Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Immigration Debate: Counterpoint

Immigration Issues And The Golden Rule

I am posting this in keeping with President Obama's decision this past week to take a more merciful stance on immigration. We all know, or at least have heard of, the story of the Good Samaritan as told to us by Jesus Christ. I recall mentioning it in last week's sermon, but this week I'm going to point this in a different direction. I won't quote the entire parable verbatim because my posting today is about how it applies to the subject of so-called “illegal immigration”. If I put the story into modern terms I can cite two different examples, one of how this could work out and the other as it actually did.

A certain traveler from a foreign country was making their way through the US seeking to find suitable work and re-establish themselves in their newly adopted country. While on their journey, this hapless foreign national gets jacked up, beat up, and left semi-conscious and bleeding on the side of the road. A short while later a religious leader and church pastor who are passing by see the beaten and now-penniless victim, pause for a moment and say a quick prayer, and continues on their way. A few minutes after that, a well-paid IRS agent passes by the man and doesn't even bother to stop and help even though he/she could have easily afforded to do so. An hour or two later, after this crime victim has been lying bleeding, severely injured and baking in the hot sun, a homeless man happens upon this person. This street person from the impoverished inner city (fill in the blank with the city of your choice) cleans up the victim's wounds as best as he can and then dials 911 on his/her prepaid mobile phone, summons medical assistance to that location, and waits for the ambulance to arrive while protecting this luckless individual from further injury and harm. Once the ambulance has picked the injured person up and taken them to the nearest ER, the homeless person who helped the injured traveler goes on their way, enjoying a quiet satisfaction within themselves at the good deed they have done. But they say nothing to anyone about it, not wanting accolades or applause from anyone, but only to do good and to be merciful towards all God's children. Blessed are the merciful, Jesus said, for they will be shown mercy.

Allow me to now present a somewhat similar story from the Internet, but the outcome is altogether different. A person from Central America gets severely injured in an auto accident through no fault of his own. He spends a lengthy time in the hospital recovering from his injuries and racks up a $1 million dollar-plus medical bill. In the end, he is deported to his country of origin because he was here illegally, even though he was still an invalid at the time of his deportation. 

Basically, the Florida hospital had taken care of an “illegal immigrant” from the country of Guatemala for a period of almost three years at a cost of $1.5 million dollars. The hospital requested and received permission from the court to physically remove the patient from the hospital and send him back to Guatemala. The purpose of the posting was to get people riled up over so-called “illegal immigrants”. It basically states our rising health-care costs are totally due to caring for illegals, which simply isn't true, but that's a subject for another day. When I was reading the posting I wondered why this person had been hospitalized for a period of almost three consecutive years, and why the total cost was so low. I've been in the hospital a few times lately and $1,100/day barely gets you a bed, much less sheets and a pillow. At any rate, in the eyes of God there is no such thing as an illegal human being, and I think that those who think otherwise would do well to let go of their “wild west” ways. I say again – there is no such thing as someone who has no right to be here. At any rate, the foreign national's injuries happened as follows:

On April 5, 2000 a drunken Donald Flewellen, age 52, driving on a revoked license, borrowed a neighbor's vehicle and was involved in a hit-and-run accident in Fort Pierce, Florida. This accident resulted in two deaths and left Luis Jimenez, our Guatemalan illegal, a paraplegic with brain injuries. At the time of the accident, Flewellen had only been out of jail for four months for his previous conviction of two counts of DUI manslaughter. It appears Luis Jimenez was approximately 28-years-old at the time of the accident and in his early 30's when the Florida court approved his return to Guatemala, where he is now residing in a small mountain village in a one-room house with his mother. I'm curious as to how Americans would feel if the situation was reversed. What would happen if one of our youngsters was in a foreign country, legally or illegally, and suffered brain damage, and became a paraplegic at the hands of a foreigner, a foreigner who should have been in prison? What would you feel like if you were a mother and had your son returned to you, in the condition Luis Jimenez is in, and were expected to care for him for the rest of his life without any assistance or funds to provide assistance?

One of my pet peeves is Internet and MSM articles that take a stand on a subject without bothering to providing all the facts. The bottom line on this particular subject was – had the family of Luis Jimenez appealed the court decision on this case, Jimenez would still be in this country, and we would be “forced” to provide him with medical care. Decisions regarding the status of illegals are Federal, and State courts simply do not have the authority to remove individuals from this country whether they are here legally or illegally. Over and over again, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that illegal immigrants have the same constitutional rights as U.S. citizens and, until that is changed, federal law prevails.
Aside from the legal aspect is the moral aspect and morally, this country caused the injuries to this young man and it is our obligation to care for his needs. We are, after all, a Christian nation, are we not? Didn't Jesus heal the sick? Then we should be doing likewise, and those who disagree with me on this point have forgotten their Christian heritage, lost touch with their humanity, or both. When I was a kid, I was taught that kindness wasn't a choice, it was a command. It wasn't something you considered doing; it was an automatic reaction that came straight from the heart. We just did it because that's what Jesus would have us do. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

Let me be absolutely clear about what I regard as a travesty of justice. Immigrants, whether they are here legally or not, are not invaders from another country. They are economic refugees. I will use Mexico as an illustration, although the man in the story is from Guatemala. The average blue-collar worker in Mexico has a take-home pay in Pesos that is equal to about $50.00 a month in US dollars. When any given migrant worker comes to the US and takes a job at minimum wage, that works out to a net pay after taxes of about $840.00 per month for a single person, more than a sixteen-fold increase over what they used to make. Now, let us ask ourselves this basic question: if we were offered a job in our profession in Canada, for example, at sixteen times our current pay rate, any one of us would naturally be eager for the chance, is that not correct? Now you know why so many economic refugees from the third world are coming here, and it's not just from Mexico or Guatemala. They seek economic opportunity just like anyone else would, and it is a level of opportunity available in few places elsewhere.

So why does this issue upset so many people? America is and always has been a nation of immigrants. There has never been a time in American history when this was not so, not even in WWII. Every time we welcome one more immigrant into America, we take on the role of the Good Samaritan all over again. And that is a role we should all continue to emulate everywhere we go.

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