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The Universal Notebook: We are all illegal immigrants

Opinion

The Universal Notebook: We are all illegal immigrants

So President Barack Obama has finally decided to bypass Congress and enact sweeping immigration reforms himself. It's about time.

House Republicans long ago forfeited the right to be considered anything other than obstructionist ideologues. They care more about winning than they do about serving their country and solving pressing social problems.

Comprehensive immigration reform is long overdue. Cynical GOP leaders like Speaker of the House John Boehner try to blame Obama for the heartbreaking specter of thousands of children from Central America crossing our southern border illegally, fleeing violence in their own country in hopes of finding peace and freedom in America.

The Republicans argue that Obama has triggered the influx by signaling a willingness to allow illegal aliens to stay in this country once they cross the border. But if Obama is so soft on illegal aliens, how is that his administration has been deporting illegal aliens at record rates? And that’s not something he should be proud of doing.

Social conservatives go apoplectic whenever they hear the word “amnesty,” so let’s shout it from the rooftops. Not only should there be a pathway to citizenship for foreign nationals and their children in this country, we need to stop being so xenophobic and exclusionary, and open our borders to welcome all comers. We are all illegal immigrants in the United States of America. No one has any more right to be here than the next person, with the possible exception of Native Americans.

On the home front, our tea party governor is busy fighting the conservative war against immigrants. Paul LePage has ordered Maine municipalities to stop extending general assistance to undocumented immigrants, meaning people who have come to the United States and Maine seeking asylum. To their credits, the cities of Portland, South Portland, Bangor, Lewiston and Westbrook have signaled an intention to ignore the governor and continue extending humanitarian aid to asylum seekers, risking the loss of state funds.

Why would they do such a thing? Because it’s the right thing to do.

My own views on immigration are more liberal than those of President Obama and the Democratic Party. They derive from the Bible-based teachings of Jesus Christ. I am a liberal because Christ was a liberal and the Christian teaching on immigration is abundantly clear.

Hear these words from Leviticus 19:33-34: “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Been to church lately, Governor?

People who risk their lives to come to America to start a new life are arguably more “American” than those of us who were just lucky enough to have been born in the USA. Choice trumps chance, intention over accidents of geography. America was founded by and for refugees.

And the fact of the matter is we need these people. Our economy would collapse without them. We need the constant infusion of new blood. And here in rapidly aging Maine, we need the influx of youth if we are to have a future as anything other than a heavily forested nursing home for elderly white folk.

So what about those children in custody on our southern border? In the past nine months an estimated 52,000 unescorted children have crossed the border, fleeing poverty and extreme violence in their homelands. They come from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Just try to imagine the circumstances in which you would send your children alone on a 3,000-mile journey. You can’t.

And now there are projections that 90,000 children will arrive before the end of the year, another 120,000 next year. The situation has all the makings of a major humanitarian crisis. What are we to do?

Well, in Matthew 19: 13-15 we read, “Then children were brought to him that that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people, but Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.’”

I cite these Christian teachings because that is my religious upbringing, but immigration reform and caring for the dispossessed is supported by all of the world’s great religions. As a Christian, I have no doubt whatsoever what Jesus would do. He would open the borders and extend God’s extravagant welcome to all God’s children.