Sunday, November 15, 2009

Welcoming the Stranger review

I'm looking forward to discussing Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang) at Book Club tomorrow night. While I believe it to be an important issue, I've never looked in depth at the issue of immigration before, much less discerned what a biblical response might be. The book has a great many insights and the authors are skillful in examining all sides of the controversial matter. If only this could be required reading for anyone involved in (or wants to have an opinion about) immigration reform! Click here for a brochure of the most commonly asked questions about immigration.

Here are a few points/passages to ponder:
-"The present immigration dilemma, however, presents a special challenge, as Scripture's many references to immigrants never mention or consider their legal status- a concept which may not have applied during the biblical era, just as it did not apply during the early history of the United States, when there were practically no limits on immigration and when all immigrants were, as far the governing authority was concerned, legal. Indeed, many Christians would recognize that they should care for immigrants and refugees in a general sense, but they are troubled by the legal status issue and are not sure that they want to or should assist individuals whose presence in the United States is unlawful." (p. 107-8)
-Current laws make it very difficult to people to immigrate to the US, even as the economic and/or political situation makes life in their home country difficult, or in some cases, impossible to survive. Most undocumented immigrants are not eligible to enter the US legally because of their poverty; they often enter illegally so they can work and provide for their family. It is a catch-22.
-It's important to note that most immigrants work and pay taxes. However, most of them are ineligible for public benefits. However, their children may attend public primary and secondary school, they can be treated in an emergency at the hospital even if they can't pay, and they can use police, fire, and municipal services. Stephen Moore, an economist, did a study and found that the average immigrant (legal immigrant, refugee, and undocumented immigrant) pays about $80,000 more in taxes than he/she will receive in benefits over a lifetime. That's a nice benefit to the government, isn't it?
-Comprehensive Immigration Reform, as proposed by Congress in 2005 was defined by 4 principles: 1) Border protection policies consistent with humanitarian values, 2) Reforms in family-based immigration to reduce backlogs, 3) Creation of legal avenues for workers and their families, and 4) Earned legalization of undocumented immigrants (this would appear to appeal to those who are opposed to amnesty.)

I hope that you are sufficiently interested to read this book yourself. While Soerens and Hwang certainly advocate certain beliefs, they also allow room for those who would disagree. However, by examining the Bible and remembering God's mandate that we care for the widow, the poor, and the alien (multiple references), we may find our direction as the immigration debate continues.

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