FIRST-PERSON: Immigration reform is not about politics
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP) -- Political pundits across the country are talking about the role the Latino vote played in the presidential election. Latinos clearly favored President Obama over Gov. Romney. The positions taken by each candidate on immigration reform were clearly a factor for many Latinos.
Many of these political pundits are calling on Republicans to change their position toward illegal immigrants to help with Republican politics. No doubt, a more realistic approach would help.
But immigration reform should not be about politics. It should be about human dignity. The Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission supports immigration reform because we believe God expects this nation to act in a compassionate manner toward those who are living peacefully among us, whether they are here legally or not.
We gain this perspective from the Bible. When God was telling His people Israel how to deal with the immigrant in their midst, He said, "You shall love him as yourself" (Leviticus 19:34). If God could instruct His people to love the immigrant among them who did not even necessarily share the faith of His people, surely He expects the same from us.
For 30 years our nation literally looked the other way while millions of Hispanics crossed our southern border and millions of other people from around the world overstayed their visas. When jobs were plentiful, the government was happy to have them helping keep our economic engine humming. In response to our passive attitude, they made lives here. But now, these Hispanics, Asians, Africans and others who have spent decades here making a life for themselves and raising their children in our midst find themselves threatened with deportation, either by force or starvation.
Those of us who are offended that these men and women willingly broke our laws and continue to do so with false identity documents are right to be offended. There must be a penalty for this. But for those of us who call ourselves Christians our reaction to them should first be one of compassion, not retribution.
These men and women are loved by God as much as we. They also are created in the image of God. They are also people for whom Jesus died. They deserve better than what some among us are attempting. For many, the skills they apply here are not even useful in the homelands they left years ago. To drive them out is certain to consign them to lives of abject poverty. This is not a Christian response to people in need.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission supports an immigration reform plan that secures our borders once and for all, ensures workplace enforcement, and provides paths to legal status and/or citizenship with appropriate restitution and requirements for those without a criminal history. Such a plan demonstrates our nation's commitment to the rule of law and also our commitment to welcoming the immigrant.
The United States is a nation of immigrants. Our own history has taught us that the melting pot that is the United States of America has been made stronger by infusions of new people. We help them and ultimately our nation by welcoming them and helping them reach their God-given potential. This is the American way, and more importantly, the Christian way.
Barrett Duke is vice president for public policy and research of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).