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COLUMN: Immigration law merits civil disobedience

By: Joe Barrera
May 2, 2018 Updated: May 2, 2018 at 5:40 am
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Since we are known to be a God-fearing community, I would like to see what we think about secular law versus divine law. At issue is the contradiction in the fear-based conservative war against people fleeing persecution, crime, disorder, and the kind of poverty we can barely imagine. The latest salvo is a spiteful Gazette column accusing Christian churches of aiding and abetting illegal immigration and thereby violating government law. Michelle Malkin, under the headline of "Criminal Churches," apparently believes human laws are superior to laws of the Christian religion.

To be honest, conservative religion has always fought government laws which are at odds with traditional teachings, especially in regard to abortion, gay marriage, even divorce. Then there is the matter of lesser things like taxes, gun purchase background checks, zoning, etc. Many conservatives have no problem with disobeying the government in such matters and agitating fiercely against what they see as unjust laws. Malkin, who is well-known to Gazette readers, thinks it is a heinous crime to disobey laws against sheltering undocumented immigrants. But what about other laws? What does she think about gun safety laws? Will she urge you to disobey a law against AR-15 ownership, for instance?

Malkin pulls no punches. Pueblo Sin Fronteras (People Without Borders) is guilty of using the Holy Week passion of Christ to dramatize the plight of those suffering their own passion. The Vatican is guilty because it donates money to groups sheltering Central American immigrants on Mexico's southern borders. The Catholic Extension Society, a group working with some of the poorest people in the U.S., is guilty for similar work at the U.S. border.

This is "aiding and abetting" illegal immigration according to Malkin. She attacks churches of several denominations in Colorado because they offer sanctuary to five people without legal documents. To make her case she quotes St. Paul's epistle to the Romans, the famous passage about obedience to duly constituted governments whose authority derives from God. But the Apostle Paul willfully disobeyed the Roman magistrates and continued to preach "The Way," as the religion of Jesus was then called. When Paul and his friends were jailed on the charge of sedition against the emperor, the Lord created an earthquake which sprung open the doors of the dungeon and the prisoners walked out. How is that for civil disobedience, and from God Himself?

We can choose to believe or disbelieve this story. But that's not the point. The point is that once he was freed by God, as he believed he was, Paul didn't stop preaching. He did this in obedience to a higher law and disobeyed his own injunction about civil authority. Similarly, immigrant rights activists are obeying the higher law of "do unto others..." and "love thy neighbor as thyself..."

Malkin is a Catholic but the contradictions in her attacks on her own church are obvious. She piously makes a plea for orderly immigration.

On its face, this is naïve but we wonder if she is deliberately trying to fool us because we know that she knows better. "Orderly immigration" doesn't exist. It hasn't existed for decades. It cannot be created under current laws.

The immigration laws are inherently wrong and terribly unjust. There is no visa program for Latin American immigrants worthy of the name. There is no effective policy granting asylum to those escaping persecution or violent crime. There is no end to the cruelty of separating mothers from their young children at the border.

Congress, whether controlled by Democrats or Republicans, will not change the laws in spite of many efforts. Therefore, the only recourse for those fighting the gross violation of human rights known as U.S. immigration policy is civil disobedience.

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Joe Barrera, Ph.D., is the former director of the Ethnic Studies Program at UCCS and a combat veteran of the Vietnam War.

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