In this season of rhetoric, the topic of immigration has been particularly vitriolic. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney recently had to fire his undocumented landscaping crew.
Texas Governor Rick Perry was behind the approval of state university access to children of illegal aliens, but is now assuring that border patrol would be a top priority in his administration. Ben Daniel, a Presbyterian minister from San Jose, California, is a voice from the Left who, in his new book, Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal” Immigration, seeks to familiarize us with the faces of immigration in America. Rev. Jennifer Warner, of the First Presbyterian Church, which is sponsoring Daniel’s visit, summarized the church’s position on the kind of discussion Daniel brings to the community.
“Our community has many diverse viewpoints on this issue [immigration] as well as many others (including the ordination of gays and lesbians), however we are committed to compassion and to welcoming all…We take seriously the Bible’s consistent message to
welcome and not oppress the stranger in the land,” wrote Warner via e-mail.
Rev. Daniel spoke by telephone prior to a visit to Redmond, Oregon. Regarding in-state tuition, Daniel said, “This is a fascinating subject which gets at the complexity of the immigration situation. The issue always revolves around people who come here as children. Something Rick Perry said was very true: chances are what you are doing [when you deny admission to school] is punishing people for what their parents did. To me, this is one of the most important issues.”
When it was offered that presidential candidate Ron Paul was quoted as saying that education is not a right, Daniel responded, “I would refer him to the Supreme Court decision of 1982, Plyer vs. Doe,” in which the Court held that, according to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, “no State shall deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protections
of the laws.”
“It costs more money ultimately if we don’t educate children,” and produce instead an “underclass of the unemployable,” said Daniel.
As to the economic impact of illegal immigration and residency, Daniel holds that in California, undocumented residents pay sales tax, and drive down the cost of goods through cheap labor.
“Huge numbers of undocumented persons use fake Social Security numbers, from which employers deduct payroll and Social Security taxes, without the worker ever collecting any benefits.”
Another issue on Daniel’s radar has been the acceptance of ordination of gays and lesbians in the Presbyterian Church. Regarding his own creative reasoning, Daniel states frankly, “I’m the first to admit that Calvin would be spinning in his unmarked grave in Geneva,” but that he believes the Protestant reformer understood that interpretations of the Bible could and should take into consideration human advances in science, technology and understanding.
“This [the Bible] was a story written for primitive people. Calvin used what he knew scientifically at the time to modify how he understood the Bible.”
“You know, Calvin separated Church Court from Civil Court, in the belief that they were no good at adjudicating each other’s rules. [In Calvin’s time], spousal abuse was legal under civic law, but prosecuted in Church Court.
Calvin is not often thought of as someone who cared. I find it fascinating and enjoyable to look at Calvin and read where
other people aren’t reading.”
Daniel added, “One of the things I’ve found extremely necessary is to approach ministry in a creative way.”
Daniel is writing another book, this one about Islamic culture and people.
“My hope is to write a book that will help people to not hate Muslims,” said Daniel. It is another part of his mission to foster compassion for all our global neighbors.
You can contace Irene Cooper at firstname.lastname@example.org