Immigration and Evangelicalism are both deeply rooted in American history and culture. They are coming together in 2009 with new books and new calls for immigration reform.
On March 31 on Capitol Hill Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang released their book, “Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate.” It brings together the Bible’s teaching about attitudes and treatment of “aliens in the land” and traces the history of immigration and immigration policies in the United States. I was there to give my perspective.
Immigration laws have been changed repeatedly through more than two centuries of American government policy. It is time for another update. The reasons are many, including fairness, families and finances. Fairness because we have contradictory laws and unjust enforcement of those laws. Families because our present policies are dividing when we should be uniting. Finances because government agencies have fallen behind in implementing present policies as agencies are understaffed and underfunded.
A family lives near me and faces a frightening dilemma. They are in our country legally. She is an immigrant from Africa who is now an American citizen. Her son came as a young child and has grown up in American culture, schools and language. However, he will graduate from high school soon and will celebrate his eighteenth birthday when his status will change and he must return to Africa. He has no friends, family, home, job or language skills in the country of his birth. There must be a better way. The Dream Act is currently moving through the Congress to keep families together.
The issues are complex. They are not only about securing the borders, which is an important part of immigration policy and practice. They are not only about jobs, collecting taxes, earning citizenship, uniting families and reducing years of waiting. Immigration policy is about all these issues and more. It’s time to take a broad look and integrate immigration laws to make them fair and just and good.
Why is immigration policy important to evangelicals? Certainly because we believe what the Bible teaches about treatment of “aliens in the land.” It is also because so many Hispanic, African and Asian immigrants are evangelical Christians who are in our denominations and churches by the millions. They are us.