I listened with interest to the Republican Debate the other night, and was especially struck by Newt Gingrich’s comments on immigration. Despite being of a very different political persuasion, I often find Gingrich’s comments to be thoughtful and intelligent, and far prefer to listen to him than to the others.
When he first began to speak, I appreciated the fairness and decency that he was advocating. He said he wouldn’t favor kicking out an immigrant “If you’ve been here 25 years and you’ve got three kids and two grandkids, you’ve been paying taxes and obeying the law…” So some illegal immigrants ought to be sent home, but others – who have lived here peacefully for many years, who have taken care of themselves and their families, who contribute to the country and their community and are good friends and neighbors – have earned a little humane consideration, and “I don’t think we’re going to separate you from your family, uproot you forcefully and kick you out.”
So far so good. As a loving father myself, and without obsessing about all the smarmy moralism of the ultra-right-wing, I certainly appreciate giving value to the family and keeping children safely with their parents. As a citizen, I appreciated the underlying acknowledgement that the American legal system has always included a tradition of fairness and Equity as a balance to the concept of strict adherence to the letter of the Law. Also, as we have always recognized, America needs new influxes of immigrants – to stimulate the economy, to stimulate culture, to bring new ideas, new innovations, and new life.
I really hate this kind of off-hand “Christian nation” stuff. I suppose I’ll be accused of nit-picking, but I don’t think that’s it. What if an immigrant has been attending a Synagogue? What if (God forbid!) an immigrant has been attending a Mosque? What if (horror of horror to good Republicans) an immigrant has been a peaceful, loving, contributing member of American society for many years, but happens to be an Atheist? Would Gingrich recommend any special consideration for them, would he allow them to stay in America?
In the new ‘Forum’ I’m hoping to get going on this site, I’ve introduced a ‘Church and State’ thread by saying: “Religion is playing such an important role in the current election cycle. What do you think of this? For my part, I believe that to maintain freedom and equality the spirit must reject dogmatism, and religions must remain within their proper bounds! On the other hand, I’m a fervent supporter of a spiritual renewal in contemporary life, and I find that traditional religions as well as all spiritual traditions, eastern and western, have much to offer. But as a long-time high school teacher, I can think of nothing worse for religion than to leave it up to the schools to teach our children about spiritual matters, and as an attorney and a Jew I have the greatest respect for the American Founders’ decision to separate church and state. In fact, I am convinced that the increasing vibrancy of religion, faith, and spirituality in America can be traced precisely to the fact that religion is not imposed on our citizens and the government is not allowed to put its foot in religious matters. It sickens me to hear people claim ‘this is a Christian nation’, and so forth.”