Religion and Immigration
It’s time to talk politics. As a pastor, and as one who fully respects the separation of church and state, I will not endorse a particular political candidate. I will say, however, that one’s convictions must enter the political arena and guide decisions. The idea that we should leave religion for the private sphere only and ignore religious convictions in public discussions is simply ridiculous. That is like saying that our personal circumstances should be ignored in when making political decisions. If we were to do so, most of our debates would simply disappear, for most involve personal circumstances in some way or another.
In the particular issue I seek to address here, I find myself informed both by my religious faith and my personal circumstances. The issue? The status of those, especially from
How does the Christian faith inform this? By a simple reading of the Bible. Over and over again, God’s people are urged to show hospitality to the sojourner, to the foreigner, to the one who is not part of the accepted in-group or those in power. This message is central to the Christian Gospel: God in Christ offers welcome and salvation to everyone, not just a chosen few. And how will all hear about the hospitality of God if they don’t see the hospitality of God’s people? Just can’t happen.
For me, the issue is also personal because of the huge issues my daughter-in-law faced as she has sought legal status in the
I wonder if many of us who enjoy
I was with them this past summer when they were finally granted their interview with the Department of Homeland Security after a very scary period when it looked like Adriana, pregnant again, would have to leave the
Since they didn’t know how long the interviews would take, I flew to
They spent several days preparing for this interview. Adriana compiled multiple photo albums, showing each of them with the families of their in-laws, along with wedding photos, honeymoon photos and baby photos. Jonathan printed off hundreds of pages of documentation, including all their travels, all phone calls, all correspondence concerning the situation. I grilled them with the kinds of questions interviewers used to trap those who had made a marriage of convenience but had no intention of actually honoring the marriage covenant. Each could recite the extensive family histories of the families they married into, name the brand of toothpaste the other used, and speak of multiple intimate details that married couples just know about each other.
On the morning of the interview, they groomed themselves into what I call their “magazine cover” look. They are both spectacularly beautiful—Jonathan the traditional tall, dark and handsome, and Adriana with her golden olive skin, slim, elegantly pregnant with son number two and lovely with her exotic Castilian Spanish heritage.
I send them off with my prayers, not expecting to see them for at least six hours, and got ready for a good day with my grandson.
Two hours later, they are back, faces joyful and relieved. When they were ushered into their interview, the official took one look at them and began to stamp their application “approved” before even asking a single question. The only documentation actually requested was their apartment lease. And so, Adriana, Green Card approval in hand, could finally begin working on achieving US Citizenship.
I tell this story knowing that these are two people of privilege. They are educated, sophisticated, fully bi-lingual, and motivated. Neither is willing in any way to do anything illegal. They had funds to hire an attorney. They had access to cameras, computers, printers, good records. They had huge family support and those in the extended family who knew some members of Congress personally. And they barely made it.
So I asked: what do our immigration policies say about us as a nation? Let’s face it, almost all of us come from immigrant stock unless we are full-blood native Americans. Many of our ancestors came over here desperately looking for a better life. Others were forced to this land by the practice of slavery. Most came in poverty, worked hard and lived frugally in pretty awful conditions, sent money back home, and in time brought other family members here. They came, holding onto their native languages as long as possible, while their children discarded those languages quickly while becoming fully Americanized.
This is our history. This is part of our greatness as a nation. A knee-jerk reaction to current immigration problems will only hurt us in the long run. Let us be both Christian in our hospitality and faithful to our national heritage in offering open borders and reasonable ways for legal status. That is how we stay a great nation. I implore you to keep these things in mind as we face this politically-charged and crucial election year.