Linda Jimenez made straight As, led her high school in the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, participated in extracurricular activities and never got into any trouble at school.
Her first semester at Dalton State College, she achieved a perfect 4.0 grade point average. How inspiring and American. That’s one less young person we have to worry about, it would seem.
Unfortunately, Georgia Senate Bill 458, which passed the Senate earlier this month and has now passed the House judiciary committee, would reward Linda by kicking her out of school.
With this bill, state Sen. Barry Loudermilk seeks to prevent undocumented students from attending any public colleges in Georgia. The House should kill this bill because it’s bad government, it’s unchristian and it’s demagogic bullying.
The bill is bad government in part because it’s redundant: the General Assembly already acted on immigration last year, speaking with a strong and stern voice.
Why beat a dead horse? Turn the page! Follow the example of Arizona, which moved on to new topics in the legislative session after it passed its immigration bill.
SB 458 also overreaches legislatively, seeking to do the job of Georgia’s executive branch for it. The State Board of Regents, not the General Assembly, oversees Georgia’s university system.
Our legislators should respect the venerated principle of separation of powers and let the Board of Regents do its job.
The bill is, quite frankly, unchristian and hypocritical. Southern Republicans generally, and Loudermilk specifically, like to portray themselves as defenders of the faith, championing Christian values against what they tell us is a dangerous onslaught of secular values. But then they push legislation that runs directly contrary to Scripture.
Leviticus 19:33-34 tells us to “love the alien living among you as yourself. Treat him as one of your own.”
As a teacher of countless undocumented students over the years, I’ve found this divine Scripture very easy to follow because my students have been so easy to love, to see as my own children.
In Galatians 6:22-23, the apostle Paul tells us that the fruits of a Christian spirit include “love, kindness, gentleness and goodness.”
SB458 isn’t loving, good, kind or gentle to the least of our brothers, our own most vulnerable, the children of undocumented immigrants. The bill is profoundly less Christian than Linda Jimenez is American.
Linda and other undocumented students are attending noncompetitive colleges and are not taking seats from American citizens.
Therefore, SB458 serves no purpose other than to score cheap political points, hurt the weak and demagogue a controversial issue by playing on people’s fears.
As Latino advocate Jerry Gonzalez argues, SB458 is bullying pure and simple: the strong hurting the weak because they can.
I’d like to add that in research on bullying, it’s been shown that the key players are neither the bully nor the victim but the bystanders, those who either step in for the victim or don’t.
This is really a story as old as Scripture: in the gospels the “rock of faith” Simon Peter lost the courage to stand with Christ in the darkest hour; in the McCarthy era, too many lives were ruined before the bully was called out; and in “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King Jr. more deeply lamented the silence of the moderate than the brutality of the racist.
It’s our turn now, and in this case there are two key sets of bystanders. First are Republican legislators who know that SB458 is wrong but stand to lose prestige and influence if they offend their colleagues. Do they have the courage?
Second are us, as we battle our own cynicism concerning our ability to influence our leaders and the governmental process. Do we have the faith?
Paul seeks to assuage our doubt in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time there will be a harvest if we do not give up.”
Sean McKenzie teaches high school in Calhoun, Ga., and works with Latino and church groups on immigration issues.