Thursday, April 20, 2006

A Few Final Thoughts: How Christians Might Think About the Immigration Issue: Part 4

In the first three installments of this series, I've looked at the question of immigration policy in the United States through three Biblical windows:
  • The rule of law
  • The call to justice
  • The command to treat the alien with respect and the alien's obligation obey the laws of the nation to which they emigrate
As I've insisted from the beginning, I have no intention of recommending specific policies, wanting instead to suggest ways Christians might want to consider the current debate over illegal immigration and a stance toward immigration to this country generally. So, here are a few implications of our examination of the Word of God:

1. The Christian perspective on immigration is certainly consistent with American tradition. That is, Christians will want to welcome legal immigration to America.

A few weeks ago, I presided at a wedding held in another congregation's building facilities. The church had a wedding coordinator who, along with the organist, were amazingly helpful. Before the rehearsal, I asked the coordinator to tell me a little about herself. "Well, I was born in Germany, right after the war." she said. "But my mother died when I was a baby and the Lutheran Church brought me here. I've been here ever since." (The work of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service continues to be a proud ministry of mercy today.)

One of my wife's bosses grew up in rural northwestern England, close to Wales. As a teenager, she took a job as a nanny for the family of a young business executive from America. When the exec's company moved him back to the States, she was asked to come back with them. She was seventeen and within the first week, she met her future husband. She's been here for forty-two years now and has been married nearly as long. She and her husband have raised a family here. "I haven't become a citizen yet," she says with a twinkle in her eye. "I know I should. But I am legal. I've got a green card and everything."

At least twice a week, I get a dinner or a lunch at a nearby Chipotle's. Among the hard-working employees there are a number of immigrants from Mexico who sometimes take their breaks with their spouses and children in the restaurant dining area.

All of these people have found a new life in America and done so legally. They are contributing and productive members of our society. In their faces and their stories, I see the story of my own American ancestors: The red-headed, blue-eyed Irishwoman who was my great, great grandmother; the French Huegenots who settled in New Paltz, New York in the 1600s; and others.

It's both Christian and American to welcome people from around the globe to add their contributions to the stew that is the American melting pot.

2. As a sovereign nation, the United States has the right to establish firm rules on immigration, to safeguard its borders, and to regulate the activities of all who come into the country. Indeed, the US government owes it to its citizens to do this. This must include restricting the inflow of immigrants. It also includes deporting the estimated 12-million illegal residents in the US right now. And it includes enacting safeguards that will deter the efforts of would-be terrorists.

3. Americans and our government must be committed to understanding and dealing with the injustices which I believe lay behind illegal immigration. Among them:

A Mexican government willing to accept the departure of many of its citizens as a way of sidestepping reform of their economy and their government;

American businesses so driven by the bottom line that they willingly hire illegal workers, avoiding the extension of benefits to them, underpaying them, and subjecting them to multiple risks and dangers.

Just a few thoughts. I don't know what the answers are exactly. But I pray that we'll keep looking through these three windows as we pursue solutions. John Martin of Martin's Musings for linking to this and all four installments of the immigration series. Thanks also, John, for the kind words!

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