Mike Scruggs

Railroading Evangelicals on Immigration Issues: Ignorance Is Not Love

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By Mike Scruggs –

In early 2009, Senator Charles Schumer and other “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” Gang members (for amnesty and big guest-worker programs) tried to rope the 40-member National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) into backing “Comprehensive Immigration Reform,” embracing amnesty, and more legal immigration. The NAE announced a unanimous resolution to that effect, and the feathers began to fly at the denominational level. It turns out that the resolution had only 13 of the 40 signatures and many member denominations quickly distanced themselves from the resolution. Schumer and the “Comprehensive Immigration Reform” Gang have been up to it again in 2013.

The Southern Baptists were listed in a recent immigration article as backing amnesty, but this probably reflects mainly Richard Land’s long-standing liberal immigration position, which I seriously doubt reflects Southern Baptist membership. Land is the outgoing President of the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission and has been a chief spokesman for the denomination on public policy issues. Polling consistently shows that evangelical or “born-again” Christians oppose amnesty and other liberal immigration policies by the largest margins. In my opinion, they are much better informed on what is really going on than Richard Land. With 8 million illegal immigrants working and 20 million Americans wanting a full time job and unable to find one and with unskilled wages dropping 22 percent since 1979, further impoverishing our poorest citizens; amnesty and huge legal immigration increases do not make economic or moral sense.

Later in 2009, Zogby did a poll for the Center for Immigration Studies that showed that church denominational members were far more conservative than many of their denominational leaders.

Apparently the propaganda that illegal “immigrants are only doing what Americans won’t do” has little credibility with the general voting public. Asked whether more immigrants were needed to fill this need, Only 11 percent of all likely voters chose a similar answer. But 71 percent of all likely voters, 69 percent of Catholics, 73 percent of mainline Protestants, 75 percent of self-identified “born-again” Protestants, and 61 percent of Jewish voters selected choice B: There are plenty of Americans already here to do those jobs. If employers can’t find workers they should pay more and treat workers better.” About 18 percent said “neither” or not sure.”

In a choice between enforcing immigration and employment laws so that illegal immigrants would be encouraged to leave or legalizing them under certain conditions (like paying fines and back taxes), 61 percent of all likely voters preferred enforcement and only 26 percent preferred conditional legalization. The enforcement versus legalization choice was 64 to 24 for Catholics, 62 to 24 for mainline Protestants, 76 to 12 for “born-again” Protestants, and 43 to 40 for Jewish voters.

On a question as to whether there was too much or too little immigration (total of 1. 0 to 1.5 million per year versus less than 300,000 before the 1986 amnesty), 71 percent of all voters said it was too high. The “too high” answer was also given by 69 percent of Catholics, 73 percent of mainline Protestants, 75 percent of “born-again” Protestants, and 61 percent of Jewish voters.

One of the pitfalls of evangelical leaders making sweeping moral endorsements of legislation at the behest of political leaders is what I have called “analytical negligence.”

One evangelical leader of a genuinely conservative evangelical church, explained his advocacy of amnesty as a simple choice between law and mercy. The trouble with this leader’s thinking, however, is that you have to have your facts right and know the economic and social issues well enough to discern what good or evil consequences logically follow legislative actions, and who is going to be affected and how. It requires some economics and other homework. One of the most astonishing errors regarding immigration issues has been that supposedly just leaders are looking at immigration only in terms of mercy for illegal immigrants, while completely ignoring the colossal injustices and economic hardships that illegal immigration and excess importation of legal cheap labor inflict on American workers and their families. Mercy to lawbreakers often means unjust burdens and even poverty and disillusionment for the law abiding.

Here is a fairness issue. Breaking immigration laws may seem a nominal offense to those who have no regard for national security, public safety, and economic and social justice, but it usually requires breaking other important laws. The Schumer-Rubio amnesty package would mean relatively small fines of $500 to $1,000 spread over several years for legalized former illegal immigrants. How many illegal immigrant workers are guilty of identity theft, Social Security number fraud, or tax evasion as well as border or visa violations? Almost all, but Schumer-Rubio will not hold them liable. Now what if you as an American commit such felonies? The Federal penalty for identity theft, a rampant problem in Arizona and other states with high numbers of illegal immigrants, is 3-7 years in prison. Some states have $50,000 to $100,000 fines as well.

Harvard Economist George Borjas has pointed out the moral tragedy of our present immigration policies. Illegal immigrants benefit at enormous expense to American workers and taxpayers, while the big corporate users of cheap foreign labor make huge profits—over $400 billion per year. Excess immigration, both legal and illegal, displaces many American workers and drives down the wages and benefits of most of the rest. Most Americans and legal immigrants are being hurt significantly by high levels of immigration, but the poorest of them are being hurt the most. Yet many religious leaders, because of shallow and unstudied knowledge of the issues are actually favoring Robber Barons against the people of their own congregations. Who is it that is financing the constant propaganda for amnesty and open-door immigration policies? It is the very same Robber Barons and their teams of lobbyists, wearing, thanks to Evangelical endorsements, the smile of moral self-satisfaction that is the reward of moral ignorance and self-deception.

When I was a child, I hated homework. The scary thing about adulthood and especially leadership is that homework is required to make good decisions, including many moral decisions. Ignorance is not love. “Love…rejoices with the truth. I Corinthians 13: 6b.

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