I’m taking a brief break from my series on President Obama’s signature health-care legislation as the case of Heydi Mejia has captured my attention – and my heart. As a school principal, I know first hand what it’s like to balance the need to enforce the rules yet be quick to show mercy as a child of God.
In case you’ve missed her immigration problem, Heydi Mejia graduated last Friday as an Honors student from Meadowbrook High School near Richmond, VA. She had taken AP classes. Her diploma glittered with the Virginia Governor’s endorsement. She had also been living under a deportation order for the last year. She won a reprieve for one year Monday.
Her case has sparked a lot of immigration frustration and even anger. The Washington Post captured the dilemma well. Key graph:
What should the United States do with illegal immigrants who come to the country as children, grow up here, break no laws and want to remain? In Mejia’s case, what should be done with an illegal immigrant who came to the country at age 4; who speaks better English than Spanish; who wants to attend Randolph-Macon College in Virginia and become a nurse; whose knowledge about modern Guatemala comes in part from what she’s read on Wikipedia?
We should be frustrated by the Heydi Mejia case. But she is not the real immigration problem. We should direct our frustration not at Heydi or her mother. And especially not at those with differing opinions on all sides. When we do so, we miss the real culprits.
We should direct our angst at the reason we are in this lose-lose scenario in the first place: our leaders – of both parties — who fail to consistently enforce our laws. They caused the immigration problem by failing to enforce our laws in the first place. Now they stand to benefit from our fighting about it. Let’s not be that silly.
Whenever we fail to consistently enforce the rules, we end up only hurting the very ones we claimed to be helping. It’s easy to think we’re showing kindness by looking the other way, but ignoring the standards only leaves us all in a morality morasse where nobody wins. Least of all the cause of Christ.
It happens every time:
- It happens in the classroom. You may remember it yourself from your middle-school days. A teacher starts strong by listing the rules for the classroom. But after a few weeks of whining, brown-nosing, or just blatant appeals to be his friend, the teacher starts to let the rules and consequences slide. He thinks he’s winning favor. He’s not. He’s losing control of his classroom. All the students will soon lose respect for him and become frustrated. Parents will follow. And he’ll soon be in my office, frustrated and ready for a career change. Casualties all around.
- It happens in the workplace. The leader states the values and vision of the organization. She may even have cool posters that preach her values. Yet when faced with her first tough call that impacts a real employee in a tight spot, she caves. And everyone realizes her words cannot be trusted. It won’t be long before key employees start leaving, productivity drops, and a lawsuit rears its head.
- It happens in the church when a pastor kicks off his tenure with grand vision and fresh policies. A few weeks later, one of his pastoral staff is in need of tough love – maybe even some disciplinary action – and he chooses to let it slide. He thinks he’s being kind. Instead, he’s setting his team up for confusion, disappointment, and uncertainty. Soon they’re all fighting about the Sunday bulletin color while he ties to figure out where all the love went.
It is not loving to ignore the law. I say this knowing there are many laws I do not like. But Jesus made it clear: “I did not come to abolish the law(s)…, but to fulfill them.” (Matt. 5:17) Recall the words of the Apostle Paul, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” (Rom. 13:10) And, lest we forget, the Ten Commandments were given by God to his people not to make them miserable but to keep them from destroying themselves.
We find our greatest peace when we’re empowered to live within the boundaries set by our Creator. It should not surprise us that so many of our society’s conflicts are caused by someone, somewhere, not consistently enforcing those boundaries. It’s frustrating. Really, it is. But those who made the decision to ignore the standards are often long gone. Retired. Promoted. Or elected to Congress.
In this case of Heydi Mejia and the many other truly difficult immigration cases like hers, there is abundant room for mercy. Think of the mercy Solomon showed to Adonijah after his half-brother’s attempted coup. (1 Kings 1) But there is also a necessary place in the immigration process for justice – a big place. Think of how Solomon responded to Adonijah’s subsequent betrayal with capital punishment. No, I’m not suggesting the death penalty for immigration violations. Just enforcement of the normal legal standards.
I think Heydi Mejia should be shown mercy – clemency, if you will. I think she is precisely the kind of driven, ambitious, and diligent person we want to be attracting to our shores. She’s already here, for crying out loud. This is easy.
Our failure to consistently enforce the law — that is the true immigration problem. Let’s fix that problem. Let’s focus on restoring those cultural walls. Let’s not take out our frustration with that failure on Heydi Mejia.
Or, for that matter, on each other.
Leave a comment below to share your thoughts. Do you agree about why we are in this lose-lose situation? What would you do?