by Bruce Strom
Do you know Jon Snow? One of the characters in Game of Thrones, he is a watcher on the wall against the evil forces of the north. And that wall is a long and “really, really high wall”. And here fantasy invades reality. A few weeks ago our border patrol referenced game of thrones when they endorsed Donald Trump. Mr. Trump’s success in New York this week bore witness to the continuing popularity of viewing immigrants and Muslims as though they were evil creatures from a fictional script.
Inside the Supreme Court this week, the script focused on the words “lawful presence”. Those two words were debated hotly in oral arguments Monday in the challenge by Texas and 26 other states to President Obama’s Executive Action. Did President Obama refuse to “take care” of faithfully executing the law by circumventing Congress in providing “lawful presence” to a class of illegal immigrants?
While this clash of titans was taking place in DC, I was listening to a world leader, Queen Noor of Jordan, speak on immigration at Judson University. The Queen urged politicians, instead of putting up walls, to hold up the nation’s values of liberty and remain the ‘beacon of hope’ it so long has been for the world. She spoke eloquently of the danger of treating people as ‘the other’ instead of focusing on our common humanity as image bearers of God.
This week also saw the release of a new Pew Research Report showing apprehension of Mexican migrants at the border reached the lowest number in 50 years. There were 188 apprehensions in 2015. It is difficult to justify building a multi-million dollar wall and investing significant more sums to increase border patrol for such numbers. From the news you would think there were hoards coming over our border. Truth is there are more people leaving than arriving. The further truth is there are more people who overstay visas than cross our southern border. I think it is safe to say the border is secure and it is time to move forward with reform.
As a lawyer I understand the complexities of the immigration debate. In the Supreme Court this gets hyper-legal on issues of standing and Administrative Procedure Act compliance. As a nation we think the court will weigh in on the ultimate issues when in reality they may only narrowly address legal technicalities. I suspect Justice Kennedy will side with the four liberal justices on narrow grounds to uphold the President’s action. But there remains a broader debate.
As a pastor I grieve the portrayal of people as less than image bearers of God. People are more than political issues. The church should be marked by love and service toward the least, the last and the lost. We should care deeply about the exploitation and abuse of our immigrant neighbors. As the church we should appreciate the Biblical Lex Talionis idea of proportional punishment. The actual law violated is minor compared to the punishment of separating families and creating orphans through deportation. When an individual has not violated the law, paid taxes, and been a part of the community, it seems appropriate to move them to the back of the deportation line while we work on reform. Personally, I believe such reform should include the payment of fines for violating the law, payment of taxes and a clean criminal record before standing in line for a process toward citizenship.
My sons attend a public high school which is primarily Hispanic. Many of their classmates’ parents do not have papers. One of these parents came to see me last week. He is a pastor. He is a proud father. He is a wonderful contributing member of our community. When we sit across from our immigrant friends and realize they are not alien invading monsters, the need for reform becomes personal.
Tomorrow my church is hosting Emily Gray and World Relief to learn more about immigrants and refugees. Chaos, crisis or calling: refugees and immigrants on our doorstep. If you are in the Chicago area I hope you will join us. If not, I encourage you to contact World Relief to have them come to your church. With so many references in the Bible to the immigrant, this is an important conversation. As we engage in the conversation my prayer is that we will reflect Christ to a watching world.
Let’s be watchers on the wall. Let’s look for opportunity to administer true justice and show mercy and compassion to the widow, the fatherless, the immigrant and the poor (Zech. 7:9-10).