"ye were strangers"

Fascinating how quick some folks are to cherry-pick a verse from Scripture when it suits them. When a very liberal columnist quotes a verse, watch out, is the usual sound advice. Sometimes, however, they do get it right. Case in point: the instructions the Lord gave to the Hebrews in Exodus Chapters 22 and 23, specifically 23:9:

… thou shalt not oppress a stranger: for ye know the heart of a stranger, seeing ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

This verse was partially quoted by Harold Meyerson in his column today concerning a massive injustice about to be carried out on a family of illegal immigrants. Yes, the Gonzalez family are in the country illegally. At least in the technical sense as having been in violation of U.S. immigration law. The family settled in Jefferson City, Missouri, and has, according to Myerson’s column (and other sources I’ve been able to glean from the media) been both law abiding and productive. Other than immigration law, of course.

Sr. Gonzalez worked as a courier for then-governor Bob Holden in 2002, who fired him when he learned of his illegal status. Despite popular support in their community and from their church, the Gonzalez’ are about to be deported back to Costa Rica, that hotbed of jihadis. And this is the nub of the matter, which Myerson correctly identifies without alluding to the source of what would be right, and what is wrong, with this situation.

What is wrong with this situation is that the Gonzalez family is hardly a terrorist threat, which should be what drives our hardness on immigration law. The need to appear to be strong against terrorists is certainly what motivates much of this hardness of heart on the part of politicians and bureaucrats.

The source of how we should deal with strangers in our land is God, who instructed the Hebrews in the first place. God, who, in Exodus 22 and 23 lays down the laws that look, sound, and feel very much like Jesus’ second commandment, what we usually call the Golden Rule, and which is very much not being applied to the Gonzalez family: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39). Of course, it would be politically incorrect to make such an attribution in the Washington Post.

Yet that is why, in this instance, the law might have been broken, but a higher law should negate the man-made law. Surely we can find a way to temper the iron-clad meaning of the law with mercy? The problem becomes one of having the ability to stand up and proclaim that this family, though they broke the law, have otherwise demonstrated that they should be allowed to stay, and, in fact, welcomed into our American family.

Yes, yes, I know. Can’t show favoritism, and if we allow one family from Costa Rica to stay, how do we turn down a family from Saudi Arabia or Egypt? Simple, really. Change the law to allow judgments to be made on a case by case basis for families and for minor children, and allow waivers for certain specified periods of time (say, 10 years minimum) with exemplary behavior. And by all means, look into families from places known to be sources of jihad with much, much, greater scrutiny. Yes, that would be profiling, and it would be the exact right thing to do.

Now, it’s possible that the inner workings of immigration law do allow for this, and there are parts of the Gonzalez family story that are hidden and dark. It’s possible. Most likely, however, is that it has become the politically correct thing to show a hard face against illegal immigrants, regardless of the circumstances. It is for certain that Missouri’s senators have chosen not to take a stand, although Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO) did go to bat for the family with Homeland Security — and was rebuffed by them.

Deporting the Gonzalez family may be the correct reading of the law. But it is not the correct reading of God’s law. God will always temper His justice with mercy. It is a lesson that we forget at our peril.

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