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Somewhat illogically, Undocumented.tv, like its patron, the National Association of Evangelicals, mostly wants to ratify the status quo, legalizing ever larger numbers of unskilled Latin American immigrants, heedless of the consequences. This initiative, focused as it is on emotional appeal rather than facts, emphasizes the evangelistic opportunity of large-scale immigration to the U.S. But Christianity, especially its evangelical variant, is dramatically growing in Latin America and virtually everywhere around the world, except for Europe and oppressive Muslim countries. Christian evangelism hardly depends on unlimited immigration to the U.S. When Undocumented.tv does try to assert facts supportive for its political cause, its claims are suspect. Its website asserts immigrants, in a typical lifetime, pay $80,000 more in taxes than they cost in government services. First, the website does not distinguish between legal and illegal immigrants, nor between skilled and unskilled immigrants. Secondly, it seemingly contradicts other data. A 2007 Heritage Foundation report showed that low-skilled immigrant households, of whom 40 percent were illegal, each cost nearly $20,000 in government services more than in all taxes paid.
Undocumented.tv celebrates that immigrants, including the “undocumented,” present a “beautiful, missional opportunity for the Church.” Undoubtedly they do. It rightly asserts that immigrant churches in the U.S. are among the fastest growing. Many evangelical groups, the vast majority of whom are not political, commendably extend their ministry to immigrants, whatever their status. But does Christian ministry automatically equal political demands for automatic mass legalization? What would the unintended consequences of such a policy be, for our nation as a whole, for legal immigrants, for native-born unskilled workers and the unemployed, or for aspiring immigrants from around the world? Undocumented.tv avoids these questions. It also does not explain HOW MANY illegal immigrants must be legalized, or how much higher legal immigration must be increased, because full social justice is purportedly secured.
Should America’s current annual rate of 1 million legal immigrants be doubled, tripled, or quadrupled? Or should there be no cap at all? Does it matter who the immigrants are, what their skills are, or where they come from? Should all the benefits and social services due to U.S. citizens be automatically extended to all immigrants, immediately? Who will pay for that? Might the economic and political consequences ultimately backfire in ways that hurt everyone, including immigrants?
A spokesman for Undocumented.tv, in a recent commentary for Jim Wallis’s Sojourners approvingly cited a New York Times declaration that evangelicals are the “secret weapon” for liberalizing immigration policies. Overwhelmingly conservative U.S. evangelicals, with their proclivity for common sense and upholding the law, are mostly resistant to mass legalization. Projects like Undocumented.tv are supposed to corrode that resistance. However polished, Undocumented.tv and similar political advocacy seem unlikely to fulfill the high hopes of The New York Times.
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