With election day in high gear it was hard to get away from all sorts of posts. Many that I saw appeared “religious” in nature but by the quote or verse used you could tell which way the poster leaned, essentially making them political posts rather than religious. Worse yet, political under the guise of religious.
My “delete” button got a lot of use this day as I began to comment or respond to comments only to decide it wasn’t worth the effort or would only consume my time for fruitless dialogue.
I did read through many comments, however, especially those on posts from Facebook friends I respect. One of these comments included a person being rebuked for using the term “illegal alien” when speaking of, well, illegal aliens. He was instructed that they are called “undocumented immigrants” then was further chastised for putting them in the same category as Klansmen or drug dealers, with the challenger going on to insist that “actions are illegal not people.”
I at first relegated the lashing the commenter received to another liberal diatribe but then I got to thinking about the chastiser’s argument that illegal aliens are people deserving respect and understanding for what they have gone through, what they may be trying to escape from, or what they are seeking by coming to the United States. Contending that their identity shouldn’t be bound to their illegal actions to get here.
Frankly, I wasn’t convinced.
Can we really separate a person’s identity from their actions? Is not some one who steals a thief? Someone who kills a murderer? Someone who lies a liar? Someone who breaks the law a lawbreaker? Some one who enters a country illegally an illegal alien?
Why do liberals insist on calling illegal aliens “undocumented immigrants”? Regardless of their worth as a person or their reason for wanting to enter another country (or leave their own), if they break the law to do so, they’re lawbreakers so following how other people are identified by their actions in every other case (thief, murderer, liar, lawbreaker), they are illegals.
At what point after committing their crime are they no longer known by it? After completion of their trial? After they serve their sentence? After a certain amount of time? After they stop doing that particular crime?
Obviously, we want to be loving, caring and compassionate. We want to recognize the worth and value of people as individuals. Is it reasonable, then, to revise our terms? Would it be any better to instead say “person of value who broke the law”? Is their another alternative?
Or is it just another way liberals try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes about those who enter our country illegally. “They’re not criminals for breaking the law, they’re just immigrants who want a better life. Open our borders, let them in, take care of them.”
Of course for Christians, it gets a bit more complicated. In the Old Testament God made it clear to the People of Israel that they were to welcome, even love, foreigners. Jesus went on to teach that his followers should love and care for their neighbors and strangers. The Apostles continued this teaching in the New Testament letters, encouraging their readers to show hospitality to strangers. Of course, all of the admonitions in Scripture are to individuals: individual Israelites (even as a “people”), individual disciples, individual Christians. These instructions were not given to a nation, government or even religious leaders, per se, except as they are individuals.
Governments, however, have the responsibility to protect their citizens, to secure their borders and to enforce their laws. A person who enters a country illegally may not intend to endanger the citizens of that country, but if they enter illegally how can the government be sure? If these immigrants begin their residence in a country by breaking that country’s laws to get there, why would one not assume that they will continue to disregard that country’s laws? Why should they not be considered illegals since they attempted to enter illegally?
Ideally, as individuals are involved in government service, their compassion will come through in legislation and enforcement. Governments should treat people -even illegal aliens- humanely, of course. Their officers and representatives should be compassionate to them as they should any person -law abiding or law breaking- but the government cannot ignore their illegal actions. They cannot treat them as law abiding citizens when they are not. They must be held accountable for their actions, as we all should.
So we’re back to the original question: “what should we call illegal aliens?” I have my opinion as undoubtedly you have yours. Here’s mine: If you are the government, it needs to be clear who you are dealing with while enforcing the law: they’re illegal aliens. If you are a politician or voting citizen or activist, involved in advocating for humane treatment or different laws, it’s also important to remember who they are to accurately identify them and to make your argument. When you use the term “undocumented immigrants” you are not clearly describing what they have done but are shrouding their entrance into our borders with euphemisms, so not discussing the situation or working toward legislation honestly. If you are an individual welcoming and caring for strangers, from across town or across the border, they are people. They don’t need a title, neither illegal alien or undocumented immigrant, they only need a name, their name.*
*Of course, if you are taking in, or providing for, people who have illegally entered our borders, you have also stepped over to the wrong side of the law, but that’s a discussion for another post, which should include when you should break your government’s laws to keep God’s law or if you can keep both.
Photo: Large groups of illegal aliens were apprehended by Yuma Sector Border Patrol agents near Yuma, AZ on June 4, 2019. The Yuma Sector continues to see a large number of Central Americans per day crossing illegally and surrendering to agents. CBP photo by Jerry Glaser. (Photo public domain)