Thursday, July 26, 2007

Real criminals belong in a real jail

. . . and those we pretend are criminals belong in a pretend-jail. Kinda like in prison dodgeball. Anti-immigration rhetoric is rife with statements like, "I don't mind immigration, but they have to do it legally," which is really just a boringly polite way to say that you prefer law-abiding people to criminals. But the fact is--illegal presence in the United States is not the kind of crime that we think of when we label someone a criminal. The wrong done when you illegally enter the United States is that of disrespect, not the kind of moral wrong that underscores penal statutes regarding murder, robbery, assault, rape, and fraud. Those are bad things and have always been illegal. Crossing an imaginary line so you can feed your kids without getting the permission of the people on the other side of the line . . . well, I'm not advocating illegal immigration, I'm just saying it's not the same thing as rape. Let's keep rapists and illegal immigrants in separate categories.

Contrary to what you may have thought, the Bible speaks out against anti-immigration laws: Exodus 22:1 and 23:9, Leviticus 19:33-34*, Deuteronomy 24:17 and 27:19, and Zechariah 7:10 all command the people of God (at that time Israel, now the Christian catholic** Church) to love foreigners/aliens/strangers and treat them as if they were natives. Sure, there are verses that tell us that, as Christians, we are to obey the law of the land . . . but only when it does not conflict with God's commands. God clearly commands that his own due process clause (Matthew 22:39: Love your neighbor as yourself, without meaningless distinctions (cf. Romans 10:12)) applies to all persons, regardless of where they were born or who they are. Again, I'm not advocating illegal immigration, but let's at least be honest in the debate and not lump illegal immigrants in the same box as rapists and murderers (whom we should love as ourselves, anyway).

All this as preface so that I can say "amen" to this Slate article: The Pardon Pander, by Bruce Fein. If the guys obstructed justice, then they need to be punished appropriately.

I'm sad to report that I cannot determine how any of my Congresspeople voted. If anybody can find a vote list, please put a link in the comments.

*This verse is my favorite one of those listed, so I'll spell it out for you here, from the NASB: "The [immigrant] who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt."

**The little c in catholic was intentional. Look it up, you bum.


Wilson said...

The amendment passed on a voice vote, I believe.

mikearoni said...

good post.

However, it is worthy of some comment, at least in reference to the biblical passages. I am always personally wary of extending the application of OT passages to NT church/chirstianity. I am not sure that you have gone too far, but your use of the OT laws regarding strangers is getting close.

it is at least worth noting that in the Old covenant, Israel is pretty much the only conduit (if I can use that word) of grace. In the NT, Christ and his community is the conduit of grace. The purpose of the stranger laws in the OT is so that those people who are outside the "chosen" can enter God's community. In the New Covenant, all people can enter the community by grace through faith. extending the civil laws of Israel regarding the acceptance of outsiders is, I think more closely akin to the vision of Peter and the mission of Paul in the book of Acts demonstrating the availability of the Gospel to Gentiles. applying those same laws to the immigration debate in America is, I think, a little bit strained. That being said, the universal command to love others as self is certainly a guide we should all follow. nevertheless, there are valid reasons to be concerned with illegal immigration, not the least of which are the very real security concerns of terrorists crossing a porous border. But as far as those who have come here seeking a better life and who are willng to work hard, and even thankless, jobs to get it, I don;t have a big problem with. But how difficult is it to separate those from the ones who would make trouble (including drug traffickers with the terrorists in this category.)

ANyway, some goodd thoughts on the rhetoric of the situation. Let's look for real solutions and stop just calling names.

avacadojer said...

Thank you, Mike. Once again your voice of cool reason exposes the faulty reasoning that comes up when my thoughts are clouded by frustration with the whole immigration debate. I probably should have counted to 10 before I posted all that.

mikearoni said...

uh, I think you may have mistaken me for someone else. "voice of cool reason." can I put that in my resume?

seriously, though I totally agree with you about the whole immigration debate. if the loud and ridiculous freaks on the fringes would shut up long enough, there is probably a practical solution that could be worked out. oh well, I'll just go back to my bong now and see what other fantasies I can conjure.