While I was in Mexico, I met many men who were suffering because they or their parents had tried to enter the United States the “easy” way. Back in the 1980’s and 1990’s the border wasn’t nearly as fortified and it was relatively safe for entire families to cross back and forth. Most felt no need to register as immigrants or apply for legal immigrant status because the laws were lax and there were many farmers and factories welcoming them into America regardless.
In the decades since Reagan was president, laws have been strengthened and enforcement stepped-up. This has happened in part because of a change in attitude towards immigrants, in response to 9-11 and lawlessness in the borderlands. During this time, many immigrants let their green cards lapse or never bothered to get a work permit. They simply lived their lives, worked, had families and built a nice life for themselves in the US.
That was fine before, but is no longer a workable option for most. Because of the resources Homeland Security has been given in the wake of 9-11 and renewed cooperation between the INS (Immigration and Naturalization Service), ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and local law enforcement agencies, something as simple as a routine traffic stop now often results in repatriation or deportation. A political stalemate on immigration reform hasn’t helped matters improve.
Many immigrants who were born or raised on the US side of the border they feel as if the border has crossed them, not that they have crossed the border. They came with no questions asked. But they are now being removed, no questions asked.
Some may be tempted to fault the government or those tasked with enforcement of existing laws for what many perceive to be injustice. I’m not certain that gross injustice is intentionally being perpetrated here. What I am sure of is that in the existing system, much of the onus lies on the part of undocumented residents (illegal immigrants as most call them) to make their own residency legal.
This is a difficult and expensive process that doesn’t have a guaranteed happy ending, which is why most are reluctant or fearful to even apply for legal resident status. But it is a necessary legal step for the person who wants to stay in the US by doing things the right way as opposed to the “easy” way. Unfortunately, instead of upholding the law and applying for legal immigrant status before attempting a return to the US, many who are repatriated to Mexico pay thousands of dollars to guides or risk their lives crossing the desert border alone.
Most of these crossing routes, according to a Border Patrol Agent I spoke with, are controlled by drug traffickers who aren’t big fans of immigrants drawing attention to their paths. You can imagine why they don’t want others to use their routes. Nor should you be surprised that many employ measures to protect their corridors.
Considering the danger many repatriated people are risking to reenter America illegally, there are many worldly reasons to encourage those who are undocumented residents of the US to legitimize their residency including:
- Freedom from constant and debilitating fear of capture and repatriation.
- To ensure family can stay together, wherever that may be.
- The law has given provision for undocumented residents to be granted residency.
- Better access to human and social services.
- Better prospects for employment.
- Better protection under the laws of the land in which they live.
As Christians, we can also encourage undocumented Christian residents with words of scripture regarding their predicament:
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.” Proverbs 14:12 ESV (Not very cheery, but encouragement to do all we can in our power to make things within our control right the right way as opposed to any way.)
“Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
who executes justice for the oppressed,
who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free;
the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” Psalm 146:5-9, ESV (A great Psalm that reminds us all that God is in control and that He is ever mindful of our situation, lovingly caring for us at all times and in all places as only He can.)
As we noted in multiple blog entries last week, immigration is a sticky web of issues that are so interconnected that no one of us has all of the answers. But Christians do have faith that sees God at work even in immigration issues. This faith gives us good reason to seek the Lord’s will in these matters, trusting that He has ultimately made right all that is wrong with the world in His Son Jesus Christ.
In faith, those who don’t have the rights of citizens can do their part in securing their freedom within the existing justice system, trusting that God works through earthly authorities to do His Will. Those of us who are blessed with freedom can work to bring positive change to a system that isn’t perfect. All the while, we all look forward to the day when we will enjoy true freedom where peace and justice abound in the presence of the King of Kings.