In immigration debate, remember it's about people


By Jorge Navarrete
Conference Staff
Some important subjects become politicized not just because of the strong emotional feelings that they elicit, but because high profile proponents on opposing sides use strong negative arguments to justify or to bolster their positions.  

Their arguments are picked up and amplified by the media (television, radio, e-mails) to the point that otherwise rational and normal citizens begin to take sides based on misleading information and inflammatory statements by extreme supporters, making informed conversation or calm dialogue on the matter difficult, if not impossible. 

One such subject is illegal immigration, or the issue of undocumented aliens where there are diametrically opposed views and opinions on this issue. 

• Could the United States government have prevented them from coming over? Yes.

• Can the U.S. government deport them? Yes.
• Is it economically advisable to deport all these folks? No.
• Is it financially and logistically feasible to deport all of them? No.
• Are most of them well-educated and speak English? No.
• Do they need a high school diploma and to speak English to work in jobs available to them? No.
• Are they willing to fill available back-breaking jobs, dangerous jobs? Yes.
• Do employers needing to fill these type jobs hire them? Yes.
• Do they take jobs from others desiring these jobs? No.
• Are U.S. workers displaced from good paying jobs they are willing to do? No.
• Did they break the law crossing the border? Yes.
• Do they bring vitality and the willingness to work hard? Yes.
• Do they use social services? Yes.
• Do they pay federal social security, FICA and state sales taxes? Yes. 

When you chase down and examine every statistic, every anecdotal incident and every urban myth (both pro and con), add them all together and compare them, you are left with a zero sum conclusion and facing the stark reality that this is not a legal issue nor an economic one nor a social one. 

It's a human issue that has to do with living, breathing men, women and children who like millions of others before them are coming to this country in search of a better life.  

As in the case of the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s, these new arrivals are forced to come here because something in their countries went terribly wrong. We can say of the current wave of immigrants that their governments have failed them and the economic globalization, including international treaties like NAFTA, have left them with little choice. Mexican and Central American heads of families can stay back home and watch their loved ones wither and suffer with need or go to the big cities in their countries to beg in the streets. Or they can invest their meager savings to pay foreign or U.S. based "coyotes" to smuggle them through national borders, enduring life and death ordeals, risking abuse by police officials or even death in desert crossings.  

In the case of those in the Caribbean, such as Haiti, they can stay and face unimaginable poverty such as eating dirt cookies made of oil, salt and mud -- attempting to trick their stomachs into thinking they are full -- or they can risk a dangerous, often fatal trip, across the open ocean to come to the promise of these shores. 

Immigrants, legal or illegal, come to this country because from even before the founding of the United States our nation has been blessed with freedoms and has abounded in opportunities, economic and social, that have acted as a beacon of hope to millions of people.  

Are we not living, breathing humans like they are? Are we not a nation of immigrants? Do we dare be the ones to deny others the promise of America granted to our ancestors? Are the new arrivals not our neighbors?  

As Jesus taught us in the parable of the Good Samaritan, anyone in need is our neighbor (Luke 10:25-37). Proverbs 14:21 admonishes and encourages us to treat our neighbors justly: "He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy."  

The Hebrews living in the land flowing with milk and honey were reminded that they, too, had been aliens in a strange land themselves. "‘When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." -- Leviticus: 33-34 

Can we tune out the loud arguments and try to do what the Holy Book tells us to do regarding this important human issue? 

Navarrete serves as missions coordinator for the Mississippi Conference. Contact him at