October 12, 2015

Alien Invasion: being right without being mean

by Clint Archer

legal alien greencard“I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien, I’m an Englishman in New York.” That oddball 80’s hit single by Sting could have been the soundtrack to my experience as I arrived at JFK airport in 2000. Coming to America as a South African on a student visa, I was greeted at passport control by a sign indicating the narrow way—US Citizens Only—and the broad way, marked unblushingly, “Aliens.” Yes, the US customs considered me a foreign invader of sorts. But at least I was legal.

To obtain the coveted status of legal alien to the promised land of the free and home of the brave, I had to jump through a series of bureaucratic hoops of fire designed to intimidate anyone not dead set on obeying American law.

The process included comprehensive background checks, police clearance certificates, fingerprinting, interviews, proof of insurance, surety of a $17,000 deposit, and a hefty admin fee charged in USD but paid in my country’s languishing currency. I was eventually awarded a three year “F-1” study permit. I was permitted to work on campus, 20 hours per week. I legally and painstakingly obtained a social security card, bank account, and driver’s license. I never once availed myself of the welfare food stamps I was entitled to (since I was living below the poverty line) because I didn’t want a government hand-out I hadn’t earned.

When I wanted to remain in the country for another three years to complete a second degree, I had to go to the consulate in Canada and re-apply from scratch (and again pay the then heftier fee), despite by then being married to a US citizen.

All that to say I find it difficult to sympathize with people who enter any country illegally.

I’m not talking about refugees fleeing persecution who have been invited in—“Send me your huddled masses” and all that. But when a person crosses the border illegally, they also cross a line God drew.

Romans 13:1-2 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment.crossing sign

South Africa is a magnet for illegal immigrants. We are an Elysium for physically famished, economically asphyxiated, and politically browbeaten Sub-Saharans from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and Malawi. And our church has had to deal with the ethics of helping brothers and sisters in Christ while concurrently honoring our government’s laws.

Now that my position on this issue is established, I’d like to challenge myself and the Christian community to cultivate sympathy for people who find themselves in legal conundrums that are difficult to resolve.

As a dad, the drive to feed my family and provide a safe and healthy environment for my kids is an instinctual drive hardwired into my very soul. God reserves a soft spot in his heart for widows, orphans, and foreigners.

Deuteronomy 24:17-18 “You shall not pervert the justice due to the sojourner or to the fatherless, or take a widow’s garment in pledge, but you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt and the Lord your God redeemed you from there; therefore I command you to do this.

Of late the news has been broadcasting, on the one hand, a lot of grandstanding generalizations about the character of foreigners, and how bigger walls will fix the problem; and on the other (left?) hand, rhetoric advocating legalizing illegals with impunity. Neither extreme is helpful.

visaThis post isn’t my attempt to spawn 2c of unsolicited opining from a remote corner of the world; it is just a reminder that being a stranger in a strange land can be bewildering and Christians are sympathetic, compassionate people.

We can treat a person with dignity and respect, while shepherding him/her toward a conscientious decision to obey the law. And in our discussions and debates on the issue we can maintain a godly compassion in our demeanor and diction.

I’m not saying we should condone sin. We need to hold the right view in the right way.

I’m all for justice. I just don’t have to be mean about it.

(I highly recommend this helpful pastoral perspective on immigration posted by Nate).

Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Karl Heitman

    So, you find out that one of your faithful congregants is an illegal alien? What dost thou do?! Do you 1) keep a lid on it until he becomes convicted about it personally and does the right thing, 2) report him, or 3) are there other options?

    • Jason

      I found myself asking the same question of what I would do if I were in this situation.

    • One way to approach it is to shepherd the person, inform their conscience, and guide them to repentance…just like you’d do with any other sin.

      • Dave

        Clint, I think one issue here is the “repentance” aspect. Is repenting in this case acknowledging the wrong and committing to not illegally crossing the border into this country again, though staying put (productively or not), or does repentance contain returning to the home country?

      • Karl Heitman

        I thought my question presupposed that a true Christian’s conscience would be bothered by being an illegal alien, but I guess I shouldn’t assume that. My assumptions often get me in trouble! Thanks, Clint.

  • Jason

    This seems like a good solid treatment of the situation from someone who’s gone though all the hassle of doing things by the book themselves (which sounds pretty painful). Unfortunately, our popular culture is one of polarity and the two perspectives you mentioned as extremes are the two we’re generally told we must pick between. False dichotomy seems like the weapon of choice in politics… and a lot of people fall for it.

    I always knew that it was a lot of red tape for temporary citizenship, but hadn’t actually seen the list you presented of exactly what it all entailed (and I’m sure there’s a lot that goes into each step I’m unaware of).

    I just don’t understand why the discussion isn’t about how we could prevent abuse of the privileges *and* cut some of the tape instead of just leaving the paperwork and fees in place and removing consequences for side-stepping it, thus making it hard only for those most likely to obey the rules anyway!

    • I’m all for red tape. The process is a good one, and prevents a flood of immigration, but allows for people who have no criminal background and some needed skills into the country. The problem is enforcement. In our country, if you are found to be there illegally, you are deported immediately. There is no discussion about whether or not you should get a driver’s license! This only works if employers insist on a work permit or evidence of citizenship. If these people couldn’t get jobs, they would stop coming here for work!

      • Jason

        It would definitely need to be part of the discussion to determine how much paperwork is required to make an informed decision and how much is just because the process isn’t optimal.

        I’m not a huge fan of using inefficiency as a deterrent, but that may just be because I’m a software programmer by trade. 😛

  • tovlogos

    Indeed, Clint — As someone who was grafted into this country, I can relate to much that you conveyed, and agree.
    I also agree with the necessary discipline to look through the lens of Scripture when reckoning all things concerning our lives — including immigration. However, when it comes to immigration of Muslims, I firmly believe that we are wrong to have a naive outlook.
    “As we said before, so I say again, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you have received, he is to be accursed”. Galatians 1:9)
    This passage applies to many different schools of thought; regarding Islam, which is the most aggressive of proselytizers — this has to be one of the categories to which Galatians is referring. Obviously not all Arabs have been Muslims — in fact there were numerous, perhaps half the population, were Christians and Jews living in Arabia during Mohammad’s lifetime. but due to Islamic’s (fabricated) eschatology, they must be regarded with great discernment in these last days.
    When someone helped a Muslim who was in dire straights, he didn’t seem terribly grateful — he said in my hearing — The help really came from Allah.
    This massive immigration has sparked the spirits of many Muslims, believing that their spread over the earth, is no accident, and is the fulfillment of Muslim prophecy to takeover the world and subdue it for Allah. Many Muslims envision the US, and elsewhere, becoming Caliphates. Although we know how the story actually ends, it is still troubling to be docile in the face of the Islamic onslaught; and I don’t separate “Moderate” and “Radical”; based on belief system.

    • Jason

      I don’t feel that Galatians 1:9 can be applied properly to immigration law because national membership is not the context here. The closest that verse can tie to Islam is probably the Chrislam movement.

      However, I do agree that common sense is not so common. Our nation is willfully ignorant because every time someone points to the elephant in the room they get slapped…

      The Christian Law Association advises teachers not to answer a question about their faith that a student might ask because it could be misconstrued as them officially endorsing their beliefs, but that same teacher may be required to teach an Islam section in world history to make that religion more accepted http://www.islaminourschools.com/2015/04/18/wisconsin-school-tells-kids-to-pretend-to-be-muslim

      • tovlogos

        Hi Jason — Yes, obviously.
        I am taking some liberty here, because I don’t believe one can really eliminate one’s beliefs from public office; many with serious convictions. And since Muslims are determined to turn this country into a caliphate — they are the exception. They are a direct satanic challenge, that’s not only an immediate threat to the church, but the country. I wouldn’t take this position with Hindus. And since the constitution is based strictly on Christian principles, it’s become even more relevant to make the comparison — and stand our ground, theologically — Muslims and liberals have put a bulls eye on our backs.
        The political correctness is sinful denial, which is leading to the demise of this country. Notwithstanding, to see how this administration is allowing Muslims into this country and standing silent as Christians are being murdered daily oversees, it beyond Chislam — it’s an unmistakable statement.

        Mark

  • Moises Rubio

    The alien they have oppressed in your midst;
    Ezekiel 22:7 NASB

    Are we not to follow scripture and submit to our governments only until they keep us from following Gods will? We are not to oppress the aliens in our midst but to be kind and serve. This was part of Israel’s sin, they were ruthless to the alien and God was about fed with not just this, but plenty other sins. We must serve even those who have fled their country due to bad conditions and what Mexico is right now and other countries south of them, are bad conditions that are not getting better.

    • chrisleduc1

      You’d have to make a case from Scripture that those were “illegal” aliens ie those who broke the law and were continualky breaking the law to be in the land of Israel, that Ezekiek was referring to rather than just aliens ie non Israelites in the land.

    • The command to Israel certainly shows God’s heart for disadvantaged people (widows, orphans, foreigners). But the application isn’t as direct as that, because it was part of the Mosaic law which was given to govern Israel as a nation. USA or RSA or Canada are not under the Mosaic law, and if they choose to make laws about immigration, we should obey them. There is no verse that says you must flee a difficult situation in your country.

    • Jason

      Could you please define what you mean by “oppress”? I mean, if people are advocating taking these illegals and making them slaves (not far off from what some employers do) or to make a sport of abusing them than this verse would certainly apply.

      However, enforcing laws isn’t oppression. If we feel that the laws are too strict we can have a discussion about changing them. However, I don’t think anyone would honestly advocate completely open borders where our nation would be responsible for supporting everyone in the entire world who don’t feel sufficiently supported by their own country (which is exactly what we are inadvertently proposing by removing the enforcement).

      Basically, remove the borders or be okay with illegal immigration being… well… illegal.

  • Lizzie

    The Word states that it will get worse. So I believe we should ultimately beef up our faith and know that it will only be a remnant that survives. But I do have a few opinions and observations. Being that I did a paper in my Analytical writing class last year on our nations alien crisis. It is much worse than most Americans are aware of, trust me, it is a serious crisis! Hopefully our next President will take action.
    Has anyone crunched the numers $$$$$ about how much, even the legal ones, cost taxpayers? You might have a different opinion. Try website F.A.I.R.
    The worst is Obama is fast tracking a bunch of Somalians up in St Cloud, they are Islamic. Because of some US military incident in Somalia that had some not so wonderful out come. So, Obama decided to give them carte blanche in the USA. According to the locals and some are given around $3000 a month from US gov, help with housing, they drive nicer cars than most Minnesota people,free health insurance, free schooling. If they have to work, the women work and the men don’t. The women dress in full barka but most have very colorful material and will wear makeup. They get foodstamps when I can’t because I am a full time student. Catholic Charities helps them but doesn’t evangelize them, but that’s no surprise. Any of their children that are born here, become natural citizens, which I believe should be reformed, due the the fact that they’re loyalty is to Islam. Can you see any of them fighting for our counrty against an Islamic nation? Probably not! These islams teach their children jihad, especially against America. They are worst than spies and more clever than us. It might take 50 years to infiltrate and raise an army of natural citizens that scream JIHAD, but it will come. Remember 911?
    Should we evangelize them? ( tell Rick Warren we should, he doesn’t know) Of course! But I would rather the church evangelize the Muslims in their own country, due to their lack of loyalty and hatred of America. I remind all of you what Jesus said ” Go yea unto the nations……” But because we are such a melting pot society and post modern, not to mention the neo-ecumenism that has swept the church, I doubt that anyone will be evangelized sufficiently, even our own citizens.
    I’m going to get off track a little here, but I think it is necessary. Has anyone noticed that perhaps the on slaught of Muslim immigrants is a judgement on our sinful nation, which we have been fallen, extremely fast, these past 60 years? The New Testament tells us to use the Old Testemant as admonishion. Should we take stock of our own sin as a nation? Did not God raise an enemy against the nation of Israel, several times, when they’re worship of other gods became a stinch in His nostrils. He brought judgement so that they might repent and then in return He could triumph with mercy. But they like us are still a nation that spits on God. Our nation’s is in big trouble! Also, I believe Obama as president is direct reflection of judgement as well. He lead Americans to believe he was a Christian in order to get the Christian vote, but we know now he is a liar and a wolf.
    Back to the polical argument, which I believe is most vital to our nations survival and give us more time to repent . Our economy can’t handle the mass immigration, legal or illegal. Most of our own citizens, especially new college graduates, are in huge debt and can’t find jobs relevant to their degree. My point is, we are not the same nation we were 100 years ago, when we could take on the the huddled masses. Not to mention the security threat that has become a daily, quite war, not to metion an extremely expensive one. The foreigners that come on work visas alone under cut salaries of Americans by millions each years; taking jobs at lower salaries and no benefits. Do think this is why blue collar jobs are cutting benefits? It is a crisis that needs reforming in our immigration policy and I believe I don’t stand alone in this opinion.
    So with all that being said; what would be a solution.
    Send some missionaries to St. Cloud Minnesota to evangelize these Somalians.
    The church could stop building huge buildings with ten flat screen TV in the lobby and instead send missionaries to other countries, but be sure you really support them financially.
    Change the immigration laws to no automatic citizenship if born on American soil.
    Protect our borders, the money we spend at the state level just in a year alone could build a wall from the east coast to the west in a year.
    Start sending illegals back.
    Make it harder for citizens of islamic countries to come live here.
    No benefits for the foreign born.