Monday, June 26, 2006

Dives and Lazarus: Illegal Immigrants and the Golden Rule

A few weeks ago I sat in an ETWN studio watching while Raymond Arroyo interviewed Bishop Wenski remotely from Orlando. The bishop spoke about the National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) position on illegal immigrants. What they said got me thinking.

Arroyo showed a clip from an interview he did with Pat Buchanan about the topic in which Buchanan said "these people are illegal and they are taking over our country."

Arroyo proposed to the bishop that there are legal ways for people to come and make a better life, witness his father who had come over from Spain, legally, and who learned the language and made a better life for his family. Wenski said the same thing was true for his father, who came from Poland.

But, the bishop said, the immigrants referred to by Buchanan as "these people" should not be negatively labeled by being called "illegals." "These people," he said, "are Christ."

This of course is a reminder of what Jesus said, that whatever we do to the least of our brethren, we do to Him.

I've been thinking hard about that. A current debate on my Northside San Jose neighborhood news group about the topic helped crystallize my thoughts.

Those who are saying they aren't against immigrants, but are only against illegal immigrants have a good point. It is wrong to break the law. And I think people who talk about a nation's right to defend its borders have another good point.

But something has been nagging me about the morality of how we are treating people who are willing to risk their lives to come here and make a better life for themselves and their families. Maybe the law should be changed, drastically, as one of my neighbors threw out: Open wide the borders. Why are we keeping our neighbors out? she wrote.

I propose that us Christians should think about the rightness of this idea. Let's help our neighbors in need. We shouldn't risk ending up like Dives, who wouldn't help the beggar Lazarus outside his door.

Situations must be horribly hard for people to be willing to risk their lives, cross deserts, ford rivers, sneak into unventilated vans risking suffocation, and pay coyotes to bring them here, where they then have to bike to work to work serving people who are often prejudiced against them and to work for employers who often exploit their fear of deportation.

Taxes are deducted from their salaries, but they cannot get tax refunds or earned income credits because they are here illegally. Access to health care is often denied. Most social services are not given to people who aren't here legally.

How desparate a situation most of them must be in the countries they come from to make them think this is preferable?

This time I think the bishops have got it right. They are for amnesty and guest worker programs and help for the newcomers.

So now I have to invoke the Golden Rule: do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

We are supposed to love our neighbors. These desparate people fleeing terrible poverty are our neighbors. Let us love them and welcome them and pay them a living wage when they do work for us. Let them sit at the table with us instead of risking getting kicked while they are trying to eat the crumbs that fall on the floor.

So to me there are two conflicting world views here: the right of a nation to defend its borders against the requirement that the Christian live in radical obedience to Christ's teaching to love our neighbors. In doing so, we love Him.

I remember one evangelical woman lecturer kept talking about how Christians live in "Opposite World." Whatever the world thinks is wrong if it contradicts the Gospel--which it usually does.

What do you think?

Nice talking with you, neighbors.

Roseanne
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