Does this law reflect our true Christian values?

Published 12:21am Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Last week, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill that revises our state’s immigration law. As House Democrats filibustered this bill, I could not help but to think about what it means to be an American and a Christian. Webster’s Dictionary defines a “native” as someone or something “living or growing naturally in a particular region.” And yet, America is a nation that was founded by people who are not natives to this land. Immigration is not just a part of American history — it is the start of American history. Our country would not exist as it does today were it not for the men and women who came here after suffering through months of travel in harsh conditions. Some came for religious freedom. Others came for the chance to start a new life and have a better future. Many came as enslaved people or indentured servants, never to know a life outside of servitude. But regardless of how or why they came here, these people from foreign lands made this country what it is.

Why, then, has our state taken such a harsh position on immigration? Have we forgotten our history? Have we forgotten our Christian values? In Matthew 25:40, Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Are modern immigrants not “the least of these?” Are they not our “brothers and sisters?” Like many Americans, many of these immigrants came to this country after traveling in harsh conditions. They did not come here for the promise of a brighter future, but for the hope of one. They came and took the jobs that many of us would not be willing to work. And contrary to popular belief, even illegal immigrants pay taxes, though they do not receive government benefits such as Social Security or Medicare.

Supporters of Alabama’s immigration law seem to be most preoccupied by the legal status of immigrants. But what have illegal immigrants done that has warranted our state’s reaction? Some have said they are concerned that illegal immigrants might come here and commit crimes. But are there not legal citizens in this country committing crimes every day? Crime should not be tolerated but it also should not be used as an excuse to justify bad public policy.

Many supporters of the immigration law have claimed that illegal immigrants are taking jobs from Alabama workers. But if this is true, then why are so many farmers and business groups asking for changes or out-right repeal of the law? Why are so many crops going unpicked? Why did the state’s Department of Agriculture and Industry consider sending prisoners to fill these jobs if there are so many legal citizens waiting?

Alabama’s immigration law has cost us far more than it has benefited us. This law has hurt our ability to recruit new business, it has threatened to derail our construction and agriculture industries and it has cost us millions in tax revenue. In passing this law, we have forgotten our history and our Christian values. If we truly are a nation and a state of Christians, then we need to search our soul and ask ourselves: does this law reflect the greatness of our nation and state?

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