Thursday, April 29, 2010

A Debate Worth Having

I have been following with much interest the recent debates regarding the current state of illegal immigration in America. In particular, I have been intrigued by the arguments surrounding the recent law passed in Arizona. As I try to process out my own thoughts and beliefs regarding illegal immigration I have come across the following facts. I do not profess to label either side as right or wrong but I think data has a place in the debate.

Here's where we are as far as illegal immigration in NC goes:

FAIR estimates in 2004 that the taxpayers of North Carolina spent $771.1 million per year on illegal aliens and their children in public schools.
As a school teacher being confronted daily with budget cuts and the utter poverty that many American citizens are living in, this one is hard for me. I find we fall further and further behind in serving students because our resources are spread too thin. Many school systems have resorted to begging their taxpayers for more money, but many families simply cannot afford more property taxes. We have to take a hard look at what we CAN reasonably offer people without putting all people and citizens at risk. It bothers me to think that my child will suffer in our public school system because of the resources being siphoned off in such large numbers.

FAIR’s projected annual fiscal costs to North Carolina taxpayers for emergency medical care, education and incarceration resulting if an amnesty plan is adopted for illegal residents:
Can the taxes brought in by legalizing immigrants really cover this gap? What jobs will these immigrants be taking- probably the same ones they are now, low paying jobs that will result in little to no tax responsibility. How many immigrants will be working highly skilled professional jobs, thus leading to a higher tax responsibility? I think the argument that legalizing immigrants will lead to more tax payers is flawed and simplistic.

In 2005 21.8 percent of immigrants in North Carolina had incomes below the poverty level, an increase of 50.7 percent since 2000
The saddest part of this statistic is that those most affected are often the children. I have a hard time punishing children for their parents deeds and so many of our illegal student base had no choice in coming to the US. Many are working hard to obtain their citizenship and I applaud that. I think perhaps our place for ministry is not to overturn or rebel against the laws put forth in this case, but to assist and support immigrants in their quest to go through the proper channels to become citizens. I think our ministry role-as the church, not the government- is also to watch over the basic human dignities of these "aliens in a foreign land" by feeding them when they are hungry, clothing them when they are poor, teaching them English so that they can operate within the larger societal systems, and showing them that God is bigger than any situation. What message to we send as Christians when we put such a large emphasis on the need to overthrow laws rather than rely on God's sovereignty and the daily physical ministry we as the church are called to do? Many people (Christian and non-christian) are up in arms over the "civil rights" of our illegal immigrants but what are they really doing to help make the situations so many illegals are in bearable? How many churches are reaching out to serve these groups? How many of us are in the schools helping these students adapt to the academics expected? How many of us are working at community centers to help these immigrants adjust to the US in a positive way, rather than going down the fast money path of drug dealing or gang banging?

I think as Christians it's time for us to STOP looking to the extremes and instead to focus on putting the rubber to the road when it comes to serving others as Christ has called us to. And in the meantime, I will support the rule of law in this country and the public officials who for good or bad, are under the sovereignty of God.

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