Whenever a major sports star signs a huge multi-million-dollar contract after negotiating intensely, they often say they are taking top dollar (never mind team loyalties or community-connections) by saying, “I’m leaving the team and taking the best deal but I’m doing it ‘for my family’” and people seem to accept that as an OK rationale.

Years ago I was having a conversation with an older Caucasian friend of mine (he was a retired attorney); we were serving on a foundation board together and I knew him to be a warm-hearted soul who cared about doing good and helping others. On this day, he and I were talking about the problem of illegal immigrants coming into our great country.

He said illegal immigrants (mostly from Mexico or from Central America and a fair number from Asia) are law-breakers (meaning criminals) and should not be coddled or tolerated and we should not be helping them. It didn’t matter if they were adults or children, he felt it would be morally and ethically wrong to help law-breaking illegal immigrants.

I could intellectually understand his point of view – if you break a law, you should be punished and if you help a law-breaker then you are supporting criminals.

I asked him, hypothetically, if he were the father of a poor family living on the south side of the border, and if he knew that crossing the border illegally would give him a better chance of improving his family’s quality of life, would he cross the border? He immediately answered “yes” – and I waited for it to sink in and for him to reconsider his stand against illegal immigrants, but that did not happen!

He said he would do it, but if he got caught he would have to “face the consequences” – being arrested and sent back. He then said he would apply for a legal visa and enter the U.S. legally, although I don’t think he realized it could take years, perhaps decades, before ever receiving a visa to legally immigrate to America.

For my friend, the values of law and order outweighed the values of charity and kindness for those who are crossing the border for “the sake of their families.”

The Bible speaks often and specifically of extending kindness to the “stranger and the alien” who live amongst us, because the Bible knows that such people are often powerless and discriminated against and made into scapegoats for domestic problems and ills. If more people had followed biblical values, the Japanese community may not have been incarcerated in camps during WWII.

If we were to put ourselves into the shoes of families fleeing from poverty, or life-threatening violence, would we be tempted to illegally cross the border into the great nation of America? If we are honest with ourselves, I suspect we would answer “yes.” Would we then be criminals or simply parents trying to do what’s best for our loved ones?

I wonder what my friend would say today about our government splitting up families and taking away children from their parents and incarcerating the children and babies (over 60,000 in the past year!) into holding cells and pens.

Would he continue to categorize these people as “criminals” and would his values of law and order give him a blind eye to that kind of inhumane treatment? Would it not be clear to him that children and families, regardless of their legal status, should not be treated in such an uncharitable manner?

The Statue of Liberty, which invites the huddled masses to our borders, now turns a cold shoulder and blind eye to those huddled masses wishing to come to America for the sake of their families.


Bill Watanabe writes from Silverlake near downtown Los Angeles and can be reached at Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.





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