Under new immigration laws, enacted first in Arizona, then in Utah, Indiana, my home state of Georgia, and now Alabama, I wonder if the Good Samaritan would be arrested?

In Luke 10:30-37 Jesus was asked, ‘Who is my neighbor.’ He replied: A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

'Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?' The expert in the law replied, 'The one who had mercy on him.'

Jesus told him, 'Go and do likewise.'

If the man attacked in this story was an illegal immigrant in Georgia, Arizona, Utah, Indiana or Alabama, the Good Samaritan would run afoul of the law by offering assistance. Each of these laws has provisions making it illegal to harbor or provide transportation to an illegal immigrant. By transporting the injured man to the inn, then paying for his lodging, the Good Samaritan would be in direct violation of these provisions if the injured man turned out to be illegal. Of course, Bible scholars would know that the Good Samaritan is actually from another land, and would have been an undocumented immigrant in this story. So, today, if he had gotten involved, he would have run the risk of being deported himself.

According to the Georgia Law, HB 87 Article 5: A person convicted for a first offense of transporting or moving an illegal alien shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction thereof, shall be punished by  imprisonment not to exceed 12 months, a fine not to exceed $1,000.00, or both.

Alabama’s new law would allow Alabama police to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally when that person is stopped for any other reason. It would also make it a crime to knowingly transport or harbor an illegal immigrant, and compel public schools to verify the immigration status of students. (see article Federal judge temporarily blocks AL law)

Even Federal Law makes it illegal to assist an illegal immigrant. Federal Law states:
A person (including a group of persons, business, organization or local government) commits a federal felony when he:

assists an alien whom he should reasonably know is illegally in the U.S. or who lacks employment authorization, by transporting, sheltering, or assisting him to obtain employment,

  • assists an alien whom he should reasonably know is illegally in the U.S. or who lacks employment authorization, by transporting, sheltering, or assisting him to obtain employment,
  • knowingly assists illegal aliens due to personal convictions.

Penalties upon conviction include criminal fines, imprisonment, and forfeiture of vehicles and real property used to commit the crime. Harboring or aiding illegal aliens is not protected by the First Amendment.

A few years ago, just as all the brouhaha began to fester about immigration, a family of illegals were dropped of at the doorstep of our church in suburban Atlanta. The mother was eight months pregnant, the father was out of work, and they had a three year old son and an 18 month-old daughter. Their possessions fit in two garbage bags. We were part of a small group  at church who had set a mission to help refugee families, so we took on helping this family.

We rented them a room in an Extended Stay Hotel for a week. I had time available, so I took the husband out looking for work, while others saw to medical care for the mother and children. In the couple of days I spent with the family, I saw the dark underbelly of our black-market economy. The Mexican restaurants around Atlanta seem to be owned by families from the same area of Mexico who all know each other. They provide jobs and houses for these families of workers to rent. Illegal papers could be had for $300, at the time.

Turned out, the father was an alcoholic who could not hold a job, so in a week or so, when dad disappeared we helped the mother and kids get fare together to travel to Chicago, where they had family. Again, an illegal act today.

My heart was changed by this experience. When we serve the poor and homeless, feed the little chilcren, we are doing Christ's work. It seems to me that discipleship is trying to take on the mind of Jesus and be His hands and feet in the community. Before this experience, it was easy for me to take a dispassionate view of the immigration issue. It's so easy to dehumanize those who aren't from around here, those who don't look and speak like us. Now, when the rhetoric began to heat up, and the Republican legislatures in several states began to take up draconian measures, I found my opinions had also been changed by my time with this family.

The two children had been born here, and are American citizens, as was the baby as soon as she was born (although this is a part of the Constitution that conservatives don't seem to want to honor). As the Immigration debate began to unfold just a few weeks later, I could not in good conscience agree with the hard things I was hearing. Are we really going to pass and enforce laws that punish children for the sins of their parents? In a number of states, politicians are pushing to eliminate access to health care and education for kids like this.

Even Presidential Candidate Rick Perry and Tea Party Favorite signed a Dream Act for the state of Texas, allowing illegals to attend colleges and universities with in-state tuition. I imagine he’s backing away from that support as we speak. Yet, I hear many conservative voices, including significant numbers from the Christian right, espousing tough immigration positions. I’m not suggesting that our current system is sustainable. Things certainly have to change, but these are draconian measures that totally ignore Christ’s call that we care for the least, the last and the lost.

In Georgia, a conservative South Georgia Republican mayor is suing the state over this law  The Chambers of Commerce in each one of these states is lobbying against these laws because they know it is bad for business. Many of these cleaning, gardening and construction jobs filled by illegals are very hard work with low pay. Wages will have to rise significantly to attract American citizens to once again do this type of work.

The Alabama law takes effect on September 1. The law allows Alabama police to detain those suspected of being in the country illegally when that person is stopped for any other reason. It would also make it a crime to transport or harbor an illegal immigrant, and force public schools to verify the immigration status of students. Thank God a Federal Judge has temporarily blocked provisions of this law.

I saw a piece in Bloomberg this morning, entitled: Hispanics Flee Alabama’s Immigration Law
As Tuscaloosa begins to rebuild after the tornado wrecked so much destruction, there is a growing fear that the work force to rebuild 7200 homes and business destroyed in April is disappearing. Here’s a quote from the article: “Hispanics, documented and undocumented, dominate anything to do with masonry, concrete, framing, roofing, and landscaping,” said Bob McNelly, a contractor with Nash-McCraw Properties, during an interview at a coffee shop near a destroyed gas station and bank. “There are very few subcontractors I work with that don’t have a Hispanic workforce.”

I saw that change happen in Atlanta in the mid-’90’s. We began to offer technical training courses on the road-building equipment we sold because most of the operators were Hispanic. these changes have happened over decades. Now, with a flourish of the pen, these Republican governors are trying to bring this all to a screeching halt.

My fear is for the babies and children who will be denied access to health care, food and shelter because of these laws. And, I fear for the teenagers who will find the path of least resistance will be joining street gangs, with educational and vocational opportunities cut off.

Someone is going to have to help me understand how this would make Jesus smile.