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Opportunity. This one word summarizes the reasons people choose to migrate to the U.S. From the time European explorers “discovered” what is now the United States through colonization, the war for independence, and the nation’s development that continues today, people have chosen to migrate here for this reason. The United States of America is a haven from persecution, a land of freedom and liberty that offers opportunity for the betterment of families, education, and economic improvement.

We are a nation of immigrants, a country created entirely by people who came from elsewhere. Even the people we call Native Americans originally came from elsewhere. If you are an American there is no question of whether or not your family immigrated here; the question is when?

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor…

An inscription on the Statue of Liberty includes these words from an Emma Lazarus sonnet, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” To an infant nation with a vast expanse of undeveloped territory, the global masses of people desiring to escape economic deprivation and political and religious persecution were a natural fit. The USA needed them and they needed the USA.

Sofus and Anna Bach, my Danish grand-parents, were among the throngs of people who entered this nation through Ellis Island. Sofus found an opportunity to work in a blacksmith shop, and eventually became its owner. The couple raised two sons and became zealous patriots. They were proud when one son, my father, served the United States Army in the South Pacific during World War II. I am a loyal, third generation American who also delights in my Danish heritage.

By the end of World War II and into the twenty-first century, the USA had become the most dominant and prosperous nation in the world. The nation’s voracious appetite for economic growth intensified its allure to immigrants looking for economic betterment and escape from political persecution. Some immigrants patiently pursued legal entrance. Many did not (the legal process for immigration is arduous, expensive, and discouragingly difficult). The lure of opportunity, fear for their lives in their home country, pressure to provide for families, and the eager readiness of American employers to offer low-paying jobs without citizenship documentation intensified the volume. Although the number of unauthorized immigrants entering this nation has stabilized, it is estimated to be between 12 and 20 million people. What should be done about this mass of people has become a major and often contentious issue. Many sincere people, including Christians, have strong views on the matter.

The Big Question

The question before the United States is what to do about these 12 to 20 million people who are not here legally. “Send them all back!” is unrealistic at this point. The estimated cost of sending all unauthorized immigrants away, even if it were possible, would be over $250 billion. A number of the families would be torn apart because their children who were born here are U.S. citizens. Additionally many small employers, the economic backbone of the nation, would go out of business if they lost so many of their laborers. What to do?

Please allow me to challenge your thinking and, more important, your heart about this issue. While Christians come from a range of political persuasions, we must take care that we do not first view and evaluate immigration or other issues through the eyes of a specific political party or interest group. According to a 2010 Pew Research Center poll, only 12 percent of white evangelicals say their faith primarily influences their opinions about immigration. The vast majority are more influenced by their favorite cable news personality.

This stunning revelation must grieve the Lord. “Holy Spirit, speak to our hearts!” Rather than starting with a political view about immigration, Christians need to begin with hearts of compassion and be guided by a biblical view. Politics should not hold our hearts hostage. As Pastor Rick Warren says, “A good Samaritan doesn’t stop and ask the injured person, ‘Are you legal?’”

The Bible and Foreigners

Dr. M. Daniel Carroll R. (Rodas), distinguished professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary, emphasizes the following biblical admonitions and immigration parallels with Israel:

Migration is so central to the Bible that it provides a picture of the Christian life! 1 Peter 2:11 tells us that all Christians are sojourners, strangers in a strange land (also note Phil. 3:20; Heb. 13:14; Eph. 2:11-22). In other words, Christians are migrants on this earth. Foreigners were to have proper rest from their work like everyone else (Exod. 20:10; 23:12; Deut. 5:14) and receive a fair wage on time (Deut. 24:14-15). Law courts were to be fair and impartial to these outsiders (Deut. 1:16-17; 24:17-18; 27:19). There also were provisions for food in times of hunger (Lev. 19:9-10; Deut. 14:28-29; 24:19-22). Even more impressive was the command to allow foreigners to participate in Israel’s worship, the most precious part of their culture (Exod. 12:45-49; Lev. 16:29). The number and openness of Israel’s laws for foreigners is unique among all ancient law codes.

There were expectations for the outsiders, too. They would have had to learn Israel’s laws and speak the language to work and take part in the religious life of Israel (Deut. 31:8-13). The Israelites were to love foreigners as themselves, just as they were to love their neighbors as themselves (Lev. 19:18, 33-34). Their history also was a motivation to treat them well (Exod. 22:21; 23:9; Deut. 24:17-18). Most important, they were to care for the foreigner, because God loves them (Deut. 10:17-19; 24:14-15).

Israel’s laws reached out to foreigners because of its history (the U.S. is a nation of immigrants!) and the heart of God. How might our laws exhibit charity towards the needy from elsewhere?

Our Government

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I have joined over 1,200 American Evangelical leaders in calling upon Congress and the President to implement immigration reform. We can’t remain where we are, yet that is where we are stuck.

We call for a bipartisan solution to immigration that:

• Respects the God-given dignity of every person

• Protects the unity of the immediate family

• Respects the rule of law

• Guarantees secure national borders

• Ensures fairness to taxpayers

• Establishes a reasonable path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents.

A path toward legal status is not amnesty, which is an offense to thousands of immigrants who complied with all of the requirements to become citizens. Many undocumented immigrants would like to become citizens but do not see any hope of legalizing their status under current law. We can create realistic pathways so undocumented immigrants can earn citizenship, beginning with the 40 percent of them who actually entered the USA legally but remained after their temporary visas expired.

What Can You Do?

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Allow the Holy Spirit to sensitize and fill your heart with love for people who are living in our country fearful of deportation, separation from their children, imprisonment, and that which awaits them in their countries of origin. They simply want for their families what you and I want. They agonize over the fact that they are here illegally. They are usually very hard-working people – adding to our economy instead of taking from it – asking virtually nothing from our nation while offering their labor to it at bargain rates.

You can also pray for immigrants. Ask the Lord if He wants you to provide a place of worship and fellowship for them. Please note the story about Pastor James and Shannon Banke, how they prayed for a connection with a Hispanic group. As a result, God has used them! And you can befriend and extend simple, basic kindness to people who may be undocumented, but without frightening them by asking about their legal status. When I asked Pastor Trujillo what native born Americans can do, he said, “Pray that you can see people through God’s eyes.”

Our government currently remains deadlocked, unable to deal with undocumented immigrants. You and I can serve as the loving, outstretched hands of Jesus. What would Jesus do? We already know – He commanded us to love your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). While political forces debate the fate of undocumented immigrants, this nation needs people who will lead by being like Jesus. Will you be one of those people? It begins in the heart, not with politics.

1 Church Leader’s Guide to Immigration, by World Relief, 2014.
2 Aren’t Undocumented Immigrants a Drain on the Economy? http://g92.org/find-answers/economics
3 Why Don’t They Just Immigrate the Legal Way? http://g92.org/find-answers/process
4 Why Don’t They Just Learn English? http://g92.org/find-answers/english

To learn more about immigration go to http://www.thestrangerfilm. org.  See the trailer below:
 

About The Author

Randall Bach
President of Open Bible Churches

Randall Bach delights in opportunities to serve the Lord, including his current assignment as president of Open Bible Churches. He and Barbara, his wife, have been in ministry for over 40 years and call it “Our adventure together.” Randall loves the church, pastors, and church leaders and is convinced that God loves to work through them to make disciples, develop leaders, and plant churches.