Flunking Sainthood

Flunking Sainthood

Walls and Immigration Reform: Rev. Ben Daniel in the Huffington Post

Neighbor cover art.jpgThe new Arizona immigration law is set to go into effect next week (July 29), and folks on both sides of the issue are busy marshaling their forces to either protest or implement it. Earlier this week, Arizona governor Jan Brewer announced that she’s directing $10 million in federal stimulus money to border cities and counties to crack down even further on illegal immigration. Meanwhile, seven lawsuits have already been filed to throw out the measure, which gives police broad latitude in demanding immigration papers from anyone suspected of a crime.


At this point the only people happy about the situation are the attorneys who are clocking massive billable hours. But there are some sane voices in the immigration debate, including Rev. Ben Daniel, a Presbyterian minister in San Jose whose book Neighbor: Christian Encounters with “Illegal” Immigration will be profiled on Flunking Sainthood when it releases next month. I was the editor for the book, and am proud to say it’s a fine piece of work. It’s balanced and focused not on policies but on people, the people whose lives hang in the balance until our nation figures out what to do about immigration. 


Ben’s wise, even-handed voice can be seen in a new piece he’s written for the Huffington Post, in which he explores the concept of border walls in both Israel and the U.S. Do they really work? And more importantly, do they contribute to a spiritually healthy nation? He writes:

“…are walls worthy of the faith we put in them? Will they bring us peace?
Do they make a positive contribution to common good? Do they in fact
make us better neighbors?”

Good questions to ponder next week as the law goes into effect.


  • cynthia

    all the stuff thats going on is not making any better. i think you guys should the immigrants stay at u.s a to work because they are the ones how are hard working in america and in are country they ready show how to work very hard to get their money and to bring home some food. i think they should realise how the immmigrants should stay and not send them back to their on countrys because hey suffer to pass to america and they whant to make a better life in america.

  • DMc

    If it weren’t for the United Fruit Company’s political payola and human rights misdeeds of the twentieth century there would be no immigration problem. Our border with Mexico would be as sublime as our border with Canada. Something should have been done then. We are only reaping the Blowback of past mistakes by our government controling some of the bad side of capitalism on our soil but allowing it to be unleashed untamed on the peoples of Central America.
    No wall has ever proved impenetrable. Works do not save. Try as we may we are not going to keep the sins of the fathers from falling on the heads of the children by building walls legally or literally.
    After all that has happened, success will only be found through innovative integration not xenophobic segregation. Don’t politicians ever read history books? Oh yeah, I forgot. Pandering to the fears of the uneducated masses gets you re-elected.

  • Raymond Takashi Swenson

    President Obama has endorsed the (largely false) notion that Americans are smuggling millions of firearms across the border into Mexico, while it is clear that much of the cross-border traffic involves smuggling drugs into the US. If you are going to endorse “open borders” you have to embrace that kind of traffic as well. Do you really want to do that?
    Since the US government does not control its own borders, actual control has been ceded to some of the worst people on earth, the drug smugglers who are adopting the tactics of the insurgents in Iraq and murdering and kidnapping people on both sides of the border, including innocent Mormons crossing into Juarez to attend the temple.
    We should not forget that, along with the people who cross over just to find jobs and send money home, there are also thousands who are fleeing arrest and imprisonment in Mexico and are looking for new victims in the US. Americans are tired of letting the nastiest crooks with the biggest guns decide who gets to come into America.
    Admittedly, it is not necessarily the fault of the people who just come to work, although when they enter the US using the services of a coyote, they are subsidizing that vaster criminal enterprise, as are the employers who hire them, not to mention the idiots who use illegal drugs.
    America’s immigration laws were originally written in the 20th Century with an explicit racist purpose. They excluded immigration from Japan until the number of new Japanese war brides of US servicemen, and the need to have Japan’s support and cooperation in the Korean War and Cold War confrontations with Russia and China, forced Congress to change the laws. That change allowed me and my mother to immigrate.
    Current laws are arbitrarily restrictive, not based on any scientific analysis but simply on the usual political by guess and by golly of most legislation. The laws take no account of the generally expanding need for workers in the US economy. Changes to liberalize the law are unpopular among many people, so the government accommodates the segment that wants more cheap labor by putting on a totally inadequate effort to actually enforce the laws. This results in the smugglers controlling our borders. In an era when we are at war with an international terrorist organization, that is insane.
    Incidentally, I have friends who are consultants to the Department of Homeland Security on measures to make the Canadian border more secure against terrorists, like the one who drove a car containing explosives who intended to blow up the Space Needle on New Year’s Eve 2000.
    A rational immigration policy would have real border control combined with a system to adjust legal immigration based on actual demand for labor. The current open border floods the market and makes labor too cheap for those who are already here. Their illegal status makes them vulnerable to all sorts of abuse by employers and predators in the Hispanic community. Decreasing the market demand that drives the bulk of immigrant smuggling by expanding opportunities for legal immigration, will enable a fence to be much more effective, and it will also improve the welfare of the immigrants who are already here.

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