Farmers Branch: I wish I never knew you

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Forgive me for barging in to the Houseflies domain after going so long with nothing useful to contribute. But I finally have something to talk about.

Larry James contributed to our blog some time ago. For those that don’t remember, James serves as the President/CEO for Central Dallas Ministries, “a human community development corporation with a focus on economic and social justice at work in inner city Dallas.”

On his blog today, he put forth a great articulation of my hunch that most Americans are ignorantly nodding their heads in agreement with bigotry, and I’m sick of it.

I’m sick of the pundis that portray “illegals” as greedy, criminals that weasel their way in to our country taking jobs from deserving Americans.

I was repulsed to see the portrayals of immigration in the Pennsylvania Senate race. Does Pennsylvania really have an imminent threat of border jumpers? Take a look at the tone from the front lines of the issue in places like California (this link is well worth the read!) and Arizona. The term “illegals” is almost universally replaced by the moniker “migrants.” In a previous post James questioned, “How can a human being be illegal?”

Enter Farmers Branch, Texas. Growing up I considered Farmers Branch Church of Christ my surrogate church. They hosted a youth leadership conference I attended from 8th grade until my college years.

In James’ post he discusses FB’s new attempt to crack down on these illegals. I find it noisome, this legislation led by FBCoC member, Tim O’Hare.

Where is the compassion? Where is the concern for humanity?

I don’t profess to be the most informed person on the history and origins of our border issues, but I know racism when I see it.

James makes excellent points about the notion that migrants take from “hard working Americans.” Even though, as Larry points out, they pay sales tax, contribute to property tax. If employed, they contribute to social security with no expectation of return.

When it comes to the security concerns of our porous border, our elected officials certainly have a difficult problem on their hands. However, they ran for office to deal with the tough problems facing our country.

When they resort to preying on American jingoism and xenophobia, I don’t know whether to fight, cry or puke.

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18 Responses to “Farmers Branch: I wish I never knew you”

  1. Terry Austin Says:

    DeJon, I read LJ’s post on the subject earlier this morning. I immediately thought of Michael’s as-yet-unfulfilled pledge to write more about illegal immigration here.

    James’ post today was a breath of fresh air regarding Christians’ treatment of illegal aliens. Everything — and I mean everything — I’ve seen or heard from a “Christian” perspective to this point was a Romans 13 slash render-unto-Caesar approach. Always hard to question motives of people we don’t know, but I suspect the issues you noted (racism, xenophobia, jingoism) are certainly at play here.

    In the church.

    Yuck.

  2. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I guess I should speak my piece on this issue and count to 3.

    First off, I agree that most of the current immigration rhubarb is the product of racism, pure and undefiled. America has always had its Know-Nothings, still does, and probably always will. (Sometimes, they’re still even taken semi-seriously as presidential candidates, e.g., Pat Buchanan.) Most of us will probably see one or two of them at family gatherings over the coming holiday season. Fa-la-la-la-la la-la la blech.

    OTOH, I hear people on the other side of the issue saying, “This is a nation of immigrants. Immigrants built this country.” My beef with that response is that it conflates legal immigration, which did indeed build this nation, and illegal immigration, which did not.

    My objection to illegal immigration is no more or less than this: this nation, our society, and our form of government is, at its foundation, a social contract, an agreement to live together peacfully under a certain set of rules and procedures; one cannot join that social contract by violating it.

    I am, therefore, rather hardnosed about illegal immigration. It should be a crime. Illegal immigrants should not be incorporated into our social institutions. They shouldn’t get Social Security cards or pay Social Security taxes. They shouldn’t pay property taxes (or own property in the first place) or be educated in the public schools. They shouldn’t have access to social services. Strictly speaking, they shouldn’t pay sales taxes, though I have no idea how that could be enforced. It sounds harsh, but none of our constitutional rights, rules, and protections should apply to them; they are not part of the society of which the Constitution is cognizant.

    The however-many-millions of illegal immigrants in this country who work much harder than I do and are trying to make decent, new lives for themselves and their families should be welcomed with open arms in this country, once they follow the laws regarding how they come to this country.

    If our legal immigration system is broken — and it is — we need to fix it; if the Dems want to address the illegal immigration problem, that would be a great place to start. But the fact remains that one cannot join a society by violating its laws, and anyone who came here in violation of those laws has voluntarily put him- or herself wholly outside the law. ISTM that person has no reasonable expectation of anything.

  3. Whitney Says:

    JU, I couldn’t agree with you more from a practical and legal standpoint, even if it kind of makes me sick to think about.

    Your argument is the one I try to make regularly.

    But, I have a really difficult time with the human end of illegal immigration. Most of these people just want to work. They don’t really have ill-intents, yet what they’re doing is criminal by definition. And you cannot tell me they don’t know that. Still…how do you fault hard working people? I know you have to based on our current laws, but I am so torn on this issue. I come from a farm family. They have seasonal workers that go back to Mexico every year. Some are legal, some are not. They all get paid at least minimum wage. It is a huge wage to them! and yet we hear Americans complain complain complain. From what I’ve seen personally, the “illegals” are just grateful to work.

    Some of you may not realize it, but much of the work I’ve done in the past few years has dealth with illegal immigration and the price to our society. DeJon, you are a wonderful soul, and I see the sensitivity in you here as much as ever. I can follow you totally and I have a lot of sympathy for illegal immigrants who are just trying to make a better life. I really, REALLY do.

    However, I also have sympathy for the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are affected by these illegal immigrants who steal their Socials, and essentially their Identities. You said, “If employed, they contribute to social security with no expectation of return.” How can they expect a return when they are illegally using someone else’s identity? As far as this statement goes, it really conjures up NO sympathy in me because there are true victims here. It is really a serious problem that makes innocent people unable to collect unemployment (in real need situations) and unable to get jobs, etc.

    We DO need to fix the immigration system. I do not even have the slightest clue how, and I don’t think Bush’s plan is the best. Mikey—your turn.

    Also, an apology if I make no sense as I have a headache, but I wanted to comment. Dej, good to see you my friend. How are you guys doing in OKC? We’ll miss you on Turkey Day.

  4. juvenal_urbino Says:

    JU, I couldn’t agree with you more from a practical and legal standpoint, even if it kind of makes me sick to think about.

    It makes you kind of sick to think about agreeing with me? 🙂

  5. Terry Austin Says:

    OK, so if we’re talking about this from a CHURCH perspective and not a political one, do juvenal and whitney come down on the “submission to authorities” side of this discussion?

    (I do recognize it’s difficult or impossible to strip out the political and legal concerns in this discussion, but give it a whirl!)

  6. Terry Austin Says:

    Most of us will probably see one or two of them at family gatherings over the coming holiday season.

    C’mon, we want names!

  7. Whitney Says:

    JU–NO!!! Not what I meant AT ALL. I find that I actually agree with you quite often. 🙂

  8. Whitney Says:

    And it never makes me sick. It probably, actually, makes me think harder than I normally would.

  9. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Just funnin’ you, Whitney.

    OK, so if we’re talking about this from a CHURCH perspective and not a political one, do juvenal and whitney come down on the “submission to authorities” side of this discussion?

    I’m nothing if not submissive to authorities.

  10. DeJon Redd Says:

    I am really fighting the urge to dive in to the perverted theology that results in FB’s legislation.

    Its too easy to find the irony in these types of people cloaking themselves in the robe of “compassionate conservativism.”

    Larry James included scriptures that people like Pat Buchanan and Tim O’Hare ripped out of their Bibles years ago.

  11. DeJon Redd Says:

    Here’s a political question I ponder from time to time…

    As we continue to sink billions in to Afghanistan and Iraq, I wonder how much we’ve invested in Mexico and Central American countries.

    I’m not suggesting we should have resorted to preemptive military strikes against these countries to ameliorate our immigration problems, but it does seem to me another glaring example of America’s condescending attitude towards the poor.

    Is investing in Mexican, et al. economies not a more humane (albeit indirect) way to address the problem that vexes the great citizens of Pennsylvania?

  12. Whitney Says:

    DeJon,
    From what I read, and I couldn’t link to the O’Hare link you posted, so I googled, I see O’Hare not acting as a Christian but as a plain ol’ politician. And you’re right, such sentiments as, “O’Hare contends that illegal immigrants are a driving factor in the decline of Farmers Branch neighborhoods…” are indeed absurd and sickening.

    But, please, do dive in because I can’t get a read from this about the “compassionate conservatism” to which you refer.

    A large suburb of SD passed a very similar ordinance recently (the no rentals to illegal immigrants one) and it is being challenged, so cannot be enforced. I suspect the same will happen in Farmer’s Branch.

    I can’t understand, however, why the FB city council would pass the rental & language ordinances, and NOT vote to allow enforcement of laws pertaining to hiring undocumented workers, which is an outright violation of US law (one which is NEVER punished).

    It seems rather shady, the way FB has gone about this. And also, read that just because the city councilman is a member of the FB church, it doesn’t necessarily mean he represents the whole. Don’t grab to broad a brush.

    I think what I see from you is disdain about the approach to the people involved. Not necessarily about the facts of our laws, etc.

  13. juvenal_urbino Says:

    I’m not sure I see your point, DeJon.

    From the purely humanitarian perspective of ameliorating poverty, there’s probably at least as much work to be done in Afghanistan as in Mexico. But, of course, that’s not why we’re there.

    A more serious answer to Terry’s question about the church’s proper response to all this:

    ISTM the church should treat everyone it encounters with the same love and respect. Show hospitality to the stranger in your land — I think that’s in there somewhere.

    There was a major effort by some American churches during the 1980s to provide asylum here for Central American refugees, which is definitely worth remembering in this context. I can’t seem to find a site directly on point, just now, but here and here are a couple that get at the basic idea. (The latter is more about political policy than church action, but it discusses the American Baptist Churches v. Thornburgh case, which was a product of what I’m talking about.)

  14. Whitney Says:

    I just saw this
    post
    in the San Diego Unition Tribune. Here’s the headline & first few bits:

    ” Escondido rental law put on hold

    Citing doubts about its constitutionality, a federal judge issues a temporary restraining order barring Escondido from enforcing its controversial illegal immigrant housing ordinance.”

    This was my first attempt at posting links, so we’ll see how it works. Thanks Joe.

    Happy Friday!

  15. Michael Lasley Says:

    One of the reasons I’m having a problem writing my long-awaited (by Terry) thingy about migrant farm workers has to do with the social contract that JU brings up. Theoretically and in a vacuum, I actually agree with JU. In practice and when democratic theory is in play with the free market, I don’t think it’s as relevant an argument. Looking at the “benefits received” by illegal immigrants is only ONE side of the social contract. The OTHER side is that, well, if those of us here legally want to buy fruits and vegetables (or go to hotels or receive a lot of the other services we receive relatively cheaply because of immigrants who arrive here illegally) and keep paying the same prices we are paying now, how are we not in also breaking the social contract? (On the fruits and veggies front, we’d probably pay at least 5 times what we’re paying now.) We are benefiting from the labor yet we get all flustered if those we are benefiting from get any benefits.

    I’m not saying I don’t agree with the idea of the social contract, because it is so important to the development of our democracy. I just don’t think it should be the only lens through which we view immigration now.

    And another thing I’d disagree with JU about, and I know this isn’t a new point on my part, but I’m not sure we can argue that the US was founded solely on legal immigration. The whole colony thing aside, I have a feeling there was a lot of illegal immigration going on for a large chunk of our history (of course, I have NO evidence of this — I’m just guessing — so I will be way willing to take it back if someone actually knows something about this — plus I’ll do some homework on it my own self).

    I know I’m rambling, and I really will try to gather my thoughts on this this weekend and post what it before I head home for Thanksgiving.

  16. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Looking at the “benefits received” by illegal immigrants is only ONE side of the social contract.

    In fairness to myself, I wasn’t just looking at the “benfits received” side of the ledger. I also said they shouldn’t pay any taxes.

    We are benefiting from the labor yet we get all flustered if those we are benefiting from get any benefits.

    I agree that we consumers benefit from the cheap labor, and that would stop if illegal immigrant labor weren’t available. I disagree, though, that it puts anyone who buys produce in violation of the social contract. The choice to artificially deflate the cost of produce is made by those who hire illegals to undercut their competition, thereby forcing those competitors to hire illegals to keep up. It’s a classic race to the bottom; a classic market failure.

    Many things in this country have artificially low prices because some of the costs are transferred from the producer/consumer to society at large, gasoline being perhaps the most obvious example. The impact of illegal labor on the prices of various goods and services is another. I don’t know that the net effect of any cost transfer on the economy as a whole is positive, though. ISTM the cost to the economy is the same, regardless of whether consumers pay it at the supermarket or in some other way. Plus, and I’m no economist, but I’d think the wages paid to illegals constitute a “leak” from the total economy.

    I see your point, though.

  17. Capt MidKnight Says:

    Juvenal said:
    My objection to illegal immigration is no more or less than this: this nation, our society, and our form of government is, at its foundation, a social contract, an agreement to live together peacefully under a certain set of rules and procedures; one cannot join that social contract by violating it.

    Though we have disagreed in the past, I have to say that Juvenal nailed this one. He stated my feelings much clearer and more succinctly than I could have. There are many problems involved in the whole “illegal immigration”question, but when a system of government makes laws that it is then unwilling or unable to enforce, that system – what Juvenal calls “the social contract” – is compromised, regardless of the subject involved.

    As for the role of the Church and individual Christians in this whole mess, I’m not nearly as well read or educated as others here, but it seems to me that Matthew 25: 31- 46 might be relevant to the discussion.

    I hope everyone on “Houseflies” is as blessed this holiday week as I am. My wife and I have my mother, my mother-in-law, two daughters and two grandchildren here for a few days. I love them all to death, but I’m sure that, by the time they leave, Grampy will be happily worn to a frazzle – to use a fine old Southern phrase.

    Happy Thanksgiving

  18. Brian H. Says:

    I think about Barbra Boxer and Diane Finestein in CA, Democrats that are fighting against the immigrants in CA, putting them out of work in an already bad economy. They care so much for migrants (they say) but won’t allow water to flow to farms, putting out of work, and destroying the lives of thousands of migrants. Amazing! They would be against the policy in Farmers Branch but they’re doing worse to migrants in their own state.

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