What would Jesus say about amnesty?

Here is my latest column, also available to read on sites including CafeConLecheRepublicans.com.

For a number of years, I agreed with many of my fellow Republicans on the issue of immigration reform. I was a hard-liner who saw no need for reform, much less amnesty. As a Latino whose family has Texas roots dating back to the 1800s, I resented the fact that anyone who shares my cultural heritage would ignore the law and come here illegally.

However, in recent years, I felt the Lord was showing me things about immigration that I hadn't considered before, and He was convicting me for not following the example of His Son. I admit, for the longest time, I resisted the idea, so certain was I that my hard-line position was legally, ethically, and morally correct. I began to realize, however, that Jesus had something to say about it through His Word, and I began to wonder if my own pride and hubris was keeping me from considering and accepting the idea that He had something to teach me.

I began to realize that I was not following Christ's example of how to treat others. Time and again, Jesus went out of His way to spend time with society's rejects: the thieves, the prostitutes, and the tax collectors (the Democrats of His day). He never treated them harshly or judged them; in fact, He reserved His greater criticism for the Pharisees, who should have been His spiritual brothers, and for His own followers (look at how many times He admonished His own disciples).

It was quite scandalous at the time for Jesus to be seen in the company of sinners, but His love and compassion was on full display with the morally deficient. Rather than wave His finger at them and condemn them (which He had every right and authority to do), He showed grace, mercy and forgiveness. He never demanded that they pay for their crimes or perform penance. Instead, he made clear His forgiveness, and said "Go, and sin no more."

If Jesus can show that kind of compassion to a sinner, who are we to judge others more harshly? As the immigration debate has intensified in recent years, I've seen some cruel words and vile treatment directed at illegals. They've been degraded as less than human and characterized as Godless, evil people here to destroy our society, sponge off of our generosity, and take advantage of our welfare and kindness. We've all seen the phrase "Today's immigrants - tomorrow's Democrats." Not only is that an unfair and broad statement, it says that someone is undeserving of the blessings of liberty our republic provides simply because they MIGHT join the wrong political party.

Illegals, Mexican or not, have broken the law, that much is certain. However, we delude ourselves if we think Jesus would conduct an ICE raid and send these folks back to Mexico. Rather, He would likely give them loaves and fishes and say "Go, and sin no more." He would insist that they stay and make America their home. This is not a naive view, and I know some will argue that illegals are ungrateful moochers who would not appreciate such a kind gesture. Jesus knew this was a possibility. Remember the ten lepers He cured, and only one came back to say thank you? He knew the other nine wouldn't show their appreciation, and He did it anyway. Who are we to argue otherwise in dealing with others?

I have felt the Lord was convicting me in my hypocrisy towards illegals. Canadian actors routinely overstay their visas or have other immigration issues, yet they get VIP treatment. Cubans never get the chance to be called "illegal." If they can set foot on America's shores, they are granted asylum. We do so because Cuba is a communist country in dire straits, but is Mexico any better? It is run by socialists, and crime is rampant. Poverty is so widespread that people in rural areas now eat ramen noodles as a food staple because they can't afford rice and beans. Think about that: how poor do you have to be to not be able to purchase rice and beans? Should we be surprised that people want to get out of that country? And yet, our immigration system is so complex, it takes as long as ten years for a person of means to gain citizenship. What about the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free? Would Jesus tell them to wait in line at the border for a decade? We Republicans fancy ourselves opponents of red tape and bureaucracy, so why do we allow it in the case of immigrants?

Consider also the parable of the Good Samaritan. A man from Jerusalem was beaten and left for dead along the side of the road. A priest and a Levite passed him by, thinking he was not their problem. However, a Samaritan, who culturally did not associate with Jews, took pity and gave him help, and even paid for his care with no thought of return. Jesus told this story to answer the disciples' question: "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus told this story and said "Go and do likewise." Consider that and ask yourself: is an illegal Mexican my neighbor? Sinner or not, should we deny them, and cast the first stone?

I won't argue the specifics of immigration reform, a path to citizenship, or amnesty here. They are complex issues, but they do have a simple moral foundation. Amnesty is defined as forgiveness. Jesus came to this earth to forgive us of our sins, because we are all guilty. God is no respecter of persons, and all sin is equal in his eyes. If we wrong someone, that sin is as equal as the sin of an illegal immigrant, or when Newt Gingrich committed adultery. In all cases, Jesus gave us amnesty by dying for our sin. Who are we to deny that same forgiveness, or any measure of amnesty, to others? Can we really say they are not our problem? You may deny or attack my logic all you want, but don't argue with me. Take it up with Jesus.

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