More Than Willing (for Someone Else) to Pay the Price of Security

Now that the 112th Congress is in session, immigration reform will be off the table. Not immigration, just immigration reform. The sole focus will be on border security. So what does “border security” mean?

For a number of people with whom I have discussed the matter, it really isn’t that complicated. You put enough troops on the Mexican border to stop every person trying to cross illegally. If they don’t stop, you shoot them. Can’t find them? Put up more of those satellites that can read license plates from space. What’s so difficult about that?

Now, you may think I was having these discussions with Joe Sixpack from Wal-mart (or peopleofwalmart.com, perhaps). Actually I was having them with evangelical pastors and pastors’ wives. People who generally go out of their way to share the love of Jesus.

One of these pastors said if illegals are interdicted and attempt to evade arrest rather than be taken into custody, you simply have to apply the rule that it is justified to shoot fleeing criminals and you gun them down in the desert. I have to say he had to slightly rethink his position when I mentioned that many of these “invaders” are women and children. Do you shoot the women and children in the back as well?

His revised view was that you don’t shoot the women and children. Just the men. Or at least the ones that look like men. Tall boys and women with short hair might get it, too, but that was just too bad. After all, if you kill the men, the women and children will probably give themselves up.

Of course the little legal problem with this (I would bring that up – which is no doubt one of the reasons that people want to kill lawyers, too, regardless of citizenship or immigration status) is that the gun ’em down rule is a fleeing felon rule. Entering the United States without inspection is not a felony. In fact, it is not even a crime. It is a civil matter.

As you might guess, I’ve already been offered the answer to that: Make it a criminal matter – and a felony at that. Then we can shoot ’em. The only problem is that when they get captured, they are entitled to all sorts of rights under the Constitution. If we do that, we can’t shuffle these people with no money through a deportation hearing system in which they have no right to public defense. ICE are already upset with the judge who said mentally retarded deportees should be given lawyers. If everyone gets a lawyer, they might find out that ICE are deporting a lot more people who have a right to be in the country than we already know about.

It wouldn’t be fair not to give the other argument. It is easy to get around this whole problem with providing lawyers. If we shoot them in the desert, who will know that they weren’t fleeing? The economic security of the United States is at stake. Sometime we just have to do what we have to do to make sure Americans have jobs and no one gets welfare benefits to which they are not entitled. I know some of you think I’m employing sarcasm, or at least hyperbole. (I am given to that at times, I admit.) I wish.

I have honestly asked good conservative evangelical Christian folks whether it worth killing someone made in the image of God? I have honestly been told – as point blank as they would like American troops on American soil to use their weapons – yes, it is. What if they are fleeing the Zetas or the Gulf Cartel and certain death in a war zone far more dangerous that either Iraq or Afghanistan? Too bad. What if they are Christians? They better pray for God to protect them – on their side of the border, of course. If they are good Christians, then they will obey they laws of our land and not enter it without permission. (Honestly, I couldn’t make this stuff up.) At least if they get killed, they will go to heaven. God can afford to take them in – America can’t.

And what about those spy satellites that we can use? If the government build enough of them that we can constantly monitor a 2000-mile border at the magnification to see individual brown faces, we can trust the government to just use this surveillance technology for good, can’t we?  The Executive branch always operates within the law and with the consent of Congress and would never hurt us. We are citizens, after all. They already monitor the internet to make sure no one says something wrong and we’re not worried about that, are we? And they keep us safe with all those body checks in the airports. (They can only get more invasive with those, but that’s the price of freedom, and it’s for our own good.)

And if your neck (or at least your state) is red enough, you may find yourself nodding in agreement with my friends. But maybe you will pause for just one moment and think: we have we become? Are these really conservative values? Are these really Christian values?

The Impossible DREAM

It appears there will be a token vote, perhaps as soon as tomorrow in the House of Representatives, on the frequently defeated Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act before the end of the lame duck session of Congress. I don’t know if the House has the votes, but the Senate won’t get past a cloture vote, so it’s a moot point.

Nonetheless, it’s litmus test time again.  Time to pull out all the talking points and treat them with the sacredness of Holy Scripture. It’s “amnesty by the back door,” “amnesty by the front door,” “amnesty by climbing in through the window,” etc. I just wish Holy Scripture was treated with the same sacredness.

The DREAM Act would allow children who were brought to the United States by undocumented parents to walk a narrow path to conditional permanent residency and eventually to full permanent resident status. Applying criteria we would never think of applying to those who providentially arrived on the planet north of the Rio Grande – especially if their parents were also so blessed in their own arrival – a few people will received a few opportunties they wouldn’t otherwise have. Of course the hitch is that the oppotunities will completely transform their lives. If there’s one thing we don’t like, it is people having their lives transformed when they don’t deserve it.

Other than the possibility of living out of the shadows and fringes of society, one of the aspects that irks opponents is the possibility that those for whom the DREAM Act is intended will be considered eligible for in-state college tuition. More than one commentator has asked why these people should get the benefit of resident fees when American citizen students from other states don’t. It could be because they are from out of state and aren’t  in the state for other the educational purposes. That’s the usual criteria. But this is a matter that will be decided by the individual states, or even the individual institutions or university systems, depending on how individual states have chosen to operate that decision making process.

One of the more outrageous comments I heard in opposition to the DREAM Act was that it was like letting the children of bank robbers benefit from the proceeds of their parents’ crime. However, this comment highlights a serious misconception that a lot of people seem to have. Legal residency isn’t a property right. Even citizenship is not a property right. It is not a possession. It is a legal status. There isn’t a big citizenship pie which can only be cut into so many pieces, so that only so many people can have some. If that were the case, we would need to consider imposing Chinese-style limits on the number children allowed in each family.

Undocumented aliens haven’t stolen anything by being undocumented. They haven’t stolen safety from drug lords and corrupt government officials. They haven’t stolen the possibility to work for food and shelter. They haven’t stolen the fear of detection that could lead them to being sent back to a place of danger and poverty. Were the DREAM Act to become law, they wouldn’t be stealing a chance at legal residency.

Status is an interesting thing. I was reading yesterday about the changes in the pecking order at Court due to the introduction of Kate Middleton into the British Royal Family. Particularly amongst the ladies, princesses mostly, there seems to be a great deal of concern as to who will now have to curtsey to whom and under what conditions, chiefly revolving around whose husband is in the room at the time. It is easy to look down our egalitarian noses at such nonsense.

But are we anything from outraged to at least a bit irritated that undocumented aliens, whether adults or children, would acquire a status, whether permanent residency or even citizenship, to which they are not entitled? Yet status is something about which the Bible reveals God is very interested. It also uses the analogy of robbery:

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.

So how do we filter our attitude toward undocumented residents through Philippians 2? Is it useful only in “spiritual matters” or how we treat each other in church? Is this one of those areas where our Christianity and our politics need not meet? Do we bifurcate our responsibilities as a Christian with our responsibilities as a member of the body politic? Are we willing to wash the feet of our undocumented brother and then ring up ICE to pick him up and deport him?

But say it’s nothing to do with Jesus. (Say it at your own peril, but say it nonetheless.) Let’s say it’s just economics. Won’t passage of the DREAM Act lead to all these barely-legal aliens flooding our state colleges and universities, taking away places from natural born (and even those despised anchor baby) citizens? And since they tend to be poorer than rightful Americans, won’t they then be stealing all the financial aid?

I suppose there is an argument to be made for keeping an uneducated social and legal underclass in America. After all, they aren’t going anywhere. Despite all the calls for rounding up every undocumented resident and shipping them to the nearest international bridge and forcing them to walk across at gunpoint, logistically it isn’t going to happen, regardless of which political party is making policy. Likewise, they are not going to voluntarily “go back” to a country most haven’t seen since early childhood. And there are all those necessary jobs that just wouldn’t exist within the constraints of exisiting labor laws, so if we let all these people become legal, who will do the work beneath the dignity of most citizens?

One of the arguments made against the DREAM Act by people like William Gheen of the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC is that by allowing the narrow group of qualifying individuals (not that ALIPAC would ever characterize them in such a way) to obtain permanent resident status, they will then be able to bring more relatives into the US legally. But I thought that was what they wanted in the first place: legal immigrants. Thus they expose their agenda, which is really about keeping immigrants out altogether.

Here’s what Gheen said on FoxNews about the beneficiaries of the DREAM Act: “If these illegal aliens, millions of them, are turned into citizens, what it’s gonna do, it’s gonna displace and replace millions of innocent American college students; it’s gonna displace and replace millions, perhaps tens of millions, of American workers; it’s gonna displace and replace millions, eventually, as you said, tens of millions of American voters.”

The best estimates seem to indicate that there are about 65,000 undocumented students graduating from US high schools each year. So we’ve gone from millions to thousands. But graduating from high school isn’t enough. The DREAM Act requires them to also get at least an associate’s degree, complete two years toward a bachelor’s degree, or serve two years in the military during six years of conditional residency. They are ineligible to receive federal financial aid toward their education. They must also keep their nose clean. If they do all that, they are eligible for permanent residency – LPR status with what is commonly called a green card (though the card itself is not green). Permanent residency petitions normally take in excess of a year to process, so really they are looking at seven years of conditional reisidency. LPRs, who must also stay crime-free to maintain their status, become eligible for citizenship after five years. So yes, it is possible for several thousand college-educated or veteran children of illegal immigrants to become citizens after a twelve-year process.

So in reality, the number of students are a drop in the ocean of higher education in the US, where there are over 19 million enrolled. Yes, they will eventually join the job market competing for jobs, but it will be hard to “displace and replace” millions of workers with a few thousand immigrants.

How they are going “displace and replace” voters, I have no clue. As far as I’m aware, there is no competition for the eligibility to vote. A 30-year-old veteran of the US military who was born in Mexico showing up at a polling station will not force election officials to tell a Son of the American Revolution, “Sorry, but you are no longer allowed to vote, as we have to let this new citizen vote, since he got his citizenship under the DREAM Act.” What utter nonsense.

The last bit of nonsense that needs to be addressed is the objection raised by a number of opponents, namely, that we need comprehensive immigration reform rather than a piecemeal approach. If there was any real will in the Republican Party for any sort of immigration reform, this might have a shread of credibility. The only immigration reform desired by most non-Hispanic Republicans is to build the wall higher with enough guns pointed to Mexico to stop new arrivals combined with more aggressive efforts to flush out undocumented immigrants domiciled in the US. The DREAM Act will be rejected now and forever because it does not fit this agenda.

Yet, I can’t get Philippians 2 out of my mind.

The New Litmus Test

For almost all of my political life, abortion has been the litmus test for conservatives in the United States. Not anymore.

Some pro-life leaders are worried about “fetus fatigue” (a term coined by Douglas Groothuis in 2008), where it appears that many young evangelicals have given up on making sigificant progress in reeling back from Roe v. Wade. I think Groothuis is correct in part. However, I also think that conservatives, evangelical Christian and otherwise, can only handle one Big Issue at a time. Move over, Abortion – Immigration is here.

All of my friends (and yes, I have a few) who used to go on and on about abortion now go on and on about immigration. The level of perjorative that used to be reserved for those favouring abortion rights or, at worst, abortion providers, are now reserved for those favouring leniency toward undocumented immigrants. In fact, if anything, it is worse. In reading around the conservative blogosphere and even in talking to individuals face-to-face (because people tend to be much less restrained in the pseudonyminous detachment of the internet), opposing views are treated with anger, aggression, and a remarkable lack of civility.

In one sense, the anti-immigration crowd have become the new liberals. I say this only with regard to manners and decorum. I used to occasionally read liberal blogs – mostly if said bloggers strayed over to this or predecessor blogs and left a link with their comment.  The venom and vitriol spewed at virtually anyone in the Republican Party was astonishing. I’ve been around for a long time and met a lot of people of various backgrounds carrying a variety of baggage, but I had never seen anything like it. Now it has become increasingly the common behaviour of those who comment in conservative blogs to do the same thing.

A recent troll commented on another post I wrote about immigration: “You seem to consider yourself a Christian. I don’t think you’re a especially good one, but perhaps you’ve be better off dropping the ‘conservative’ label entirely and just using the Christian one.” If it comes down to it, that would be my choice. I still consider myself a conservative and I believe that my political views – including my views on immigration – reflect true conservative values. I believe in small government and a free market. I believe in the sanctity of life and of the family as created by God. However, if I’m only allowed one, I’ll take the label that has eternal value.

A Matter of Principles

I haven’t seen the rhetoric flying like this for a long time. The battle lines are drawn. Ideologues on either side will truck no dissent. If there is one thing of which we as conservatives can be sure, liberals are always wrong about everything. If there’s a liberal is favoring a particular policy, we don’t have to know anything about it. That tells us enough to know we’re agin’ it.

I keep writing about the matter of illegal immigrants, even though I get very little blog traffic or Facebook comments about it. My liberal friends have written me off years ago and my conservative friends have by and large shunned me. Sadly, that includes most of my conservative Christian friends. But for Christians is it an area where the ideological rubber meets the theological road.

More than anything, this issue has highlighted that when it comes to politics for a lot of conservative Christians, they are conservatives first. If it is possible to eisegete their square Christianity into the round conservative hole, all the better, but if not, it can be silently left outside.

I consider myself a conservative. I’ve always been on the right wing of the Republican Party. At one time I was very active on the right wing of the Republican Party. You don’t have to be a Christian to be a conservative. You do however, have to be a Christian to be a Christian.

Christians are not called to be politically conservative. Neither are they called to be politically liberal. They are called to be Christians. Where being salt and light, even in political participation, intersects with being politically conservative (in the very limited meaning that term has within the very specifically American context, which most Americans assume is the only context), that’s great.

Time and again I have read and I have been told that we should be compassionate individual Christians, but that when it comes to the State it is a whole different matter.  The State, just like any other God-ordained institution, is nothing more than a collection of individuals. As such, it has – we have – a responsibility to act righteously and compassionately without assuming roles not delegated to the state. Should we not as the Church be compassionate? Should we not as members of families in whatever capacity we find ourselves – father, mother, child, sibling, or collateral – be compassionate? Likewise, we have a responsibility to look to the Scriptures for guidance with regard to how we treat others as a body politic.

A lot of Christians seem to be concerned with the fact that illegal immigrants broke the law to get into the United States. Now most of these people would not have been involved in the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement. I don’t mean that they were too young to have been involved, but rather as conservatives they would have seen the whole thing as a big liberal conspiracy. I wonder how many of these people were involved in Operation Rescue. After all, I’ve never heard of OR folks being labelled as liberals.  And how many are old enough to have homeschooled in the 1980s when it was illegal in many states? For many Christians, it was imperative – it was a matter of conviction – to educate their children at home. In some states it was illegal to have an unlicensed private Christian school, especially one that did not have state-certified teachers. Nonetheless, otherwise law-abiding citizens opened them. To a person, these folks were committed to the right wing of the Republican Party and self-identified as very conservative.

I have heard complaints that these illegal immigrants are getting welfare benefits. Most of these people complain that anyone is getting welfare benefits – that, in fact, there should be no state-funded welfare benefits. I can’t disagree with the last bit. There is no biblical mandate for the state to be engaged in the financial support of individuals. That’s good conservatism. However, if the state chooses to provide benefits, it cannot biblically discriminate between the citizen and the stranger. To do so is to violate the mandate of Leviticus 19 – a civil mandate to love your neighbor as yourself including the stranger among you.

But let’s look at Leviticus 19 more closely. While there is no provision for the State to collect and distribute welfare, there is a provision requiring individual property/business owners to provide welfare in the form of unharvested produce. In other words – or in modern, non-agrarian application – to provide work and remuneration. And for whom is this provision made?  The poor and the stranger. This idea of providing for the alien among you is so important that it appears three times in the Torah (Leviticus 19:10, 23:22 and Deuteronomy 24:21). Biblically speaking, non-citizens are not only entitled (I know, a liberal word, but hard to get around) to work-based welfare, they are one of the principal intended recipients.

And while we are at it, it is unbiblical to choose your neighbors, stranger or citizen. Neighbors are yours because they see you have a desirable society and settle among you. Once among you, they must follow the rules – not any more strictly or with any greater consequences than citizens – but there’s no biblical provision for discrimination.

And finally for those repulsed by the theonomic tone in setting out what is biblical and what isn’t – those who say forget the Old Testament and ask WWJD – there is no evidence that the conservative views incompatible with the Torah are somehow more compatible with the New Covenant.

Theologically conservative Christians must begin to discerne where poltical conservatism merges and diverges. The current hot button issue of illegal immigration provides such an opportunity. It is then a matter of choosing which principles take priority.

The Republicans Now Have the Hottest Ticket

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wasn’t expecting Sarah Palin to get the nod for the VP spot on the GOP ticket. The Democrats may have had the first woman to run for Vice President, but the Republicans have the hottest woman to ever be a VP nominee. Yep, we just won the photogenic stakes.

I think this actually matters. Let’s face it, Joe Biden – as nice a guy as he is, and yes, I cried during his son’s introduction at the Demo Convention – does not bring anything to the ticket. None one is going to vote for Obama because of Biden’s got more experience in foreign policy. The VP is not the President’s chief foreign policy advisor. That’s why he hires a Secretary of State. Then he’s got a Deputy Secretary, Under Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, National Security Advisor, and a host of other hopefully really smart people.

No one is going to vote for Obama because he’s got an old guy on his ticket as well. No one is going to think, sure, Obama’s young, but there’s an older man who will go from being one of the most powerful men in the Senate to being the tie-breaking vote, in case there ends up being a 50-50 party split.

On the other hand, people will vote for McCain because he has a younger pretty woman on the ticket. She will attract Hillary supporters who wanted their woman on the Demo ticket. It’s the politics of gender. There are those for whom having a woman on the ticket is as important as it is for others to have a black man. And youth balances out McCain’s years in a way that age does not work for Obama. When people are looking for heroes they want Batman and Robin (or Batgirl, in this case), not Batman and Alfred. It doesn’t look good for the side-kick to appear more qualified that the principle.

But Sarah Palin doesn’t just bring women on board. The irony is that not only will she attract Hillary supporters, she will also attract some of the most virulent Hillary haters. She is rock solid conservative. She’s a member of the Assemblies of God. She is a poster-mother for the pro-life movement.  She is the answer to everything Republican voters questioned about John McCain’s conservatism.

And she is a lot better looking than Hillary. She doesn’t look strident. She doesn’t look aggressive. She’s feminine and unlike Hillary, she doesn’t have to work hard to look that way.

Oh, and she has held elective office for longer than Hillary. After all, Hillary claimed to be the candidate with experience. And she could claim this, having served in the Senate four years longer than Obama. Of course, Obama had those eight years in the Illinois Senate and Clinton had never held any other elected office. But I digress. . . Palin has held elective office since 1992 – five years before Obama – though she was out of office between 2002 and 2006. However, during 2003-04, she was Ethics Commissioner of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. Unique amongst all the names on the two major tickets, she is the only one to have held office in the executive branch of government.

As a brief aside, I should mention that despite the whim of a group of editors on Wikipedia, the First Lady is never “in office“. Despite her delusions of grandeur, or her ability to henpeck her husband, she is never a member of the executive branch of goverment.

Last night, I thought Tom Pawlenty was both the best and most likely choice. I’m glad I was wrong. Palin has all the advantages of Pawlenty and more. Put another way, she is Mike Huckabee without any of the baggage acquired during the primary season. Sarah Palin makes me want to come back to the States and start canvassing voters.

How Times Have Changed

When I was Republican County Chairman of Gonzales County, Texas, we were definitely the minority party. Way in the minority. This was at a time with the only winnable statewide race for Republicans was the governorship. Pockets of GOP support on a more local level were beginning to emerge in places, but for Gonzales County, as well as most other rural counties in South Texas, to win the Democratic primary was to win the general election.

So imagine my surprise when I was going through one of the regional daily papers online and learned that the candidates for District Attorney are both Republicans. Whoever wins the Republican primary will be unopposed in the general election.

I’m not particularly surprised that both candidates are women. Texas has a long history of electing women, including the second woman governor in US history in Ma Ferguson. Ferguson would have been the first woman governor in US history, if Nellie Ross hadn’t been inaugurated two weeks earlier to finish her husband’s unexpired term. Ferguson’s husband had also been governor, but had been impeached and removed from office eight years before.

That’s why I won’t be surprised if Hillary wins the Democratic presidential primary. I would, however, be very surprised if she were to win the state in November. No Democrat has carried Texas since Jimmy Carter barely did so in 1976.

But it’s local politics where things have changed. This is the proof that Texas has really become a Republican state. I just wish I was there to enjoy it.