Why Arizona is Wrong

I know that most of my friends, enemies, and passing readers will disagree with me. When the Arizona legislature passed a law allowing the stopping and questioning of anyone suspected of being an illegal alien and made it criminal trespass for an illegal alien to be present on any public or private land in Arizona (thus helping to facilitate their detention and deportation due to the commission of a crime), they did the wrong thing. For once (and probably only once) I agree with President Obama and a lot of Democrats. I don’t necessarily have the same reasons for supporting the same policy, because I think the Arizona law is in violation of Biblical principles and the economic free-market principles that made America great.

The Arizona law does reflect the views of the majority of Americans. Sad, but true. In fact, it reflects the view of the majority of Americans for most of the 20th century as well as this first decade of the 21st. It reflects attitudes of isolationism (not so bad) and protectionism (a bit more bad). This idea of coming to America and shutting the door behind us first reached fever pitch in 1882, with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was made to look a bit more like the current Arizona legislation by the Geary Act in 1892. Almost all Asians were barred from entry in the Immigration Act of 1917.

The Emergentcy Quota Act of 1921 limited the number of immigrants to 3% of the number of persons living in the US at the 1910 census who had been born in that country.  The purpose of this was to keep out eastern and southern Europeans and allow in more northern and western Europeans. The Immigration Act of 1924 reduced this to 2%. Interestingly, it did not restrict immigration from Latin America. No one was worried about Mexicans then. Rather it was an effort to keep out all those Italians.

Then along came the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). This allowed for anyone in the country illegally, even with an expired visa, or guilty of the tiniest crminal offense, to be detained for deportation. It was only because the Supreme Court intervened in Zadvydas v. Davis that the detention cannot be indefinite, though the Court held that “Despite the constitutional problem here, if this Court were to find a clear congressional intent to grant the Attorney General the power to indefinitely detain an alien ordered removed, the Court would be required to give it effect.” So Congress can decide that without any criminal proceedings, those with expired visas can be given an effective life sentence. In addition,  IIRIRA imposes draconian sanctions on re-entry to the US after overstaying a visa.

There’s the review of US immigration law. Now how does it hold up to Biblical principles? Throughout the Old Testament, especially in the Torah and in the Prophets, it is very clear how the Israelites were to treat strangers and aliens who settled among them. For the sake of space, and because it succinctly summarises the teaching of Holy Scripture, I will just refer to Leviticus 19:34 – The stranger who dwells among you shall be to you as one born among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God.

The first part is obvious. You should treat aliens (which is what the term stranger means) as someone native to your country. How you treat him is indicative of whether you are following the second great commandment given by Jesus, to love your neighbor as yourself. However, that last bit of the verse is very instructive, especially for Americans. It applies to us because it reveals the reason we should be generous with immigration.

“…because you were strangers in the land of Egypt” is a powerful statement. It is so hypocritical for the children of immigrants to deny immigration to others. Unless you are entirely of Amerindian descent, then at some time since 1607, your  ancestors washed up on these shores, probably without a visa, and made a life for themselves. The law of Moses was not given just to the first generation of settlers in the Promised Land. In fact almost all of those to whom it was originally given died before getting there. It wasn’t the readers and hearers of Leviticus personally who had been strangers in the land of Egypt, but rather their ancestors. Because their ancestors had been immigrants in Egypt, they were to treat their own immigrant peoples as they would want to be treated. They were to love their immigrant neighbors as themselves. Now you can argue against the applicability of the Law of Moses to civil law, but in this case you argue against the teaching of Jesus, Who said this same thing.

IIRIRA and the INA, just like the Immigration Act of 1917, the Emergency Quota Act of 1921, and the Immigration Act of 1924, fly in the face not just of the Mosaic Law, but of the teaching of Jesus.

But let’s de-spiritualise it for a moment and just look at our nation’s history. Hardly was the bronze plaque fixed to the Statue of Liberty before the words of Emma Lazarus’ sonnet were eroded – worn down now to the point of of being meaningless. We all know them:

“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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Just like in 1917 and 1924, the US employs quotas. We still only want people from certain countries (if you are from the UK, for example, you can’t even enter the green card lottery). Most of the quota allotments are reserved for PhDs, professional athletes, researchers who are recognized internationally, business executives, and investors. We also let in a few Filipino nurses. The others don’t fit our protectionist, anti-capitalist, anti-free market model.

But for me the standard by which immigration policy and law must be judged: you shall love him as yourself. Does the new Arizona law meet that standard? I don’t think so.

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Why We Don’t Need a 28th Amendment

I have been getting emails to pass on showing my support for a 28th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Now there are Facebook groups supporting this “proposed” 28th Amendment. I’ve gotten several invitations for those, too.  I delete chain mail, no matter how glurgy and heartrending on the one hand or politically outraged on the other. But this is one of those viral ideas that needs some sense slapped into it.

The good people at snopes.com have tried, but as I found when I looked at the discussion boards of one of these Facebook groups, they can’t be trusted because, in the words of one poster, “Snopes is run by a couple who are left-leaning Obama supporters. Not legitimate. Depends on what side of the issue you would like to believe is accurate.”

Now I seriously doubt that anyone who knows me or who has read anything I’ve written would call me left-leaning or an Obama supporter. But what I do know is that there are conservatives that assume any fact that does not support their agenda is part of the vast left-wing conspiracy. The sad fact is that our side has it’s own share of idiots. There are as many people swayed by the flag-waving and anti-government rhetoric as there are those who think everyone ought to be forced to pay for the less fortunate and save the polar bears.

Now let’s just look at this “proposed” amendment:

Congress shall make no law that applies to the citizens of the United States that does not apply equally to the Senators and Representatives and all other branches of the Government; and, Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives and all other branches of the Government that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.

When I first read this, I realised immediately that the language was so vague as to be unenforceable. It doesn’t actually mean anything. Despite the Facebook group saying, “It avoids all the 18th century formal and ‘legalize’ language, and is simple to understand and straight forward,” it is neither simple to understand nor strightforward, despite the lack of “legalize” language. However, it does appear popular with those who lack the ability to write using proper vocabulary and grammar. Not a good sign.

With all the justification for this amendment that has been sent out with it, it appears that the motivation for it is the idea that members of Congress exempt themselves from legislation that applies to everyone else. This includes the myths that Congresspersons get their congressional salaries for life, that they don’t pay social security tax, and that they are “exempt from any fear of prosecution for sexual harrasment”. Of course the thing that spurred this into motion was that they exempted themselves from the provisions of the health care reform bill.

None of these things are true. I find the strangest of these to be the exemption from fear of prosecution for sexual harrasment. This implies that not only are Congresspersons somehow more prone to sexual harrasment than other people, but that they wanted to make sure they were free to do so. Beyond these patently ridiculous propositions, no one is prosecuted for sexual harrasment. It is a civil matter. People are sued for sexual harrasment. Congresscritters could already be sued for sexual harrasment as a tort before the passage of the Congressional Accountability Act in 1995. Now there is a specific statutory right to sue.

Some of the ranting and raving in the Facebook group is funny, if sad. One man said, “So snopes is making this mostly false. What kind of answer is that? It is a fact that Congress does pay themselves after they leave office.” Sorry, snopes didn’t make it false. They just showed how it was false. Most companies have a pension plan so that people get paid after they leave their employment. There are provisions for the pensions of all federal employees, just like there are for state employees. And just like other pension plans, they contribute to it out of their salary and if they don’t stay on the job very long, they don’t get a very big pension.

The same person said, “Poli means many and tics are blood suckers it may sound stupid but it is reality.” No, it is not reality, but he is right, it does sound stupid. About as stupid as a woman on the same thread who said, “We as a mostly nieve and willlingly uneducated ppl have let this situation creep up on us.”  I don’t know if I would attribute that to everyone else, but she did provide evidence that the uneducated bit applies to her.

But back to our proposed amendment. . . The last clause is the more useless. “Congress shall make no law that applies to the Senators and Representatives” unless it applies equally to everyone else. Does this mean that when they set the salaries for members of Congress, they have to give everyone else in the country the same salary? Since Congresspeople can participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System, they have to let every citizen join the FERS?

Where it really gets silly is the bit about “no law that applies to . . . all other branches of the Government that does not apply equally to the citizens of the United States.” So when the Secret Service is authorised by law to protect the President and other member of the Executive Branch and certain members of their families, does this mean that every citizen is entitled to Secret Service protection? Or when the law says that the Department of Agriculture must inspect meat, does this mean that every citizen can (or perhaps must) inspect all meat produced? Or since the US Treasury is authorised by law to print currency, is every citizen authorised to print currency? Or how about the Department of State, which is the part of the executive branch charged with carrying out foreign policy and representing the United States to foreign governments. Is everyone entitled to negoitate with foreign governments on behalf of the American people?  There are an infinite  number of examples of how ridiculous this is.

So no, we don’t need a 28th Amendment to limit Congress, especially one as useless a current viral proposition. The biggest limit on Congress is already in the Constitution. They are elected. Don’t like a particular member? Don’t vote for them. What usually happens is the people want to limit somebody else’s Congressman. You know what? They don’t represent you. If people in another state or another district make a bad decision, too bad. It is the nature of representative democracy.