Some time ago in the Springfield News-Leader, there was an op-ed piece that called into question clergy and church involvement in the efforts to defeat the E-Verify ordinance. Here is my response to that editorial:
In response to John Main of Pleasant Hope who wrote the words, “Shame on the local churches who are protesting E-Verify. It’s not Christian that an unemployed American should have to compete with criminals for a job. Since churches enjoy tax-exempt status, they ‘don’t have a dog in this hunt’ and should remain silent.” To be Christian is to be a follower of Jesus and a follower of the way of Jesus. As a member of the clergy, I am compelled to point out that the way of Jesus is the way of compassion, of reaching out to the least of these, of extending care to the poor, to the outcast, to the marginalized. Members of the clergy and members of local churches who stand in opposition to the mandatory implementation of E-Verify do so precisely because they “have a dog in this hunt.” They, like I, recognize that such a system targets a minority population in our country. Such a system does nothing to encourage employers to hire only documented workers, it just drives the illegal hiring practices further underground. Whether people want to admit it or not, our economy is dependent upon the work of undocumented workers. They are often doing the jobs that citizens of this country won’t do and they are doing that work for less. There is an unfair hiring practice in place on the part of many businesses that hire undocumented workers and then pay them in cash so they can get away with hiring workers for less. And because such practices are done under the table, there are no protections in place for the workers. These are the practices that lead to modern day slavery, which is one of the many reasons some Christians feel compelled to speak out against this ordinance. When people claim that E-Verify will solve this problem of modern day slavery, they are failing to recognize that E-Verify does nothing to address the problem of employers paying their employees under the table.
Is illegal immigration a problem in the United States? No doubt. But I have to say one of the biggest problems is how it enables businesses to exploit human beings for the benefit of cheap goods and services. We all want a good “deal.” Sales at the supermarket or the mall drive many of our purchases. Until we recognize that the great “deals” we come across each day are often made available to us because of the unfair employment practices of businesses by hiring undocumented workers who are not paid a fair (much less living) wage in order for us to have those great deals, and then work to do something about the exploitation of the undocumented worker, much of the problem of illegal immigration will remain. E-Verify is not the solution to this problem. And that is why I can call myself a Christian as I stand in opposition to its mandatory implementation.