Illegal Questions, Part I

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Many people respond to questions about undocumented immigrants by saying that they must be deported if the law says so: always obey the law—no questions asked. But what if the law were to be changed to say that all people should be let into our country–no questions asked? Or what about if it were changed to not allow any immigration at all?

Hopefully, those who say under the current system that undocumented immigrants must be deported, no questions asked, would adhere with the same consistency to each of these alternative rulings (that is, no one should be deported or no one let in): the law is the law. If they balk at the new law and say we should disobey it by deporting or roadblocking immigrants or sneaking immigrants in, they would be inconsistent. But why are they inconsistent? Is their adherence to the current law based more on prejudice or lack of personal or profitable connection to the people in question than principle?

Then  there are those who only favor breaking the current law for how it benefits them and/or their community economically. What kind of justice is that? All people, including those who come here illegally, have inalienable rights as humans; their value should never be based on their presumed profitability. There are laws whose merit transcend market value and societal peace, among other things.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. told his fellow clergy from his Birmingham jail cell that an unjust law is no law at all. They pointed the finger at him for disturbing the peace, but for King, it was an unjust peace he was disturbing. There are laws, and then there are laws. We who are Christians must always be true to what we believe are the highest laws: those that confirm the Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) and Great Commandments (Mark 12:30-31)–regardless of the consequences, no questions asked.

This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and The Christian Post.

About Paul Louis Metzger

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including "Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths" and "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church." These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

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  • Brian S

    Everybody, whether here legally or illegally, have certain rights as human beings. True, and all human beings have the responsiblity to obey the law of the land or suffer the consequences. The door swings both ways.

    • Brian C

      The door most often is controlled by the powerful who may or may not be doing justice. Jesus was for the least of these and calls us to be likewise. If we ask different question like Paul is doing we might understand that the hinges of the door are broken.

  • Michael Munk

    It’s the same thing people said about slavery. And the right of African Americans to eat in the same space as white people. And the subjugation of Native Americans. And…a slew of other laws that kept/keep the The Stranger at a safe distance. And then there’s the question Jesus receives from a lawyer, wanting to justify himself: who is my neighbor? This is us. This is who we are.

  • Steve Longan

    You know, with some fairly large immigration reform reportedly right around the corner from congress, I’m really wondering what the next chapter will look like for undocumented immigrants. Because it will be worked out by politicians who will be on record for their votes on any legislation, I doubt it will swing toward either of the extremes (everyone gets deported/no one gets deported) you used for examples in your post. What is interesting to me (and what you touched on in your post, Paul) is the idea about how/when and on what terms we assign value to persons in our midst. And what is the relationship between their value and political/logistical expedience for our county. Our legislation, I think, stands as record of the current majority answer to these questions (eg. the 3/5 compromise related to the vote-counting of slaves).

  • Nathan Bubna

    Amen. The law of the land must always be secondary to the law of God, which includes something about “love your neighbor as your self”, i believe. Even were i not a Christian and subject to the laws and love of God’s Kingdom, i would have to point out that our country was founded on protest and rejection of unjust laws and lawgivers. There is always a place for protests like civil disobedience and nullification in American society. The law is meant to serve the people, not itself.

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