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Immigration ‘Kingdom issue,’ Land says

July 1, 2010

By: Jill Waggoner

Original article can be found here, http://www.bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?Id=33137.

ORLANDO, Fla. (BP)–Immigration is “an important issue that has reached a critical phase,” Richard Land told members of the National Hispanic Fellowship of Southern Baptist Churches June 13.

Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, addressed the small gathering of Hispanic Southern Baptists at First Baptist Church in Kissimmee, Fla., before the opening of the Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

“I’m not telling you anything you don’t know when I tell you this issue is rending the social fabric of the country,” said Land, who had visited with President Barack Obama’s advisers at the White House on the subject during the previous week.

The current situation is due to “the failure of the government to fulfill its role for 24 years, under both Democratic and Republican administrations,” Land told the group. “In fact, in reality our country has sent a mixed message. Too often at the border we’ve had two signs. One says ‘No trespassing’ and the other one says ‘Help wanted.'”

Calling for the nation and federal government to bear collective responsibility for the current situation, Land said, “We have to find a way to a just and compassionate immigration policy that will begin to mend the social fabric, rather than continue to rend it.”

The controversial Arizona law that requires police to check with the federal government on a person’s status if, during a stop, detention or arrest, they suspect that the person might be in the country illegally is a “symptom” and a “cry for help,” Land said.

“As a symptom, it needs to be addressed with a federal immigration policy that works,” Land said.

Border security is the first step the federal government must take in addressing the immigration crisis, Land said. Securing the border, however, does not mean closing the border but controlling it, he added.

“Securing the border isn’t beyond American competence,” Land said. “It’s a question of will and a question of commitment and resources.”

Land went on to outline what he considers a moral and just response to the immigration crisis: Illegals who wish to remain in this country legally must “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….”

Immigrants also should be given tamper-proof social security cards to begin a pathway to legal status, whether as a migrant worker or citizen, Land said.

Land also encouraged Christians to help people in need, whether they are in the United States legally or illegally. Christians are not required to check a person’s legal status in order to minister in Jesus’ name, he said.

In the end, Americans should leave room for those willing to embrace the American dream and the ideals that help define it, Land said. He called immigration a “Kingdom issue” because controversy over the issue inhibits efforts to reach the country’s growing Hispanic population with the Gospel.
–30–
Jill Waggoner is public relations manager of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. With additional reporting by Elizabeth Wood.

Copyright (c) 2010 Southern Baptist Convention, Baptist Press. Visit www.bpnews.net. BP News — witness the difference! Covering the critical issues that shape your life, work and ministry. BP News is a ministry of Baptist Press, the daily news service of Southern Baptists.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. Mary Hopkins permalink
    July 1, 2010 4:17 pm

    I know that in some quarters it is generally accepted usage, but from my point of view the use of “illegal” as a noun to describe a human being is abusive. Understood that this article is quoted from the press & that the blog is not responsible for word-by-word content, but I do want to put in a plug right here near the beginning.

    AFSC has a long-standing slogan on the subject: “No human being is illegal.” There are people who do not have permission from the civil authorities to be where they are in the world. They are still, first and foremost, God’s children.

    Real border security has much more to do with economic justice than it does with armaments.

    • July 1, 2010 4:21 pm

      Just a note to say that we will deal more closely with this issue in an upcoming post. We believe that words are powerful and the terms we use when referring to other human beings are important and should be carefully considered. Mary is right to point out the harm in the term “illegal” and also thanks for noting that its use was from an outside source, not from anyone connected with the NWYM Task Force on Immigration, MCC, George Fox University or NWYM.

  2. July 8, 2010 9:25 pm

    I believe that those seeking to change/revise/enhance our immigration policy really need to step back and relearn the history of this country. Not only are we a land of immigrants, but we are so at the oppression people who were already “here.” and an industry which sold other humans into slavery.

    How contradictory it is to even shape this conversation in the terms of the “other “whether it be “illegal” “hispanic,” or “Latino” when we ALL should be looking at how we got here and what “Just” really means.

    As Christians, how do unethical, immoral practices in the country’s past shape our vision of “Legal Immigration” in the present?

  3. Diane Benton permalink
    July 9, 2010 2:44 pm

    As a citizen of the Kingdom of God I see no need for borders at all. These situations occur because people don’t know they are unconditionally loved by their creator and eternally safe in the care of the creator. Border issues are a symptom. It’s the cause we need to speak to.

    People who know the peace and security the creator gives need to live in its light so as to light the way for others. Governments of the world will do what governments of the world do until individuals feel safe enough to give up ruling by lording it over others and can rule by self giving service.

  4. Ken Schroeder permalink
    July 10, 2010 11:39 am

    Richard land says that those who wish to remain in the U.S. must pay a fine, agree to pay back taxes, and learn to read, write and speak English?
    First of all, I doubt that most illegal immigrants get by without a struggle, and a fine and payment of back taxes would just be another measure to send them back across the border.
    Second, as I understand it, there is no official language in the U.S. Furthermore, many U.S. citizens would have a difficult time with a requirement to read and write English.

  5. Kat Griffith permalink
    July 14, 2010 10:48 pm

    I’d like to agree with and add to Ken Schroeder’s comments. Paying a fine is not in itself unreasonable (I used to pay them regularly for overstaying my visas in a couple of Central American countries), but the magnitude of the fine is very important. I know many immigrants supporting their families on $7-9/hour (ag jobs around here sometimes pay less than minimum wage), so any fine above a few hundred dollars would be prohibitive. And a few hundred dollars would be sorely felt.

    The back taxes issue is also problematical. Many immigrants in fact overpay taxes. Would they be eligible for refunds? Those who work in the formal sector (where I live in rural Wisconsin, that’s most of them most of the time) already pay payroll taxes, and many of them have state and federal taxes withheld at too high a rate. They are scared to file tax returns, so they do not get the refunds to which they are entitled. Economists have concluded that on average immigrants more than pay their way. Especially for Social Security. My understanding is that undocumented workers are paying about $10 billion per year into a system that will pay them nothing. The immigrants who work in the informal sector are another story, but how to implement a requirement that they pay back taxes is a big question. How do you know how much they’ve earned? Most earn low enough wages that they would probably not owe anything even if their income could be determined.

    The requirement to read, write and speak English beyond a very basic level (that required to read street signs, for example) also seems problematical. It’s a hurdle that previous immigrants didn’t generally face. What I see is that immigrants who get jobs where English is in fact useful tend to learn it, and those who don’t, don’t. Their kids are generally English- dominant by the time they are in high school. (I know, because I teach Heritage Spanish to native speakers, and my only students who know more Spanish than English are the ones who arrived within the last 4 years.) The public perception that immigrants aren’t learning English has more to do with a continuing influx of new folks than the fact that the prior immigrants aren’t learning. The language problem is really mostly a first generation problem. I also agree with Ken that establishing a standard of linguistic competence is unreasonable in the sense that many of our own citizens are barely functionally literate. (Believe me, teaching in a public high school has provided ample evidence of that!)

    Going back to the article, the requirement that the undocumented immigrants “get in line behind those who are legally migrating into this country” misses the elephant in the living room: the reason people come without documents is that waiting for permission takes 7-12 years. And we simply do not make available anything like the number of visas that would satisfy our economy’s hunger for workers. As of a couple of years ago, we were issuing 5000 visas a year for unskilled workers, while our economy was generating nearly half a million unskilled jobs. We can’t expect that desperate parents with children to feed are going to wait for the paperwork to catch up when there’s a job that’s available today. People don’t break our immigration laws for the fun of it — they do it because our laws are utterly dysfunctional. If people want to reestablish the rule of law (and I favor this) the laws need to be worthy and reasonable and workable.

    I also disagree with Land’s comment that securing the border must come first. If we “secure” the border it will be by addressing much more thoughtfully and comprehensively than we ever have the reasons people are crossing illegally in the first place.

    • Mary Hopkins permalink
      July 19, 2010 3:36 pm

      To add to Kat’s comments, if folks will forgive me for being a bit nuts-and-bolts:

      I have some relatives who are in the legal immigration system. The wait is indeed long, and the costs are front-loaded. For example, the basic application fee for an immigrant visa is just now going from $930 to I think it’s $985. That’s uniform, regardless of one’s country of origin. For someone from El Salvador, that’s about four months’ pay, assuming you’ve got a steady job. That’s what you pay to start waiting, and it’s far from the last charge in the process.

      For people who are struggling to get by, saving up a third of a year’s pay is a major challenge. Borrowing the money in Central America is prohibitive. Interest on small loans runs well over 10% per month in many places. And people are reluctant to lend because chances of your application being approved, even if you manage to pay for the process, are very low indeed.

      Basically anyone who has an economic motive for migration is ruled out of the legal system by the fees and the waiting times.

  6. Dan permalink
    July 15, 2010 11:31 pm

    I wonder about the intentions of this blog and conference. I would suggest that, if the hope is to reach out to and perhaps persuade the type who supports the Arizona legislation, the founders should consider and address the rule of law and a nation’s right to control its borders. I get a distinct “liberal” vibe from this blog as opposed to something I would be able to identify simply as “Christian.”

    • Diane Benton permalink
      July 19, 2010 2:20 pm

      Dan, using Jesus as the hermeneutic I see civil governments, which by definition are of the world, as being entitled to “the rule of law and a nation’s right to control its borders.” Alternatively, the Kingdom of God, being in the world but not of it, is ruled by a Person who’s being followed by the citizens and rules through self giving service as demonstrated in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and not by lording it over others as is the way of the world.

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