If you read Daniel Carroll’s book, you’re probably pretty convinced that as followers of Jesus we need to be showing hospitality and welcome to immigrants. Maybe even if they are here without paperwork. But then, there are probably one-thousand other questions you have:
Does helping undocumented immigrants (‘illegal immigrants’) mean that I am breaking the law? If I help someone find a house or food, or teach them ESL, am I guilty of breaking the law? (No.)
Undocumented workers should leave the USA and then wait their turn in line to get a visa, shouldn’t they? (Well… first, the minute they leave the US they will trigger a 10 year prohibition to re-enter. Imagine if you’re a Mom with three children born in the USA who are citizens? Second, the “lines” to get back in are astronomically long for unskilled laborers. People could wait years and years, and in some cases, there is no legal way for them to enter and work).
Aren’t lots of immigrants bad for our economy? Don’t they steal jobs from poor people? (Short answer: No, although at a local level they can sometimes hurt the economy, at a federal and large-scale, they always help the economy).
Well, aren’t undocumented workers hurting the economy because they’re providing super cheap labor? (If there was a process for workers with low-level skills to work legally, they would. This would force employers to pay them the minimum wage. There’s also a false dichotomy that is set up between poor US citizens and immigrants “stealing jobs”. In a globalized economy, immigrants who are willing to work for low pay keep corporations in the US rather than outsourcing).
Don’t undocumented workers drain our social services? They get paid in cash so they don’t pay taxes and so don’t they suck from the system, right? (No. The majority of undocumented workers are using forged social security cards, so they are paying taxes, but unable to reap any benefits. They also pay sale tax every time they purchase things, and by renting or owning property, they contribute to the housing taxes. It’s debatable whether they put pressure on education and emergency healthcare systems).
Most Hispanic immigrants don’t want to learn English, right? (No, studies conclusively show that as with most immigrant groups, while the parents may struggle to learn English, their children generally learn quickly. By the second and third generation, immigrants are all fluent in English. Even first generation immigrants want to learn English, they see it’s importance in getting a good job).
These are just some of the kinds of questions that Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate by Matthew Sorens and Jenny Hwang Yang answers. This book is full of practical answers to common questions, and is based on quality research. It’s written in a very readable, accessible way.
The book also makes some general points that we should look for when we’re lobbying for immigration reform. The chapter at the end tracks the progression of different bills for immigration reform, however the edition I was reading came out around the time of Obama’s election, and so it didn’t have any recent information. However, basically there’s been no real immigration reform since the time the book came out in 2008 anyway.
- Talk to your church leaders about showing the film “The Stranger” (the preview is embedded in this post, and going to www.thestrangerfilm.org will allow you to download the film. There are also group discussion guides.
- Check out evangelicalimmigrationtable.com for resources, statistics, and stories.
- Take the 40-day “I was a stranger” challenge. Go to this website to print off a 40-day prayer guide. Get your small group or church involved.
- World Relief has reams of resources for learning about immigration, immigration reform, and connecting your churches with this issue. Visit welcomingthestranger.com.
- The book Welcoming the Stranger outlines what is meant by comprehensive immigration reform. This includes: making it easier for people to get legal visas, a path to residence/citizenship for undocumented workers (not amnesty, but a path that involves learning English, paying fines, showing they haven’t committed crimes etc), and have secure borders, as well as keeping families together.
- Phone your representative. Tell them you want them to focus on comprehensive immigration reform. There are extremist groups who literally shut down the phones by calling incessantly whenever immigration reform comes up. We’re a democracy. Your representative wants to vote the way their constituents want them to. Don’t let the loud, crazy people swing votes. Make your voice heard. (Here’s a tool you can use to look up your representative). PS the first time I ever phoned my representative was in college about this issue. If I can do it, you can do it. 🙂
- Start an ESL (English as a Second Language) group at your church.
- Visit immigranthope.org to learn how best to help immigrants you know, and as well as to connect immigrants to legal help. They also have some great resources, and have a great emphasis on caring for immigrants as whole people, and not seeing people only in light of their immigration status.