Rewarding Criminal Activity?

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La Shawn Barber has been complaining about Bush's plan to move illegal immigrant workers into a status where they can be kept better track of and abused less by the employers who illegally hire them. See also Sierra Faith, where I first saw this and commented before seeing it at La Shawn's site.

I agree with La Shawn on many things, but this is something I just can't come on board with. I can understand why some people might oppose this program. I can't understand why they would describe it the way she does. She says it's a program to reward criminals for committing illegal activity, and I can't see how that's what this is. It's not rewarding anyone. It's simply reducing a penalty. There's a huge difference.

If I propose that we should weaken penalties for certain crimes, does that amount to endorsing lawbreaking? Not at all. There's still a penalty. It's just not as harsh as it used to be. So it certainly doesn't amount to rewarding lawbreaking. President Bush has proposed reducing the penalty for illegal entry. Some of the current restrictions on what such people can do would be removed. Not all of them would be. For instance, the path to citizenship would still be a good deal harder than it is for legal immigrants.

It's just plain not a reward for illegal activity any more than reducing the death penalty for murder to 40 years would be rewarding murderers for killing. If they didn't kill, there'd be no 40 years. If they hadn't entered illegally, they wouldn't have a more complicated process toward getting legally recognized. Therefore, there's still a penalty for the crime, just as some other crimes don't have a death penalty but just have a fine. It's not rewarding people for parking in a handicapped spot just because all they get is a fine instead of a night in jail. Why, then, is it rewarding immigrants for their illegal entry if they get a reduced penalty from their willingness to come clean?

If anything's being rewarded, it's that, not the criminal activity. It just seems unfair to me to use the kind of rhetoric La Shawn, Greg, and others are using. The facts don't support such language. This is so whether Bush's proposal is a good idea or not. It's just an inaccurate way to portray the proposal, and even people who disagree with it should characterize it fairly.


I do not know Bush' plans in details, I shall have to take a look into. But the truth is that illegal work exists almost in every country of the hemisphere, and the victims are the workers, who are exploited. The employers who hire People illegaly are the criminals.

In Brazil illegal work uses not only immigrants and children. Employers who do not want to pay minimal wage and contribute to social security, usually offer jobs to people without signed contracts. And they impose the condition that they will only hire someone if he or she accepts to work out of the fair labour standards. Well, in theory everyone may refuse it, but unemployed persons in desperate situation may grab it. And this extends to both Brazilian citizens and legal residents alike.

District Attorneys, the Police, the Labour Department and the Courts often have to do something about these exploiters. The abuses amount to slave work in remote areas, and terrible cases of Brazilian workers being abducted to frontier zones and to secluded places in forests in neighbouring Countries.

If I understand La Shawn's reasoning on this, she would also view Christ as rewarding adultery because He did not condemn the woman caught in adultery in Jn 8.

I'm not well-informed on this issue, but it seems that President Bush is extending some grace to a group of frequently-abused people, seeking to provide them some protection. Doesn't mercy triumph over judgment? Just because something may not be the "best" thing for our country or us individually does not necessarily mean that it is not the right thing to do morally.

A related issue to explore is the difference between the moral status of illegal immigration and the criminality of such activity. That there is a difference may be part of the reason why there are specific instructions in the Torah about not doing a thorough job in harvesting one's grain so that "foreigners" and vagrants can come by and pick up the leftovers and be fed. Something about showing favor to those who have no legal right to the property/bounty of the land.

Jeremy, I'm confused on exactly why you think this is merely a reduction in penalty as opposed to a reward for criminal behavior. It seems to me that coming into the country illegally should result in deportation, otherwise we may as well change our laws to avoid a lot of ballyhoo. If we let people who come here illegally have access to certain protections (no doubt including public schooling), seems to me like it's a reward for criminal activity. I haven't looked into the details of the bill though, so I'm probably missing something...

It seems to me that coming into the country illegally should result in deportation...

It would seem so, wouldn't it David? Is deportation the penalty for illegally entering the US for people other than Mexicans, or is it a free for all open border for all, including Middle Eastern men? But whatever. It's only a national security issue, and who really cares about that as long as our houses and places of work don't blow up.

If George Bush wants to extend "grace" to a "frequently-abused" group, whatever that means, he may as well start extending it to everyone else. What right does he have to make up his own laws and ignore others? He's not in the business of extending "grace." His job is to PROTECT AMERICANS.

Last year I wrote Illegal Immigration From A Biblical Point of View.

The Golden rule from the Bible is:

You will not oppress the foreigner, for you know what is like to be foreigners, for you have been foreigners in the land of Egypt(Exodus 23:9)

Whoever does not understand this, does not understand the rest of the OT on foreigners.

It seems to me that coming into the country illegally should result in deportation, otherwise we may as well change our laws to avoid a lot of ballyhoo.

Bush was proposing a change in the law. Specifically, he was proposing that some of the consequences for entering the country illegally be removed. He never proposed that all of them be removed. If he had done that, given that it's bureaucratically easier to get in illegally than not, people will think it's easier to get in illegally than not, and therefore the same consequences for both would mean people would in effect be rewarded for illegal entry, simply because the illegal way would be easier.

Of course, that wouldn't be Bush rewarding illegal activity. For Bush to reward illegal activity, he would have to make things better for those who come in illegally than they are for those who don't. He hasn't proposed anything of the sort.

La Shawn, your point seems to be about fairness to different groups of illegal immigrants, not about the issues of this bill. Those who want to blow up our cities and government buildings aren't interested in permanent residency. They're interested in their goal. They're not interested in having someone be able to keep better track of them. They want to be invisible. There's nothing about this bill that weakens national security that isn't counterbalanced by the aspects of it that strengthen it.

If George Bush wants to extend "grace" to a "frequently-abused" group, whatever that means, he may as well start extending it to everyone else. What right does he have to make up his own laws and ignore others?

Um, he's the president, perhaps? He has every right to submit a law to the Congress for their consideration. That's in the Constitution. If it's a law that changes laws on the books, then that's what it does. That's how we change laws in this country, according to the Constitution. We write new ones that remove old ones.

It's hard for me to think of a civic leader's job as reduced to merely protecting the citizens, given the vast amounts of biblical material that says otherwise.

Woe to those who decree iniquitous decrees, and the writers who keep writing oppression, to turn aside the needy from justice and to rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey! What will you do on the day of punishment, in the ruin that will come from afar? To whom will you flee for help, and where will you leave your wealth? Nothing remains but to crouch among the prisoners or fall among the slain. For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still. (Isaiah 10:1-4, ESV)

Like a roaring lion or a charging bear
is a wicked ruler over a poor people.
A ruler who lacks understanding is a cruel oppressor,
but he who hates unjust gain will prolong his days. (Proverbs 28:15-16, ESV)

It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to take strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what has been decreed
and pervert the rights of all the afflicted.
Give strong drink to the one who is perishing,
and wine to those in bitter distress;
let them drink and forget their poverty
and remember their misery no more.
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Proverbs 31:4-9, ESV)

If you see in a province the oppression of the poor and the violation of justice and righteousness, do not be amazed at the matter, for the high official is watched by a higher, and there are yet higher ones over them. But this is gain for a land in every way: a king committed to cultivated fields. (Ecclesiastes 5:8-9, ESV)

And I said: Hear, you heads of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel!
Is it not for you to know justice?�
you who hate the good and love the evil,
who tear the skin from off my people
and their flesh from off their bones,
who eat the flesh of my people,
and flay their skin from off them,
and break their bones in pieces
and chop them up like meat in a pot,
like flesh in a cauldron....
Hear this, you heads of the house of Jacob
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who detest justice
and make crooked all that is straight,
who build Zion with blood
and Jerusalem with iniquity.
Its heads give judgment for a bribe;
its priests teach for a price;
its prophets practice divination for money;
yet they lean on the Lord and say,
"Is not the Lord in the midst of us?
No disaster shall come upon us."
Therefore because of you
Zion shall be plowed as a field;
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the house a wooded height.
(Micah 3:1-3, 9-12 ESV)

A careful read of Nehemiah alongside the Torah will show that he as governor had to apply the principles of the Torah in a new context, and what they had to do as a result was implement laws that were different laws, based on the same principles. His only way to follow God's law was to apply the statements given to Moses to his new situation. The laws Nehemiah was revising were directly from God regarding the wilderness situation or through Moses later in Deuteronomy regarding the new situation in the land, which even in that case involved revision. If you understand something new about a situation even when you don't get your laws from God, then aren't those laws open to revision, if even ones directly from God are?

Bush is aware, in a way that most conservatives choose not to be, that there's a serious injustice being perpetrated under his watch against those who did something wrong to be here. The fact that they did something wrong doesn't make it just for people to oppress them. Is the Christian thing in such a position automatically to go with the letter of the law against the oppressed while imposing piddling penalties in comparison against their oppressors, or is it to figure out if there's a better way to deal with the problem by changing the law? Maybe you disagree with the actual law. I wasn't trying to argue in this post one way or the other on how he was changing it. Clearly something is immoral about the current law, if the Bible is to be any authority in judging laws.

Doesn't the bill specify that they get hired for jobs that no Americans want until the term of the job is fulfilled? If anything, this bill (in theory) increases the chances of having Illegals be put under the eye of the government. Instead of sneaking in and disappearing, they are now put temporarily into the system.

Moreover, Rey, it is important to remember that there have been studies on immigration, with large amounts of comparative data. Governments nowadays cannot simply take lay persons' opinions and base legislative proposals and executive policies on mere guesses.

It is already known that harsh measures to restrict immigration (whether legal or illegal) do not produce the expected results. This is an issue to be tackled from a rational perspective, with broad vision.

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