April 1, 2006

Christ and Immigration

Filed under: Random Stuff — Bob Gifford @ 3:35 pm

Amidst all the gnashing of teeth regarding U.S. immigration, what are we as Christians to think on the issue? The secular media is full of bilious blowhards demagoguing about our broken borders. Immigration is dividing the Republican party between the hard-liners and the compromisers. Meanwhile, over a million people took to the streets.

So what does our Christian faith have to say on the subject? I can’t see any biblical or theological basis for us to do anything but welcome immigrants, legal or illegal, with open arms. Jesus commands us to care for the least of these, and to love our neighbors whether Anglo, Latino or Samaritan. The Minutemen may think that they are patriots, but they certainly aren’t acting out of a Christian faith.

Some are against liberalizing immigration on economic grounds, arguing that illegal immigration results in huge social services costs. First, the economic research on this issue shows that immigration is a financial wash. But secondly, as Christians, are we going to withhold social services based on nationality or ethnicity? Does an American citizen’s life count for more in the eyes of God than an immigrant’s? Are we arguing that the wealthiest nation on the face of the planet can’t afford, or won’t afford, to educate and provide health care to families working inside its borders?

Of course security in a post-9/11 world is a concern, even though the 9/11 hijackers entered the country legally. But a guest-worker program would solve this problem as much as a closed border, and it’s hard to argue that a 700-mile fence would be as cost-effective a security measure as securing our ports, which still hasn’t been done. I can’t help but think the security concern is a cover for the real issue — keeping “them” out.

So where are Christians in the current debate? As usual, the mainline protestants are front and center for a compassionate approach to immigration. There are some evangelical voices speaking out for just immigration reform, but others are silent:

So far, Rodriguez has been the most prominent evangelical calling on lawmakers to rethink their priorities. Many of the high-profile religious right leaders have refrained from endorsing his view, a silence Rodriguez thinks is motivated less by disagreement than by reluctance to offend GOP allies.

Perhaps I’m post-patriotic, in fact I’m sure of it, but I just can’t see that God wants us to keep our wealth to ourselves, our culture exclusively Anglo, or our ethnicity predominantly European. We have a myth of America as a City on a Hill, but that was a myth brought to America by immigrants, and Latino immigrants will only bring us closer to its realization.

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