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: 43. I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. 44. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungry, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? 45. Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me. 46. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. 
Matthew 25, Holy Bible

It speaks loudly and to this very point that all nations shall be gathered before Him at that judgment. For where now are those precious borders that held away the poor, the hungry, the naked?  We must all understand that rights emanate from duties.  If there is no originating duty, then there is no right.  Each man has the duty to live, to seek his comfort, safety, shelter, food and personal security, not only for himself but for his dependents as well.  Thus, he has a manifest right to cross a national border, at his own discretion, if necessary.  We, however, have no duty to hold him at bay, to restrict his liberty, to keep the inconvenient fact of his existence away from us because he would bring to us challenges.  Indeed, the opposite is true. We have a duty to form our national and state laws in such a manner as to protect these rights; thus, we have no authority to demand a closed border.

This brings us to the third problem.  When men instigate government, they endow the government with powers.  These powers are not unlimited; rather, they are limited by the authority that the people had to give.  Put another way, no one is able to pass to another authority that they themselves do not have.  A common argument against the “illegals” is that we are a nation of laws and that they break the immigration laws.  The unfortunate truth is that it is we who have wrongly allowed these laws to be created, laws which are in violation of our national creed.  This is just one area, of many, where those of us on the political right instinctively sense that our national government has stepped beyond the bounds of the constitution.  The Federal government has no moral authority beyond that held by our citizens.  If it is illicit for us to lock a man in destitution, it is illicit for our government as well.  If we allow this inconsistency to flourish in the area of immigration, then we must expect our government to exceed its lawful authority in other areas of serious import.

I have one final comment on this subject.  I have received an internet message which wryly points out the fact that if one were to “illegally” enter North Korea, Iran, China, Mexico, Russia and others, he would be summarily imprisoned.  However, if an “illegal’ immigrant enters the United States, he gets a driver’s license, health insurance, welfare monies, etc.  The point of the message was that we are the stupid ones.  I took it in another way, however.  With tears in my eyes I thanked our great God that we should be living in such a country!  That even at this late date, there is still enough of our American spirit left that truly sets us apart from the rest of the world, that we still have embodied in our daily life the high principles which form the justification of our existence as a nation.  For if we do not believe in the principles as defined in the Christian faith, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, then we do not have the right to be free, or to be a nation, and our allegiance remains with our European lords.

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
 Emma Lazarus @ Statue of Liberty

William C. Howe
Henrico Virginia
September 19, 2011

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