I remember it like it was yesterday-- my first mission trip to Brazil. My friend Carlos was there with a couple of his friends waiting to meet me in Curitiba airport. His amazing smile and that box of Brazilian chocolate he brought as a welcome gift; it is a picture that is stuck in my mind and event that will always be in my heart. We all stood there in the modern concourse greeting each other. It was really quite a moment for me.
It is a bit of an amazing story how I actually met Carlos in the first place. He had come here legally to bring a message of salvation and love to the US; as a missionary to this country. There we were in the midst of something that God was doing, in back hallway of the in Salvation Army, in downtown Hyannis. That was nearly 10 years ago. The rest is history, good history. He has been a friend, a best man and the iron that sharpens iron in my life. We are as close as Johnathan and David were. We often talk about that. We love to travel, eat sushi, enjoy cars, music, worship and the spiritual gifts... it is a truly unique friendship.
The relationship I have with Carlos has given me insight into life in other countries. Brazil, although nearly as big as that US... actually bigger if compare it to the Continental US, is basically poor. Something I have learned about the American perspective is that our world-view is so much different from the rest of the world. Londrina, my favorite city in Brazil, has beautiful parks, a motor speedway, a football (soccer) field and slums that make even the worst of New York or Boston look civilized. There, people that live in lean-tos and cardboard boxes. Only 40% of people that live there even have one car and 59% have none at all. The US in comparison is the "land of opportunity", real opportunity. If they can get here to enjoy it.
I once worked or a man that came here from Columbia in the late 60's. He was a very successful entrepreneur. He had worked hard to get to New York. In Columbia he was told that here "in the USA you could simply pick money up off the street." When he arrived at JFK and went through Immigration and Customs he saw a $20 bill on the sidewalk. He looked at his watch; 5 o'clock in the morning. He bypassed the the $20-- it was to early to start working! Or so his tale goes.
The problem with immigration is that is unfair, a bit racist and a bit politically motivated. It is much easier to get the coveted "green card" if you are from a first world country then is it is to get one from the third world. If you are from a previously Communist country, there was a time when you could almost get on a plane and be assured that you would have citizenship here in the US. I know Europeans that have come here and had little issue in getting the brass ring of citizenship.
I think we have done quite a bit of injustice to those that would want to come here. Why? We have made it easy to be here illegally. First work is not all that hard to find. Second, we don't prosecute false paperwork, overstaying your visa, and other infractions very aggressively. I have seen it first hand. We have had a couple of ridiculously high-profile round-ups and that is it. Third, our boarders are pretty much a joke. Period. However; this is what I find to be the worst of all. My friend came here eight times legally and was denied a green card every time. He has spent over $10,000 in airline tickets doing the right thing flying back-and-forth to Brazil. I have another friend that was illegal for seven years, he received a green card just by waiting around for the system. How sad is that? We have trained them to do the wrong thing. That is injustice, not compassion. I have been to Brazil three times, I know that people are trying escape.
In the same way that a bad parent would only feed their kids junk food, we have supplied immigrants with a very wrong perspective of what most people in this country value. In America, most people believe that hard work and doing the right thing will get you somewhere. Citizenship in the most powerful country on earth is a privilege. I know I wouldn't want to live anywhere else. I guess there are others that rely solely on the government to provide everything. I don't think that is very healthy.
What is the answer? First we need to make the line to come here to the US an actual line. It is more like and offensive football play with 10 years to go, then it is a line! What we are doing now is ludicrous, unsafe and unfair to everyone on both side of the border! Second we need to shut the border down for our own safety and as a way to create a line to get into. I have walked portions of the Canadian and Mexican border... getting in is a snap and I don't think it should be. Once we do that we need to figure out a humane way to deal with everyone that is here illegally. Some of these people have been my friends and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Their are friendships, relationships and families at stake. I don't see how we are easily going to ask anyone that has basically done the right thing here, to leave. And lastly, once we have a line to get in, then we need to insure those that work are in the line. We have the opportunity to deport those who don't work, don't pay taxes and commit crimes. I don't believe that we can make it any easier then that. It's been broken for too long and we're going to walk with a limp for some time to come.