Justice for Immigrants

Our Biblical tradition asserts that all nations and all peoples are under the jurisdiction of God, the One Sovereign. The Biblical witness to our common humanity underscores our responsibility to reach out to all persons regardless of national origin. When Solomon prayed for the people following the consecration of the Temple (I Kings 8) he embodied this ethic in his prayer: “When a foreigner who lives in a distant land hears of your fame and of the great things you have done for your people and comes to worship you and to pray at this Temple, listen to his prayer. In heaven, where you live, hear him and do what he asks you to do, so that all the peoples of the world may know you and obey you, as your people Israel do. Then they will know that this Temple I have built is the place where you are to be worshiped.” (I Kings 8:41-43, TEV)

Solomon’s sensitivity to the foreigner was faithful to the experience of Israel. Abraham and Sarah sojourned in a strange land. Jacob’s family fled Egypt to avoid famine. Ruth came to the foreign land of Israel out of loyalty to her mother-in-law. The words from the Exodus express the Law of the Lord requiring justice toward enemies: “Do not mistreat a foreigner; you know how it feels to be a foreigner, because you were foreigners in Egypt.” (I Kings 23:9, TEV)

The New Testament also paints a vivid picture of the connection between being a foreigner and faith. Jesus and his family escaped to avoid political persecution (and, most likely, death). Perhaps he remembered more than we know when he told the elect: “I was a stranger, and you took me in....” (Matthew 25:35). Paul was chased from more than one foreign city for preaching the Gospel. Philip left Jerusalem and converted the Ethiopian monarch. Priscilla and her husband Aquila left home to follow Paul in his missionary work.

In our nation, we have criminalized a class of people merely for their status as “undocumented” – not because they object to carrying documentation, but because our government refuses to give it them. Not only does this fly in the face of Biblical mandates for hospitality to the stranger, but it defiles the tradition on which this nation of immigrants achieved its greatness. In causing these immigrants to hide, it creates many problems for society, especially in the areas of public health, general welfare, education and employment. Immigrants are often exploited and preyed upon as they are fearful of going to the police. We want to end the marginalization of the undocumented, huddling in the shadows, barely surviving in fear, including many in our churches.

Immigrants have been invited to come to the United States to do all manner of work, often the most menial, to support our economy and provide necessary services that many citizens would not do. For this they are paid way below living or even minimum wages. However, they are given no services or legal protection and often are treated like criminals.

Immigration is driven, in part, by economic deprivation in the originating country. Low wages, unsafe working conditions, and the suffering they produce are exacerbated by American and other international corporations who actively seek to exploit the poor for their own profit.

We want security but not at the expense of people’s rights. Harsh and punitive treatment is beneath the dignity of the grandchildren of Abram. We believe in family values and want immigration reform that keeps families together, protects and reunites them, not tears them apart. We want a path toward permanence, living full and open lives, to those who contribute to our country’s economy and society.

These are moral issues which are ignored at our own peril.

Therefore, we urge that all proposed immigration legislation be carefully reviewed to ensure that certain terms and conditions, such as security of borders, waiting periods, penalties and fees do not impede the overall goal of a reform that is both comprehensive and just. In particular, we must insist that family unity, which must be a bedrock principle of immigration into this beloved nation of ours, be preserved and strengthened in all proposed legislation.

Adopted December 2007

 

 


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