Thursday, May 13, 2010


I’ve posted on illegal immigration in the past, so I’m not going to repeat everything I’ve said before. However, in light of Arizona’s law, I’ve been reading some commentary by “evangelical leaders” or ministers who oppose the law and support amnesty. For the most part I’m going to pick on Richard Land’s article, which is representative of the current fare. I’ll also say something briefly about Prof. Carroll’s biased review of Hoffmeier’s book.

But before that I’d like to make a general observation. Evangelical “leaders” and ministers often cast themselves in the role of saner heads who must calm the restive masses lest the rabble be swept away by the passion the moment and degenerate into a fearful mobocracy.

I’d just say that this reflects a very patronizing and self-important attitude on the part of evangelical “leaders” and ministers. They seem to view the sheep as a bunch of hotheads and immature children who must be kept in check.

Now for Land’s article.

“It is imperative that we find an acceptable solution to the plight of the millions of undocumented immigrants living in our nation.”

This isn’t the only time that Land uses the “undocumented” euphemism. I have to wonder if that euphemism isn’t counterproductive. I imagine that euphemism antagonizes many Americans, which is the very opposite of its intended effect.

“Attorneys I trust and respect tell me that if the law survives the manifold court challenges it faces and goes into effect, it will be abused by genuinely bad people (like drug dealers and human traffickers) whose unscrupulous lawyers will claim falsely that they were victims of racial profiling and prejudice when they were arrested legitimately.”

i) Because liberals are intellectually vacuous, they resort to rhetorical intimidation. They try to shame us into silence by using scary words. We’re supposed to stop dead in our tracks at the sound of “Homophobia!” or “Racial profiling!”

Christians need to defy this emotional extortion.

ii) If some demographic group breaks the law at a disproportionate rate, who are they to put law-abiding citizens on the defensive? If anybody should be on the defensive, it’s the lawbreakers.

We’ve seen this with Muslims. They scream “racial profiling.” As a result, cringing authorities frisk everyone who is not a Muslim while going out of their way to wave the jihadis through the line–just to prove how tolerant they are.

iii) Suppose there was a law cracking down on the KKK. Should police target white dudes donning bed sheets, or would that be illegal profiling? Should police should be allowed to check the driver's license of any driver who appears to be underage? Would that be agist profiling? Would that unfairly discriminate against older teens who look younger than their true age.

Likewise, should liquor store cashiers should be allowed to demand ID from customers who appear to be underage? Should we abolish statutory rape in case enforcing the age of consent is agist profiling?

“To force those who are here illegally to leave is neither politically viable nor humanitarian…There is neither the political nor economic will in the U.S. population for forcibly rounding up 12 million people—many of them who have children who are American citizens—and shipping them back to their country of origin.”

I’ll have more to say about this momentarily, but for now I’d simply note that when people uses this argument, what this reveals to me is a lack of good faith. The reason illegal immigrants come here is for the benefits. If we put a stop to the gravy train, many or most of them would self-deport. Remove the incentive to come and you remove the incentive to stay.

“I have joined with other Evangelicals in calling for bipartisan immigration reform that: Protects the unity of the immediate family.”

There are several problems with this stock objection:

i) Is it inherently wrong to divide families? Should we never incarcerate a father or mother or son or daughter who commits a serious crime on the grounds that this would divide the family?

What about a man who commits a heinous crime, skips the country, and starts a new life for himself? Should we make no effort to extradite him on the grounds that we might be dividing the family he started while he was out on the lam?

ii) Land himself says that it is proper to deport illegal aliens who spurn the terms of his “path to citizenship.” But wouldn’t that divide families?

iii) This appeal is akin claiming that if a man steals my car, and if he eludes the authorities for enough time, then it becomes his car. And it would be terribly unfair of me to demand my car back.

I don’t see that getting away with breaking the law for a long time is somehow exculpatory. If anything, I view that as an aggravating circumstances rather than a mitigating circumstance. For a long time you got the benefit of something that didn’t belong to you. If one man enjoys a 5-year profit from his ill-gotten gain while another man enjoys a 10-year profit, is the latter less guilty than the former? If anything, wouldn’t that worsen his crime?

“As people of faith we must lead our churches to engage in multi-faceted human needs ministries on a massive scale to meet the physical and spiritual needs of millions of men, women and children living in the shadows of society…”

Sigh. “Living in the shadows” is such a cliché. If some people break reasonable laws, then they ought to live in fear. Do we want our laws to have that deterrent effect?

Now, we can debate whether or not our current immigration laws or just or unjust. But that’s a different debate.

“The millions of undocumented workers living among us suffer as outcasts without the full protections of the law or full access to the opportunities this nation offers to all to fulfill their God-given potential…We should, and we will, always have room in this great nation for those who are willing to embrace the American dream and the American ideals that both inspired that dream and define it.”

It is not the duty of the US to open its doors to everyone who wants to come here. That’s totally unrealistic.

“Proper reform should consist of a program that provides an earned pathway that requires an illegal immigrant who desires to remain legally in the U.S. to undergo a criminal background check, pay a fine, agree to pay back taxes, learn to speak, write and read English and get in line behind those who are legally migrating into this country in order to apply for permanent residence after a probationary period of years.”

i) That’s a popular metaphor: go around to the back of the line. But what does that mean? Is Land suggesting that illegal aliens return to their country of origin, then apply for legal residence or citizenship? But that would involve mass deportation, which he opposes. Likewise, would they be learning English in their country of origin? How would that work, exactly?

ii) Or does he mean they would stay on US soil? But if that’s the case, then in what sense are they getting in line behind those who came here legally? And if they can stay here during the process, then what incentive do they have to pay a fine, back taxes, learn English, &c?

iii) Learn English? Permit me a personal anecdote. Back when I was living in San Diego County I once went to a food market which was basically a Mexican establishment this side of the border. I showed one of the employees an ad, in Spanish, for an item they had on sale. He drew a blank. It dawned in me that he was illiterate.

How could we require him to learn English when he didn’t even know how to read and write in his mother tongue?

Now maybe that’s an isolated incident. But it makes me wonder if Land has any concrete grasp of the issues.

iv) Actually, I'm not sure if I even agree with him about requiring immigrants to learn English. I'm inclined to take a more libertarian position on that issue. On the one hand I don't think the gov't is obligated to issue official forms in foreign languages, or conduct bilingual classes. On the other hand, there are ethnic communities in this country where an immigrant can get by in his own language.

“They must also acknowledge and pledge allegiance to America’s governmental structure, the duties of citizenship and our core values as embodied in the Declaration of Independence.”

What about illegal aliens who riot when duly elected representatives pass laws like Arizona’s? Should they be summarily deported in view of their evident disloyalty to the democratic process of the host country?

“People who fail background checks or who refuse to comply with this generous opportunity to earn legal status should be deported immediately.”

But I thought that Land was opposed to “rounding up” and “forcibly deporting” illegal aliens? I mean, wouldn’t that divide families?

And here’s a statement by Prof. Carroll regarding:

“…the possible complicity of the U.S. in some of these conditions (e.g., the impact of NAFTA on Mexican agriculture)—that has resulted in up to 200 million people migrating worldwide today looking for food, work, and safety.”

I have no opinion on the pros and cons of NAFTA. I’m not a businessman or economist.

However, it’s absurd to pin the blame for NAFTA on our gov’t when the Mexican gov’t was a signatory to the same treaty.

But there’s another issue concerning Carroll’s long, hostile review. Carroll panned the book. But when I click on his academic webpage, this is what I find:

Dr. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, who celebrates his heritage from both Guatemala and the United States, joined the faculty in 1996. He currently is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament. He is affiliated with the Evangelical Theological Society, Institute of Biblical Research, Society of Biblical Literature, Society for Old Testament Study (Great Britain), Fraternidad Teológica Latinoamericana, Latin American Studies Association, and Evangelicals for Social Action. He serves on the international editorial boards of Religion & Theology (South Africa) and DavarLogos (Argentina), is a contributing editor to Prism (the journal of Evangelicals for Social Action), and is an editorial consultant for Perspectivas (of the Hispanic Theological Initiative) and Ex Auditu.

Prior to his appointment to Denver Seminary, he was professor of Old Testament and ethics and director of graduate studies at El Seminario Teológico Centroamericano in Guatemala City, Guatemala. He remains an adjunct professor there. Dr. Carroll also maintains connections to Latin American theological education through his continuing participation in the accreditation commission of AETAL (Asociación Evangélica de Educación Teológica en América Latina). He was instrumental in the establishment of IDEAL (Instituto para el Desarrollo y Adiestramiento de Líderes), a Spanish language training program at Denver Seminary, and regularly teaches in that program.

i) In the interests of full disclosure, wasn’t it incumbent on Carroll to say at the outset of his review that he has a vested interest in the issue? I’m not suggesting that we dismiss his review out of hand just because he has an ax to grind. At the same time, as I read his highly partisan review, other comparisons spring to mind–like A Defense of Virginia and the South by Robert Lewis Dabney, "The Christian Doctrine of Slavery" by James Henley Thornwell, and A Short History of the Confederate States of America by Jefferson Davis.

It’s the same thing in reverse.

ii) This conflict of interest also exposes a basic tension in his review: On the one hand we’re supposed to treat illegal aliens as fellow human beings, made in God’s image. Indeed, we’re supposed to treat some of them as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

On the other hand, Carroll’s review is clearly driven by identity politics. His ardent sense of ethic solidarity with his own people-group. So his Christian vision is diluted by his astringent chauvinism.

iii) I'd add that, as someone who grew up in the Mideast, who continues to conduct field archeology in that region, Hoffmeier is no stranger to Third World poverty.

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