To the contrary

Immigration reform sensible for many reasons

Special to The HeraldJune 13, 2014 

U.S. Rep Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., who represents the 5th congressional district that includes York, Chester and Lancaster counties, recently has received some strong criticism regarding his inclination to talk about and support reforms to our immigration system. Immigration reform isn’t a Democratic versus Republican issue, it’s a common sense, bipartisan idea that is supported by a majority of Americans, and it is imperative that the U.S. House act now on passing immigration reform.

First off, I am a Baptist pastor, so, for me, the greatest arguments are moral arguments. We claim, especially in the South, to be a people formed by the Bible, and the Bible has a lot to say about the way we treat the strangers and immigrants among us. Jesus tells us in Matthew 25 that if we welcome the stranger in our midst that we have actually welcomed Jesus. The Old Testament demands the care for the foreigner. For instance, Exodus 23:9, “Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt;” or Leviticus 19:34, which says, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born.”

Meanwhile, the United States has forced upwards of 10,000 U.S. citizen children into foster care by detaining or deporting their parents who overstayed their visas or for some other reason were here without documentation. Taking children from their loving homes and forcing them into foster care is not a practical, cost-effective or Christian way to deal with our broken system.

Undocumented immigrants, for fear of reaching out to police, are also subject to theft, rape and other violent acts. Meanwhile, many of us are silent, allowing the abuse to continue. It is our duty to love and defend these people, regardless of their documentation.

I realize, however, that not everyone is Christian. But immigration reform is still important.

If immigration reform is not passed it will have a devastating impact on the economy, even in South Carolina. According to the nonpartisan Immigration Policy Center, undocumented immigrants paid $33.4 million in state and local taxes in South Carolina in 2010. If they were all given the opportunity to earn legal status (not amnesty or immediate citizenship) that number could rise to $40.7 million.

They also point out that if all undocumented immigrants were deported from South Carolina, our state would lose $1.8 billion in economic activity and just over 12,000 jobs would be lost. That is an actual negative economic impact on all South Carolinians, not to mention the peaches and other produce that would rot in the fields because there would be no one to harvest them.

These are some of the reasons why congressmen such as Mick Mulvaney support immigration reform. It is in the best interest of South Carolina for us to create a way for undocumented immigrants who are here to earn legal status.

This doesn’t mean blanket amnesty. This means a fine, background checks and the creation of a system by which law-abiding, hard-working individuals can legally stay and work here for the benefit of their families and our economy. Reform would also entail the strengthening of our borders, fairness to taxpayers, respect for the God-given dignity of every person and the protection of the family.

Immigration reform is in the best interest of our state and in the best interest of our souls. For that reason I am happy that there are congressmen like Mick Mulvaney who are doing their job and seeking the best solutions to our broken and outdated immigration system.

Blake Hart is the state Missions Coordinator for the ​South Carolina Cooperative Baptist Fellowship. A former missionary in South Carolina, Blake now lives in Rock Hill with his wife and daughter.

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