Jesus and “José Illegal”

by Camille on October 21, 2013

Recently, I noticed the following going around on Facebook:


You have two families: “Joe Legal” and “Jose Illegal”. Both families have two parents, two children, and live in California .

Joe Legal works in construction, has a Social Security Number and makes $25.00 per hour with taxes deducted.

Jose Illegal also works in construction, has NO Social Security Number, and gets paid $15.00 cash “under the table”.

Ready? Now pay attention….

Joe Legal: $25.00 per hour x 40 hours = $1000.00 per week, or
$52,000.00 per year. Now take 30% away for state and federal tax;

Joe Legal now has $31,231.00.

Jose Illegal: $15.00 per hour x 40 hours = $600.00 per week, or $31,200.0 0 per year. Jose Illegal pays no taxes.

Jose Illegal now has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal pays medical and dental insurance with limited coverage for his family at $600.00 per month, or $7,200.00 per year. Joe Legal now has $24,031.00.

Jose Illegal has full medical and dental coverage through the state and local clinics and emergency hospitals at a cost of $0.00 per year.

Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal makes too much money and is not eligible for food stamps or welfare. Joe Legal pays $500.00 per month for food,
or $6,000.00 per year. Joe Legal now has $18,031.00.

Jose Illegal has no documented income and is eligible for food stamps, WIC and welfare. Jose Illegal still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal pays rent of $1,200.00 per month, or $14,400.00 per year. Joe Legal now has 9,631 .00.

Jose Illegal receives a $500.00 per month Federal Rent Subsidy. Jose Illegal pays out that $500.00 per month, or $6,000.00 per year.

Jose Illegal still has $ 31,200.00.

Joe Legal pays $200.00 per month, or $2,400.00 for car insurance. Some of that is uninsured motorist insurance. Joe Legal now has $7,231.00.

Jose Illegal says, “We don’t need no stinking’ insurance!” and still has $31,200.00.

Joe Legal has to make his $7,231.00 stretch to pay utilities, gasoline, etc..

Jose Illegal has to make his $31,200.00 stretch to pay utilities, gasoline, and what he sends out of the country every month..

Joe Legal now works overtime on Saturdays or gets a part time job after work.

Jose Illegal has nights and weekends off to enjoy with his family.

Joe Legal’s and Jose Illegal’s children both attend the same elementary school. Joe Legal pays for his children’s lunches, while Jose Illegal’s children get a government sponsored lunch. Jose Illegal’s children have an after school ESL program.

Joe Legal’s children go home.

Now, when they reach college age, Joe Legal’s kids may not get into a State School and may not qualify for scholarships, grants or other tuition help, even though Joe has been paying for State Schools through his taxes, while Jose Illegal’s kids “go to the head of the class” because they are a minority.

Joe Legal and Jose Illegal both enjoy the same police and fire services, but Joe paid for them and Jose did not pay.

If you vote for or support any politician that supports illegal aliens… You are part of the problem!

First, if you agree with the tenets presented in this comparison, please pursue at least a cursory inquiry into a more balanced perspective. Immigration, a non-partisan public charity, seems to provide a fairly balanced look into both sides of common immigration-related arguments.

For instance, the anecdote above would suggest “José Illegal” pays no taxes. However, 10 Myths About Immigration from the Southern Poverty Law Center reports the following:

Undocumented immigrants pay taxes every time they buy gas, clothes or new appliances. They also contribute to property taxes—a main source of school funding—when they buy or rent a house, or rent an apartment. The Social Security Administration estimates that half to three-quarters of undocumented immigrants pay federal, state and local taxes, including $6 billion to $7 billion in Social Security taxes for benefits they will never get…

Others say that José should have gone through the proper channels since coming to America legally is SO easy. Those people are ignorant.

Please check out the full infographic from Mike Flynn and Shika Dalmia explaining the immigration process. To give you an inkling, here’s a portion:

Screen shot 2013-10-21 at 5.11.47 PM

Ian, the handsome guy with glasses at the top of this page, waited from the time he was a baby until he was 14-years-old to join his mother in America as a permanent resident. At 21, he’ll be pursuing citizenship early next year. Notice the guy on the right side of the chart with the long beard. He makes frequent appearances among the maze of arrows explaining the simple process.

Another point of contention is that José gets food stamps and benefits from a host of social welfare programs while “Joe Legal” does not. This supports the common complaint that immigrants come here to take advantage of welfare intended for American citizens. However, as a PBS report documents:

Immigrants come to work and reunite with family members. Immigrant labor force participation is consistently higher than native-born, and immigrant workers make up a larger share of the U.S. labor force (12.4%) than they do the U.S. population (11.5%). Moreover, the ratio between immigrant use of public benefits and the amount of taxes they pay is consistently favorable to the U.S., unless the “study” was undertaken by an anti-immigrant group. In one estimate, immigrants earn about $240 billion a year, pay about $90 billion a year in taxes, and use about $5 billion in public benefits. In another cut of the data, immigrant tax payments total $20 to $30 billion more than the amount of government services they use.

Granted, the PBS report is from 2003, but a 2011 report from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce  comes to the same conclusions.

Of course, thanks to recent policy changes, it does seem undocumented immigrants are making progress in gaining access to social programs. For instance, earlier this year, the USDA began marketing SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) to immigrants without requiring proof of immigration status. The USDA hopes to aid American children living in households with non-citizen adults.

I think one of the most ridiculous stereotypes is that immigrants inherently bring criminality and negatively affect the American way of life. Right. Because American society represents such a lofty moral standard and all. Actually, a Forbes 2013 report easily discredits the majority of myths about immigrants destroying the country. Forbes reports:

Immigrants are religious, family-oriented, entrepreneurial and no more prone to crime than natives. Seventy percent of Hispanics who moved to the U.S. in the last two decades are Catholic (one fifth are “born again” Christians) and 23 percent are Protestant. One in two undocumented households has couples with children; only thirteen percent of them are headed by single parents—against one third of native households. The percentage of immigrant workers who are self-employed mirrors that of natives. Immigrant-led gentrification has revived neighborhoods from New York to Florida. Adjusted for age, the proportion of immigrants who are criminals mirrors that of natives.

I’m not arguing that there aren’t gross abuses within the system, but those abuses are far from limited to immigrants.

And I’d be willing to bet the person who wrote this article has never lived in federally subsidized housing or attended a government-run health department for a basic physical or sat in a classroom trying to learn to write and take exams in a language he can’t speak.

Because folks, life for José isn’t always the trouble-free paradise pictured in juxtaposition to “Joe Legal.” 

From my personal experiences with immigrants, I’d say it’s much more likely that José leaves his construction job and heads to his janitorial position at the high school where he empties trash and pries gum off desks. On Saturday and Sunday, José works as a parking lot attendant to help support his family here and have something left to send to loved ones back home.

José Jr. comes to class exhausted because he had to move again in the middle of the night; authorities are looking to deport his father. He wants desperately to achieve, but the curriculum mandates that his even his ESL teacher must speak only in English.

José’s daughter is violently assaulted by a criminal who will go on to assault plenty of others, citizens and non-citizens,  but she’s terrified of pressing charges or seeking medical or psychological treatment due to her immigration status.

Yes, there are problems with the system, but I would suggest that none of that justifies discrimination, hatred, or apathy when it comes to the plight of undocumented immigrants in this country. I’ve touched on only a small fraction of the heated political arguments surrounding the subject, but in all honesty, that’s not what bothers me the most.

What’s most disturbing is that the above erroneous, overly simplified, bigoted piece of crap is being circulated among the Facebook pages of those who also call themselves Christians.


Image Source

Does no one see a problem with this?! How exactly, do we think Jesus would treat undocumented immigrants? As Christians, do we think we’re somehow allowed to suspend our faith in favor of staunchly conservative immigration policies whenever it suits us? Do we imagine that our carefully created and defended borders really matter one iota to the God who created and loves the world and all the souls He placed within?

It seems to me Jesus was all about breaking down borders. Crossing boundary lines. Loving everyone in word and deed. 

A few Bible snippets for your consideration: 

“When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who resides with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God.” Leviticus 19: 33-34

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger, and you welcomed me…” Matthew 25:35

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25: 40. 

“And people will come from east and west, from north and south, and recline at the table in the kingdom of God.” Luke 13:29.

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’[a] 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:36-40

“Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the foreigner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” Zechariah 7: 9-10

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16

These are only a few of the many verses that suggest that Jesus would treat undocumented immigrants (and all people) with compassion. Grace. Open arms. Offers of assistance. Genuine concern. Joyful welcome.

When God loved the world, he didn’t just mean America. When he told us to love our neighbor, he wasn’t referring solely to the upper-middle class individuals who were raised in our hometown, attend the same church, and hold exactly the same political and social opinions.

I’m pretty sure Jesus would wrap his arms around José and say, “You’re my child. Come on over. Let me share these loaves with you.” 


Addison Cooper October 23, 2013 at 4:29 pm

Thanks for encouraging people to think more broadly.
Addison Cooper recently posted..Family Movie NightMy Profile

Comments on this entry are closed.

Previous post:

Next post: