Hospitality and Immigration

I hesitate to comment on such complex political issues, because I do not understand the ramifications of the debate well enough to have a well thought-out opinion.  But, I realize that I do know more than so many who are commenting quite divisively on the issue … so here are some of my “big picture” reflections.

Since moving to Texas I have had the opportunity to meet and get to know many immigrants, mostly Mexican.  Some were cleaning my house, others cutting my lawn; some were learning English in the ESL program where I was tutoring, others were working in my office or in church with me or living on the same cul-de-sac as me.  I am convinced the issue of illegal immigration is much more complex than “send them back, they’re not following our laws.”  Most of the Mexican immigrants (illegal and legal) I have known are hard-working, family-oriented, and committed individuals.  They are working so many hours at very low paying jobs; they have no time to attend ESL classes.  They are often supporting large and extended families on less than 1/5 of our household income. 

The illegal and the legal immigrants are enmeshed together in family structures.  To send an illegal home to Mexico often means separating families that are working and living together.  Sometimes husbands from wives and parents from children.

Most come to this country thinking they will work for awhile and send money home.  One man I met said he never expected that he would be in this country for 12 years … he thought it would be a temporary thing until he could make enough money to support his family back home in Mexico.

Perhaps instead of spending billiions of $$ on keeping Mexicans and Central Americans out of the US, we should be using that money to help those third world countries in our own hemisphere develop jobs and fair wages for their populations.  If we helped Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras, for instance, develop their own economies and stopped allowing large American corporations to exploit their workforces, perhaps there wouldn’t be so many people risking their lives to enter this country.

I understand the psychology of keeping to our laws … if they came illegally they should pay.  If we legalize them, we are reinforcing this kind of law-breaking.  But are our principles of law really more important than the compassion offered to a family that just wants a job?  Other than the stress on our public school system, I see little real cost to allowing these hard workers to stay.  By and large, they are not introducing more crime in our neighborhoods.  And, if they are, then … let’s crack down on theft, assault, drugs, etc. but not act without compassion towards our neighbors to the south, who are just interested in feeding and clothing their children and parents.

I have been praying and reflecting on the Angels visit to Lot’s home in Sodom.  The sin that caused the destruction of those cities had everything to do with compassion to the alien.  How hospitable are we willing to be?  Are we going to act like Christians and welcome the poor and the homeless and the aliens, or are we more like the people of Sodom who take advantage and then send them home beaten and raped?

How can we tout we are a Christian nation and then act so inhospitable?