Inside Out 66: Undocumented Immigration

04.20.11 | Martha Manikas-Foster

Almost 11 million immigrants live in the United States illegally, with many working in the construction, agriculture and hospitality industries. They---or perhaps you---often log long hours for low pay in exchange for a chance to raise children in a country known for its educational and economic opportunity.

The obvious fact is that illegal immigration is just that---illegal. Yet if a person can get into the US, he or she can usually find work. That’s because even in times of high unemployment there’s an economic niche for low-skilled workers.

The US immigration system is broken, and when I say that I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Our laws make it illegal to immigrate to the US outside of approved channels, yet our government acknowledges and regulates illegal workers: among other things, the Internal Revenue System issues instructions on how undocumented workers must file their taxes and our Social Security system accepts payment from Social Security numbers that don’t match the names on the cards.

In this podcast I get to speak with Matthew Soerens about a Christian response to undocumented immigration. Matt is the US Training Specialist for World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals. Matt helps operate the website, and with Jenny Hwang he is the coauthor of the IVP book Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.

I know you don’t expect us to fix the immigration process during this podcast---and we won’t. What we will do is discuss ways people who follow Jesus can work for justice while regarding all of our neighbors as God’s creations, rejecting xenophobia while embracing justice as well as grace.


Your Comments(please keep them on topic and polite)

on 04.20.11 Dan Graber commented

Very very good.
Covered a lot of complex ground in a short time.
Good mix of info with scripture and Christian perspectives.
Loved the PLEASE guideline and ideas for what we can do.
Did a good job of showing that this is our problem - we created it.
Loved the emphasis on injustice!

Three things would have been good to explore - but I know the time constaints.
1. The history in the US of "racism", suspicion, abuse, etc, for lack of a better term regarding immigrants - even the Irish and the Germans.
2. Reasons people come - for some reasons it's because of big business taking over farm land, squeezing out small farmers. Our business system causes people in Central America to not have the business opportunities and earning power. For example US corn subsidies help raise the price of corn for food, as well as other grains around the world.
3. Could have given some Democrat and Republican history of how we've caused this problem with confusing, unfair systems and messages over the years. In other words, I feel both parties are at fault. Millions of immigrants didn't occur during one party's presidency!

But despite this above - very excellent presentation and questions.

Could he come preach and we hold a day long seminar with Matthew?

on 04.20.11 Ray Timmermans commented

Good historical overview on the Ellis Island era, quotas, and so on.

Excellent point made that illegal immigration is "good for the economy" and thus a "wink and a nod" has been our public policy for many years to those who overstayed visa time.

The Christian's dilemma portion was excellent. It is particularly good when the point is made that an undocumented immigrant's remaining in or coming to the US is for the purpose of providing for their own families. Is God's view of the "law" as rigid as ours tends to be with a short list of proof texts (Rom 13, 1 Pet)? I don't think so. Personally I don't think God is standing in heaven looking down upon the earth and seeing the borders in the same way we do. I suspect He is more concerned with how we treat each other rather than pondering what side of an arbitrary and historically fluid borderline one lives on during this particular historical epoch. Borders, after all, do change (eg Yugoslavia and its post iron curtain off-spring; Kuwait once part of Iraq, etc.)

Appreciated the PLEASE acronym for how to help undocumented immigrants.

As a Social Security advocate, I was a bit surprised that Mr. Soerens did not discuss issues with documented workers and "totalization agreements" between the US and other countries (Canada, Mexico and others). These are where a worker in the US has payments made to their equivalent of our Social Security Administration should they return to their country of origin as some do. As a legal matter I was hoping to hear how "totalization agreements" factor into payment of benefits to other country's benefits systems and for immigrants who DO return and how an undocumented or documented worker may end up paying into two systems with no guaranteed benefit from either. Clearly the undocumented worker using someone else's SS# is an issue that needs resolution. The fortunate retiree who has had someone using his/her SS# derives a benefit in the form of a higher benefit check (something undeserved) and the undocumented receives nothing. Hardly a fair deal!

I agreed with the need for a comprehensive policy but am perhaps a little more liberal with the possibility of amnesty--especially where the worker has roots in the community with family. It is simply unrealistic to expect a wife to leave a husband (or a huband leave a wife) who is an American citizen by birth; or to expect that children of two undocumented workers who are born here not to receive the same benefits as regular citizens born here. I was hoping to hear how the US Constitution protects those who are born here--irrespective of the country of origin of their parents.

Other than those few lacunae, I felt it was well presented and articulated the issues fairly.

on 04.20.11 David commented

Nice job makng a complex issue accessible.

I don't agree with Matt that we are "putting people in the dilemna of do I follow the law or do I provide for my family." The immigrant puts himself in that dilemna. I recognize it's diffifult, but the responsibility is still on the immigrant. To not have them own that responsibility is at least demeaning and possibly racist.

Stuff I'd like to hear more: What are the political issues that prevent comprehensive immigration refornm from happening? How does the immigration issue contribute to human trafficking?

on 04.20.11 Miriam commented

Lots to think about! Confirmation of what I have personally seen in the lives of my undocumented brothers and sisters; confirmation of what God has put in my heart as I've asked Him for guidance in this complex issue! Thank you for addressing it!




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