The Sanctuary Movement’s Misguided Compassion

By Randy Alcorn
October 2007

Historically, churches in America have been prominent participants in various social movements including those abolishing slavery and extending civil rights to all citizens. Their active participation in these movements not infrequently involved civil disobedience whereby laws were intentionally broken to achieve what they, and many Americans, considered to be necessary and beneficial societal changes.

While few would disagree that some social movements were noble and necessary to bring America closer to realizing its founding credo of liberty and justice for all its citizens, the current New Sanctuary Movement in which certain churches intentionally, and blatantly, defy the law by harboring illegal aliens is neither noble nor necessary.

Illegal aliens are neither innocent victims of American justice nor involuntary subjects of the difficult circumstances they might experience in this country. They are invaders who have chosen to trespass into this nation. Many of them steal or forge documentation in order to take advantage of the benefits of residency to which they are not legally entitled.

They have significantly drained the treasuries of state and local public service agencies; overwhelmed and bankrupted dozens of hospitals; diminished public education; considerably increased crime and the prison population; lowered working class wage scales; endangered public health; and driven up the U.S. population growth rate to third world levels. Clearly, illegal aliens are as detrimental to this nation as are any criminals who cause real harm to the public.

The misguided compassion of the New Sanctuary Movement ultimately does nothing to eliminate the source causes of the injustice and human misery that it hopes to alleviate. In fact, it unwittingly perpetuates those evils. The illegal aliens streaming into America to escape the injustice, economic stagnation, and corruption in their own nations will never confront those ills at home as long as America provides them a convenient refuge. 

Any lifeboat has a capacity limit that if exceeded will sink the boat and all passengers aboard. Any nation that refuses to protect its geographic integrity or the value of its citizenship will eventually submerge into the same sea of misery as that of the refugees it has allowed to inundate it. There are 4.5 billion people on this planet living in dire poverty. How many of them are America expected to bring on board?

The New Sanctuary Movement, justifying its lawbreaking by deferring to faith-based notions of justice and human rights, openly pledges to shelter illegal aliens. Because enforcing immigration laws can sometimes separate families, especially parents from children, the churches argue that enforcing immigration laws violates morality and denies basic human rights; but anyone who chooses to break the law risks being separated from his or her family. Why are illegal alien families more deserving of dispensation than are other families whose members have broken the law?

Many of America’s drug laws are considered to be unjust and to violate human rights as well as Constitutional civil rights, but if churches were to shelter drug law violators would churches get a free pass from law enforcement? Probably not. Why is it, then, that when it comes to illegal immigration, law enforcement agencies have been so squeamish about enforcing the law? While the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency raids businesses that employ illegal aliens, it seems reluctant to raid churches that harbor illegal aliens.

Equal application of the law is one of America’s founding principles—as is separation of church and state. When churches chose to actively engage in secular politics in an effort to impose their religious moralities on society, they have breached the wall that separates them from the state. This is not Iran or Saudi Arabia. In America, ecclesiastical law does not supersede secular law. Churches, or anyone, who knowingly shelter criminals should be prosecuted. Additionally, churches that flout the law should lose their tax-exempt status.

In this nation, those people whose sense of morality is in conflict with the law can publicly protest, can appeal to their legislators, can sermonize unto the high heavens in an effort to change the law, but they cannot defy the law with impunity simply because they are members of an organized religion. By not applying the law equally to the churches, the government is effectively granting immunity to the churches, thus diminishing the rule of law and the principle of church-state separation.

Illegal immigration into the U.S. is no more a basic human right than is trespassing, stealing, or lying. The compassion of those religious humanitarians who harbor illegal aliens is misplaced. They would accomplish more by sending missionaries to the homelands of illegal aliens and by supporting practical foreign aid policies that address overpopulation and education issues in those homelands. Harboring illegal aliens isn’t a noble defiance of oppressive law—it simply aids and abets criminal activity.

Randy Alcorn is a Senior Writing Fellow for Californians for Population Stabilization (CAPS), www.capsweb.org, and can be reached at randyalcorn@verizon.net or info@capsweb.org

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