The Demonizing of Immigrants
Did you know that “95 percent of warrants for murder in Los Angeles are for illegal aliens?” Or that “75 percent of people on the Most Wanted List in Los Angeles are illegal aliens”? What’s more, “Over [two-thirds] of all births in Los Angeles County are to illegal alien Mexicans on [Medicaid] whose births were paid for by taxpayers.”
This is outrageous. Especially since none of it is true! Instead, it’s just one example of how, in some ways, we have gone beyond worrying about illegal immigration to demonizing the immigrants themselves.
This example came from a widely circulated e-mail that was posted on at least 130 conservative websites. It listed ten “facts about immigration” and gave as its source the Los Angeles Times.
Not only was the Los Angeles Times not the source of these “facts,” when the paper examined the alleged “facts,” none of them withstood scrutiny. Some of them distorted the data: For instance, approximately 62 percent of all births in Los Angeles County are to Hispanic women. But this number includes American citizens, legal aliens, Hispanics from countries other than Mexico, and has nothing to do with Medicaid.
The so-called “facts” about illegal alien criminality are even worse: They are deliberate misrepresentations or complete fabrications.
Unfortunately, this is only the tip of an often very ugly iceberg. The illegal immigration problem is often called an “invasion” that threatens the existence of the United States. Illegal aliens are depicted as part of an effort to “reconquer” the American Southwest. And it’s not only illegal immigrants: American citizens of Mexican ancestry are also regarded as part of this plot.
Now, there are a few fringe Latino groups that talk about “reconquista”—that is all they are, however: fringe. To judge all Latinos, including illegal aliens, by the words of these groups is as fair as judging all Christians by the actions of clinic bombers or Fred Phelps.
A concern for fairness isn’t the most important reason that Christians ought to oppose this demonization of “the strangers in our midst.” As theologian T. M. Moore recently wrote on BreakPoint Online, “God defends strangers. He has compassion for those who have left all and risked all to find new lives in a strange country.”
Moore reminds us that God expects His people’s “attitude toward the strangers and sojourners in their midst” to reflect His own concern.
Now, this does not mean that Christians ought not to be concerned about the massive lawbreaking, by both illegal immigrants and those who employ them. We must! The rule of law is a Christian contribution, coming out of the Reformation, and it requires respect for law, just as the Bible does. Nor does it mean that there’s one particular immigration proposal that Christians ought to be supporting.
What it does mean is that Christians must work to see that the immigration debate generates light instead of heat. We must insist that the illegal-immigration issue be addressed without treating millions of Americans, many of whom have died protecting our country, as a kind of fifth column.
That is the very least we can do if we are obedient to God’s command to welcome strangers. And that’s a fact I got from the highest possible Source.
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T. M. Moore, “Strangers in Our Midst,” BreakPoint Online, 26 April 2006.
“Just the Facts—Updated,” Borderline blog, 4 May 2006.
David Neiwert, “Reconquista!” Orcinus blog, 17 April 2006.
David Neiwert, “Border Crossings,” Orcinus blog, 5 June 2006.
Tim Cavanaugh, “Borders without Visas,” Los Angeles Times, 23 May 2006.
Bill O. Hing, “Republican Immigration Reform Strategy Memo,” ImmigrationProf blog, 1 June 2006.
“Modes of Entry for the Unauthorized Migrant Population,” Pew Hispanic Center, 22 May 2006.
Professor Stephen Bainbridge, “The 1965 Immigration Act,” ProfessorBainbridge.com, 19 May 2006.
Richard Rodriguez, “America’s Impure Genius,” Los Angeles Times, 19 May 2006.
Mae M. Ngai, “How Grandma Got Legal,” Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2006.
BreakPoint Commentary No. 060411, “Illegal Immigration: The Real Root of the Problem.”
BreakPoint Commentary No. 060508, “Illegal Immigration: A Biblical Perspective.”