To be clear, I certainly believe in the rule of law. I am a lawyer and a law professor after all. It would be a betrayal of my profession and my entire professional life to believe otherwise. And having lived in border states the vast majority of my life, I am acutely aware of the violence and crime that can be associated with human trafficking.
However, I also do not believe in turning a blind eye to reality. In my opinion, we should take our patriotism seriously enough that we question both the underpinnings and the repercussions of our laws. And we ought to be critical of unjust or ill-advised laws; we ought to advocate appropriate changes when they are warranted. Ours is a country built on democratic values after all, not one built on blind allegiance to those in power who enact our laws. For several reasons, it saddens me deeply to hear such comments that express moral superiority over those who violate our immigration laws.
We should note that many of our own citizens frequently violate our laws. Drivers routinely operate their vehicles in excess of the posted speed. Such actions are violations of our traffic laws, which are intended to keep us safe on the roads. But most speeders are never even pulled over or issued a ticket.
It is also widely acknowledged that there is a huge “tax gap” (i.e., the difference in the amount of taxes legally due and the amount that is actually paid). Such underpayment of what is owed is a violation of our tax laws, which are intended to keep the government operating. Among other things, such tax revenues enable the government to provide supplies and salaries to our men and women in uniform, and to build roads that support the many transactions upon which our economy depends. Interestingly, experts tell us that most violators of our tax laws are individual taxpayers, not corporations.
Possession and use of narcotics have also been illegal for a number of years in the United States, yet the use of such narcotics is widespread in this country. Our prisons are populated largely by people who violated such laws, though many others violate them and are never arrested or prosecuted. (Notably, the last three men elected president have fallen into that latter category.)
In my experience listening to the debate, the folks who argue that it is morally unacceptable to violate our immigration laws do not seem to ever argue it is also unethical to violate speed limits and/or tax laws. I do not even hear them making moral condemnations of our citizens who use narcotics illegally. Personally, that latter example of hypocrisy is particularly offensive to me. Surely we can all agree that much of the current narcotraffic-related violence terrorizing people in Mexico is at least partially the fault of the United States. We have collectively insisted on criminalizing drugs in our country, yet our own people ignore those laws and (tragically) have created a huge demand for illegal narcotics. To be consistent, if we are wagging fingers at violators of our immigration laws, shouldn’t we also look down our noses at our citizens who violate our drug laws (and foolishly risk their health)? To be clear, as a Christian, I am not advocating that we make moral judgments against anyone. But I flag the hypocrisy of making moral judgments against those who break certain laws, but not making moral judgments against those who break others.
In my own experience, people who make morality-based arguments against illegal immigration tend to be of European ancestry. I have yet to hear Asian Americans or African Americans make such comments for example. But European Americans, who boast that their forbearers came here legally, overlook (or are perhaps simply ignorant of) certain structural advantages their forbearers enjoyed. (As an American of European ancestry, my own forbearers certainly enjoyed those same structural advantages.) When I was a law student and took a course on Immigration Law I became aware that through out our history as a nation American immigration laws have been heavily skewed in favor of immigrants from Europe. Until certain reforms were instituted in the 1960s, it was very difficult—or at times outright impossible--for people from Asian, African or Latin American countries to immigrate legally to this country. Yet at the same time, the doors were typically open to immigrants from Europe as long as they were not mentally ill, did not have a communicable disease or otherwise were not personally deemed to be undesirable. To be sure, those European immigrants were not always warmly welcomed when they first came or even after they arrived. But the bottom line is that legal immigration was typically much easier for those European immigrants than if they had come from other parts of the world. It is no wonder that the forbearers of European Americans largely obeyed the immigration laws in effect when they came to this country. Those laws were pretty favorable to them. It generally benefited such individuals to obey such laws. Indeed, there was no real incentive to do otherwise.
Daniel 9:11 (New King James Version)
Yes, all Israel has transgressed Your law, and has departed so as not to obey Your voice; therefore the curse and the oath written in the Law of Moses the servant of God have been poured out on us, because we have sinned against Him.
Galatians 5:1, 7-8, 14 (New King James Version)
Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.
You ran well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion does not come from Him who calls you.
For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”[