The State of Immigration


Last night, during the State of the Union, President Obama delivered the following words about the state of immigration reform:

Finally, if we’re serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, law enforcement — and fix our broken immigration system. … Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: When people come here to fulfill their dreams — to study, invent, contribute to our culture — they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everybody. So let’s get immigration reform done this year. Let’s get it done. It’s time.

I can’t remember a State of the Union address that didn’t include similar comments about immigration reform. The pessimist in me says that it’s simply rhetoric designed to win approval. (And, to be fair, I’ve had this perspective no matter who has been President.) Although I know he’s not a moralist or theologian, I find his statements to provide an interesting cultural commentary. Let’s fix the broken immigration system because it’ll help the economy. OK. I guess. Aren’t there more compelling reasons to fix the system?

I’ve had strong feelings on immigration for some time. They were probably present when I was a teenager, but they certainly solidified when I lived in Mexico City for three months in 1998. While serving at a home for orphans on the outskirts of that massive city, I saw firsthand why our Mexican neighbors are flooding our borders. Many of the families I met (families living in squalor) were being supported by husbands and fathers who were forced to flee to America in search of jobs. After returning to America, I’ve met many men in similar situations who work incredibly hard to sent the vast majority of their earnings to families back home in Mexico.

They don’t call America “the land of opportunity” for nothing.

I’ll be happy when politicians finally agree on how to fix our broken immigration system. But, until then, I’m more challenged by the concept of my role and the American Church’s role in fixing the problem for individuals who have immigrated or who will soon immigrate. What should we do about the issue beyond voting for the right representatives in November. Certainly, there’s more that we can do. I wonder what would happen if the individuals, church leaders and whole congregations would wrestle questions like:

  1. What does the Bible teach about immigration?
  2. What could churches do to help the immigrants in their communities?
  3. What would happen if churches developed direct partnerships with other churches  in places like Mexico, Africa, Eastern Europe or elsewhere?
  4. What thoughts, biases and attitudes are present in my heart that are keeping me from having a godly perspective and taking godly action on this issue?

To me, these are compelling questions, questions to which I intend to return in the near future. I believe they are a massive social justice issue of our time and that churches and Christian individuals have an opportunity to act in a way that redeems the situation and makes God’s glory evident to everyone—no matter where they came here from.

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