The Last Argument Over Immigration You’ll Ever Need to Have

By John Zmirak Published on June 13, 2017

Worried Christian conservatives have fought for decades against the hijack of Gospel compassion on the subject of immigration. We rarely lose on the arguments. That’s not because we’re geniuses. It’s because our opponents hardly make any. They don’t rebut our assertions, dispute our facts, or even address what we’ve said.

Instead of engaging logic, history, precedent, church tradition, or even (for Catholics) the binding teaching of their own Church’s Catechism, open borders advocates tend to do something else.

They strike elaborate postures that seem to them Christ-like. They weave emotional word pictures, play on the sentiments, and in general fuss and preen to attain one focused outcome: They seem like better people.

So even when champions of open borders don’t make sense or get the facts  wrong, too many Christians think that their statements are “coming from a good place.” From a fuzzy, blurry, purple Jesusy-kind of place. So open-borders fans lose the argument on points but win the battle for persuasion.

It’s exhausting. It’s like entering a fencing tournament, and learning that your opponent is armed with a bowl of spaghetti. He gets points every time that sauce splatters your suit.

So let’s change the rules. Here’s a model conversation between a defender of the classical Christian position on patriotism and sovereignty, and a proponent of what I call “promiscuous citizenship.” The speakers are named (not randomly) “Augustine” and “Pollyanna.”

Fencing Against Spaghetti

POLLYANNA: I saw on Facebook that you shared that nasty article going after immigrant-friendly Christians, because some of them accept financial support from a progressive foundation.

AUGUSTINE: You mean the foundation run by anti-Christian, anti-family, pro-abortion globalist socialist George Soros? Yes I shared that. I hope you read it. 

POLLYANNA: Well, of course as a Christian I don’t believe all those other things. But at least he’s trying to help people. Helpless, vulnerable, marginalized people. People like Jesus.

AUGUSTINE: How is it exactly that people leaving their native countries to go make more money somewhere else are like Jesus? Did He leave Israel to find better paying carpentry work in Athens?

POLLYANNA: No, but he was an illegal immigrant and a refugee. He crossed borders to flee oppression.

AUGUSTINE: Actually, his parents were more like fugitive members of a royal family. (They were both descended from David.) When they heard that Herod was looking for Jesus, they temporarily moved from one province of the Roman empire to another. There were no borders. They didn’t break Roman law. They went to the “first safe country,” Egypt. Where Joseph worked for a living. And then when it was safe, they went back home. So how exactly is that like Somalis flying over 10 Muslim countries to go on welfare in the U.S., attend Islamist mosques, and refuse to go home, ever?

Christianity is not a civilizational suicide cult.

POLLYANNA: You’re just being legalistic now. Focusing in on details and missing the bigger picture.

AUGUSTINE: A picture is made up of details. Get them wrong, and you change the picture. So we’ve established that Jesus had little in common with beneficiaries of America’s lavish, self-destructive refugee program. What else have you got?

POLLYANNA: Did you know that no American has ever died as a result of a terrorist attack by a refugee? I read that in Christianity Today.

AUGUSTINE: What about the Boston Marathon bombers? They came here from Chechnya.

POLLYANNA: I looked that up on Snopes.com. And you’re wrong. They weren’t admitted under the Refugee Act, but the Asylum Act.

AUGUSTINE: I see. I’m sure that’s a great comfort to the families of their victims. How about the Ohio State attack, where a Somali “refugee” admitted under the correct Congressional statute attacked American students with a machete? You know, to avenge the abuse of Muslims in … Burma.

POLLYANNA: None of those people died, did they?

AUGUSTINE: You’re right. They are slowly recovering. So forget them. And we should also forget all the children of refugees who commit acts of terror in Europe. People whose parents Western countries welcomed in and supported, while their kids drank in poison at Islamist madrasas. And we should forget their victims — except when we pause to celebrate how very diverse those victims are. The London police chief is mighty proud that the dead from the last terrorist attack came from eight separate countries.

POLLYANNA: Well, our diversity is our strength.

AUGUSTINE: So multiculturalism is a contest. The country whose civilian corpses are the most diverse … wins.

POLLYANNA: You are just so morbid and negative. That is not a Gospel attitude.

AUGUSTINE: You mean the same Gospel that introduced the idea of eternal hellfire — which wasn’t canonical in Judaism before Jesus? That Gospel? Or maybe you’re thinking Godspell, that 70s musical.

POLLYANNA: Again, you’re just channeling some angry white male antipathy that you must have picked up from Donald Trump or Breitbart. Are you part of the Alt-Right?

AUGUSTINE: Quite the contrary. Alt-Right racists hate Christians. They think that Christianity is a civilizational suicide cult. I’m afraid that you do, too. It’s just you want to embrace that act of self-annihilation. Jesus never asked us to nail up our children and grandchildren on a cross.

POLLYANNA: So now you speak for Jesus? Please. …

AUGUSTINE: No, but I can quote Him. He told the Pharisees “Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s,” right?

POLLYANNA: Yes …

AUGUSTINE:  So let’s try to see what is Caesar’s, shall we? On the most literal level, it clearly includes minting coinage, and levying taxes, yes?

POLLYANNA: Right. Progressive taxes!

So I should bias my opinion about what’s best for my fellow citizens, to benefit strangers from another country because they belong to my church? I should try to fill up the emptying pews of my denomination, because our leaders can’t catechize or evangelize?

AUGUSTINE: What else would have to be Caesar’s? What else belongs to the State and not the Church? Maybe, controlling the police and army? You’d agree that the Church shouldn’t have its own militias, wouldn’t you?

POLLYANNA: No, of course not. That’s like … the Inquisition.

AUGUSTINE: So what’s another thing that Caesar and not the Church should control? Should the Church control our national borders and grant or withhold citizenship? If so, which Church? The Catholics? The Baptists?

POLLYANNA: No, obviously not.

AUGUSTINE: Okay, so then it’s the State. The State controls the movement of peoples across our borders.

POLLYANNA: Yeah, but the Church can tell us that we need to welcome everyone. Then as Christians we have to honor that.

AUGUSTINE: And impose it on our fellow citizens, who aren’t even Christians? Why not impose the whole Bible on them, then? Why not force them to convert?

POLLYANNA: Because that violates the separation of Church and State.

AUGUSTINE: And the Church setting immigration policy based not on reason, prudence, the common good or the natural law — but on our readings of the Gospel? That’s not a problem? Should the Church censor movies too? Maybe run all our state universities?

POLLYANNA: But this is different. You know a lot of those immigrants you want to turn away are Christians. Most are Catholics just like you.

AUGUSTINE: So I should bias my opinion about what’s best for my fellow citizens, to benefit strangers from another country because they belong to my church? I should try to fill up the emptying pews of my denomination, because our leaders can’t catechize or evangelize? 

POLLYANNA:  I just think you should “welcome the stranger.” It says that in Exodus (22:21), and that is unconditional.

AUGUSTINE: Three verses earlier, in Exodus 22:18, the Bible demands the death penalty for witches. No exceptions. Should we implement that, too? Or maybe we shouldn’t cherry-pick the Old Testament for proof-texts to impose on our fellow citizens. How about that?

POLLYANNA: I believe in an absolute embrace of the Other. And that’s what the Gospel means to me.

AUGUSTINE: Okay. But you know that virtually no Christians ever believed that, right? Many of the first Christians to emerge from the Catacombs after Constantine joined the Roman army to fight the barbarians. The saint I’m named for, Augustine, prayed that Rome could stop those armies of immigrants from entering the empire. Because he thought they were bad for the common good.

POLLYANNA: Well plenty of Christians have perverted the Gospel over the centuries.

AUGUSTINE: Did every Christian country in history, up until the 1980s or so? Are your generation of believers the best Christians in history

POLLYANNA: I don’t make any great claims. But on this, I know I stand with the immigrant.

AUGUSTINE: How many of them will you stand with? All of them?

POLLYANNA: Yes. It’s a principled stand.

AUGUSTINE:  Okay, so in that column which upset you so much, some facts appeared. According to the Gallup Poll, “Nearly 710 million adults worldwide want to migrate to another country and 147 million of those specifically want to come to the United States.”

POLLYANNA: Wow. Okay.

AUGUSTINE: So do you favor allowing all 147 million of those people to come to the United States, and receive the same social support as citizens?

POLLYANNA: Well, that’s a little extreme.

AUGUSTINE: Ah, so you do favor immigration restriction.

POLLYANNA: I mean, there have to be limits of some kind.

AUGUSTINE: Finally! We agree. You and I both think that the government has the right to say “no” to immigrants. We’re just arguing over how many we should accept, and under what conditions. Right?

POLLYANNA: Er, okay.

AUGUSTINE: Or you could take all 147 million. Regardless of their effect on the American poor, on the environment, on jobs and wages, and civic order — because a lot of them will want to impose sharia, you know. A lot of them. So you want to take all of them?

POLLYANNA: Okay, no.

AUGUSTINE: Great! We’re on the same side. I’m glad we could reason together. Now, why don’t you come with me. I could use some help building a wall… .

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  • Gary

    As far as I have been able to tell, arguing with liberals like Pollyanna is unproductive. If America is going to continue to exist in a way that resembles what it historically has been, MUSLIMS MUST NOT BE ADMITTED, and almost all immigration, both illegal and legal, must be stopped. If it isn’t stopped, it will lead to the ruination of the country. But given the current social climate and the fact that the courts are packed with liberals, I don’t see that happening. If that does not change, then the country has a very bleak future.

    • Charles Burge

      If only it were that simple. I think the far bigger threat is Marxist teaching that leads native-born Americans astray. I’m certainly in favor of vetting would-be immigrants and making sure they come legally, but I have no problem with welcoming anyone who demonstrates that they want to adopt traditional American values.

      Our fertility rate is below replacement levels, so unless that changes, we need to welcome at least some immigrants.

      • Gary

        If we could swap American liberals for good immigrants, I would be in favor of that.

      • joe smith 323

        “Our fertility rate is below replacement levels, so unless that changes, we need to welcome at least some immigrants.”

        nah, just change some laws to encourage having children – big tax breaks, loans, cash, etc

        the low class of (economic) “immigrants” coming to this country will eventually lower the avg IQ in the U.S. to below 90 and once that happens you cant even sustain a democracy

    • James

      If America has to throw away the First Amendment to save itself, it’s already dead.

      • Gary

        Foreigners who are not in the US are not covered by the US Constitution.

        • James

          The Establishment and Free Exercise clauses. Also, the banning of Religious Tests. A Muslim ban would be laughed out of court.

          • Gary

            The First Amendment does not apply to foreigners who are not in the US. We can ban Muslims from entering the US without violating the Constitution.

          • James

            No, the Constitution restricts the power of the federal government. The federal government does not have the power to discriminate against a single religion.

            Perhaps you believe it should, but that would be an unprecedented break from American legal tradition.

          • Gary

            You don’t know what the Constitution means. Get an education.

          • James

            Religion is not one of those reasons. Not even the President has that much latitude.

          • Charles Burge

            Actually he does. Here’s the relevant text of the statute:

            Whenever the President finds that the entry of any aliens or of any class of aliens into the United States would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, he may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.
            (U.S. Code › Title 8 › Chapter 12 › Subchapter II › Part II › § 1182)

            “any aliens or of any class of aliens” and “any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate” are as clear as crystal. The courts have resorted to verbal gymnastics in order to either explain away the clear meaning of the statute, or ignore it altogether.

          • Gary

            Thank you, Charles.

          • James

            The Establishment Clause of the Constitution supersedes any statute. Any first year law student could tell you that.

          • Charles Burge

            I’ll assume you’re referring to the first amendment, which states in full:

            Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

            This has absolutely nothing to so with the statute I quoted above.

          • James

            The Supreme Court disagrees.

          • Charles Burge

            Thus far, the supreme court has not ruled on the so-called travel ban. I expect they will, however, and I expect whichever justice who writes the majority opinion will have some harsh words for the activist judges who twisted all manner of jurisprudence in order to arrive at the rulings they did.

            Specifically, this notion of favoring one religion over another has absolutely nothing to do with the case. The so-called travel ban makes no mention at all regarding religion.

          • James

            Don’t count on it: The government has lost ever single case in the lower courts, including decisions by Republican appointed judges.

            There is nothing in the travel ban that refers to religion, but the courts have found plenty of discriminatory intent in the President’s Twitter feed.

          • joe smith 323

            if they’re going to go by campaign comments, ginsburg needs to recuse herself

          • Charles Burge

            And that’s why they are wrong. The court’s job is to determine if the enactment as written is legal or not. If they take any other factors into consideration, they are stepping out of their bounds.

          • James

            The courts aren’t stupid. It is not hard to draft a law with discriminatory intent that is neutral in the text. It seems like you want them to be.

          • James

            Put another way,

            It is permissible for the US to strictly vet anyone who comes in.

            It is permissible for the US to refuse to take immigrants from a country of any and all religions, except for reasons of racial or religious discrimination.

            It is impermissible for the US to take only Christian migrants, but not Muslim ones or to exclude only Muslim migrants because of their religion.

            As a practical matter, when considering whether to admit refugees from the conflict areas, our only choices are to open the process to Muslims or close the doors to everyone and leave the local Christians to their fate.

          • Gary

            What law confirms what you said? I ask because it isn’t the US Constitution.

          • James

            What does “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” mean to you?

            In Everson v. Board of Education (1947), the Supreme Court explained this.

            “The “establishment of religion” clause of the First Amendment means at least this: Neither a state nor the federal government can set up a church. Neither can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither can force nor influence a person to go to or to remain away from church against his will or force him to profess a belief or disbelief in any religion. No person can be punished for entertaining or professing religious beliefs or disbeliefs, for church attendance or non-attendance. No tax in any amount, large or small, can be levied to support any religious activities or institutions, whatever they may be called, or whatever form they may adopt to teach or practice religion. Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect “a wall of separation between church and State.”

          • Gary

            The US Constitution does not support what is written in the quote. The First Amendment does not prohibit the federal government from denying foreigners entry into the US for any reason it wants.

          • James

            The Supreme Court disagrees with you.

          • Gary

            What you quoted from the Supreme Court decision is someone’s opinion. It is not what the Constitution says. We are supposed to be governed by the Constitution, not by the opinions of the courts which cannot be backed up by the Constitution. The Supreme Court has made several decisions over the years that are not confirmed by the Constitution.

          • James

            The Supreme Court’s “opinion” is the law of the land.

          • joe smith 323

            since when, (((1965)))?

          • m flight

            It would be an unprecedented break from the legal system to allow a religion, that also is a political system, to over throw of the US Constitution and abrogate our laws. The whole point of the First Amendment was so that no sect was given preference and every sect was given respect. That works with Christianity because there is around 1000 years of working out the boundaries between church and state. In Islam there is no boundary between church and state. The goal of Islam is theocracy and Sharia law.

          • James

            How close are we to Sharia law?

            Muslims are 1% of the US population, about 1/3 of whom are black Muslims. Immigrants, many of whom are from Latin America and the Phillippines, are more Christian than the native born population.

            Furthermore, not every majority Muslim country operates by Sharia law. Many have secular governments. The largest Muslim country in the world is not a Middle East theocracy, but secular Indonesia.

            It takes 2/3 of the House, 2/3 of the Senate, and 3/4 of the states to amend the Constitution. I’m not sure how 1% of the population is going to overthrow anything.

        • Nels

          Don’t feed the trolls.

  • Jim Walker

    I doubt any Liberal leftist would continued this conversation with you. They will shut you down with Bigots, Fascists, Homophobic, Racists.. They can’t think any further than what is between their eyes.

    • Nels

      These words: Bigots, Fascists, Homophobic, Racists … only have power over you if you have chosen to surrender to those words.

      If you aren’t being called Bigots, Fascists, Homophobic, Racists you are probably a liberal,

      • Jim Walker

        are you ready to tell us the lies ?
        I’m all open to discuss them.

  • Nels

    You will never convince a Leftist with reasoned discourse. They were not reasoned into their positions and they will not be reasoned out of them.

    The Leftists hold their positions because they fear ridicule from their fellow Leftists. You must belittle them, discredit them, and show that you despise them. Mock them and leave the world laughing at them. Disagreeing with the Right must be more painful than agreeing with the Left.

    • joe smith 323

      ridicule worked for me too. i used to carry water for israel and the jews, not any more

  • James

    AUGUSTINE: So do you favor allowing all 147 million of those people to come to the United States, and receive the same social support as citizens?

    ME: If they come here peacefully and agree to abide by the laws of the land, then absolutely. It worked for the first century of this country’s existence, why not now?

    • Gary

      You are very generous with the property of other people. Unless you are prepared to support any immigrant that you want to allow in, then you’re a thief.

      • James

        You do realize that immigrants work and pay taxes, don’t you?

        • joe smith 323

          actually illegal aliens cost this country ~$110 billion a year

          some do work but they are huge net drain. in Germany less than 1% of the (economic) migrants/”refugees” actually had a job at last check

          billions of 3rd worlders would like to come here and live off your dime and most cant support themselves much less their 12 illegitimate children

          • James

            The US isn’t Germany.

            Somehow immigrants are both taking our jobs and on welfare instead of working.

            The US had no immigration restrictions until 1882. Why not go back to that?

          • Gary

            Because we have a lot of people here now. Because there are people who want to come in because they want to destroy America. Because some of those who want to come in cannot support themselves and will want to be supported by American citizens, and I can’t afford to help support them.

          • James

            And what about people who come here peacefully and are willing to work and obey our laws?

          • Gary

            We have room for a few of them. But not all.

          • m flight

            OK. Let’s go back to that and the same level of income tax and government regulations and government handouts to both corporations and individuals. We would have so much economic growth that there would be plenty for everyone who wanted to come here. And one more caveat, English should be the national language. Then everyone would be able to communicate and understand the laws.

          • joe smith 323

            because half the globe would like to come here and parasite off us. you can have them in your house pal

          • James

            Even the ones who obey the law, work, and pay taxes?

          • joe smith 323

            whats that, 10%

            good luck with that

          • James

            Do you have a source for that number?

          • joe smith 323

            if you’re really interested you look it up

            they have no skills needed in a first world country

  • Gary

    James,

    The Constitution is the law of the land. Opinions of the courts are only valid if they can be proven right by the text of the Constitution. Judges have and do say all sorts of things that are not legitimate.

    • James

      That’s not how it works.

      • Gary

        That’s how it is supposed to work. It is how the writers of the Constitution designed it to work. If it does not work that way its because judges are abusing their authority. There is no reason to have a Constitution if judges are going to ignore it and rule as they please.

        • James

          Who decides whether the Court is abusing their authority?

          • Gary

            Anyone who has read the Constitution.

          • James

            And if two people who have read the Constitution disagree on its meaning, then what?

          • Hmmm…

            Right now, it goes to 9 people.

          • Gary

            It is very unlikely that two honest people who are rational and can understand English will disagree on what it means.

          • James

            The Supreme Court has been debating the law for over two hundred years, but ole Gary has got it all figured out.

  • Dana Davis

    Well, if we begin with the image, this is what? A guy that’s maybe thirty years old at most. I would never, ever, consider the views of a thirty year old. Simply because they lack life experience. Come back to me when you’ve worked for fifty years, been married for forty years, raised your children, acquired assetts. And then tell me what should be. Perhaps then I will consider your opinion and perhaps then we’ll find common ground. You know, all of this “diversity” falls apart precisely where it begins – with diversity. If not for diversity we would need no laws at all; community censure would suffice. We have laws precsisely because of the opposing factions of “diversity.” So all of this “love one another global beings stuff” falls completely apart in very short order. Because people demand order.

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