The controversial Alabama immigration law has from its inception ignited a widespread outcry among illegal immigration proponents. This isn’t really a surprise, especially considering how Arizona was vilified after passing its own version of immigration legislation which cracked down on illegal aliens.
What is surprising, at least to me, about Alabama’s anti-illegal immigration law is that many of the protests against the law were led by religious organizations, and a large number of Christian leaders, even conservative ones, are speaking out against the law.
During the summer, when the law was being considered by the Alabama legislature, churches and denominations held vigils and joined in prayer walks to make it clear that they think illegal aliens shouldn’t be punished for being here illegally.
Pastors and denominational leaders made statements suggesting that since their churches were wrong in the 1960’s on the issue of segregation, they don’t want to be wrong again.
These pastors seemed to overlook the fact that there’s a difference - a very large difference - between racism in the 1960’s and the Alabama illegal immigration law. In 1960’s Alabama, black people were discriminated against based on the color of their skin. The 2011 Alabama illegal immigration law is discriminating against no one. Actually, it just seeks to make sure that people breaking the law are apprehended and punished.
Bogus allegations of racism aside, some Christian leaders are still uniting against the Alabama illegal immigration law.
The sticking point seems to come in the fact that the law makes it unlawful to harbor an illegal alien by means of transportation. The law also makes it illegal to knowingly transport an illegal alien “in furtherance of the unlawful presence of the alien in the United States.”
Religious leaders are afraid that these statutes could lead to churches being prosecuted for welcoming illegal aliens into their midst or for providing car rides to church for illegal aliens.
The concerns about helping illegal aliens extend beyond Alabama state lines. In June, the Southern Baptist Convention passed a resolution calling on Southern Baptists to minister to people regardless of their immigration status.
There is a major disconnect on this issue for some reason. It’s as if people, Christians included, don’t realize that illegal aliens are in America illegally. Illegal aliens are breaking the law. Yet it seems like Christian leaders don’t care.
I don’t think that anyone would suggest that if an illegal alien was lying beaten and bloodied on the side of the road that we shouldn’t help them. But is it right for Christians to ignore the law of the United States and help illegal aliens in non-emergency situations?
For the sake of argument, consider this situation. Let’s say that a convicted felon escapes from prison. This prison escapee is - illegally - living freely in America. If a church, with full knowledge that the felon was a prison escapee, welcomed him into their midst and gave him car rides to and from church, those in the church could - and probably should - face charges for knowingly harboring and aiding someone who was breaking the law.
In the same way, if churches knowingly welcome someone into their midst who is an illegal alien - in other words, residing in America illegally - the churches are harboring and aiding someone who is breaking the law. It’s highly unlikely that any church would face prosecution for taking an illegal immigrant to church, particularly in a conservative, Christian state like Alabama. But should the church face prosecution? That’s another question.
A prison escapee and an illegal alien are both living freely in America in complete disregard for the rule of law. Both should face repercussions for their actions. As Christians, we should respect illegal immigrants and love them, but we should not help them break the law.
If you would report a prison escapee to the authorities, you should do the same with an illegal alien.