Thank you to everyone who responded last time, both at Enter the Rainbow and 7 Villages. Great stuff! Respectful disagreements and thoughtful responses were the rule, and there were many, many helpful insights.
I want to comment on one specific thread of conversation that came up over on 7 Villages. My friend Rob wrote, "Immigration and immigrants are not "hot buttons" with anyone I know, but "illegal" immigration would come much closer to a hot button." Another commenter had made a similar remark earlier in the thread, also.
I do not have vast experience with the immigration system in the United States, but of the five families I know through the church who have immigrated to this country, four have had setbacks with the system. In all four cases, the people had followed all of the rules according to the advice they had been given, done everything they were supposed to do, and still had troubles. It is an expensive, time-consuming, unimaginably stressful process to immigrate legally.
The immigration issue, as I have experienced it, is not just a legal issue, it is not only a racial or ethnic issue, it is not so much a patriotic issue. Immigration is a class issue. If you can afford the thousands of dollars it takes to immigrate legally, you're fine. If you have the luxury to expend the hours and hours, months, and even years it takes to immigrate legally, no problem. But if you are poor, and every bit of money you earn has to go toward things like food, clothing, and shelter, and the prospect of taking time off of work in order to maneuver through the bureaucy of the immigration system would mean you lose your job, then yes, immigration reform is a "hot button" issue.
People who immigrate to the United States are routinely exploited by employers who consider them nothing more than a cheap, expendable resource. Further, unethical agents gouge immigrants for exorbitant fees with the false promise of good advice and a helping hand. The list goes on: families are separated from one another, illness and injury often go untreated out of fear - immigration can be a frightening, daunting, dehumanizing experience.
And so I want to move the church's conversation about immigration away from the abstract and toward the personal. Instead of policies, systems, and border fences, I think the church ought to be talking about relationships, people, and shared experiences. Christ asks his disciples to notice especially the condition of the poor, the oppressed, the outcast. As followers of Christ, we need to affirm and embody the truth that every person is worth something in God's eyes, every person is in fact a beloved child of God. Yes, I believe the system is unwieldy and in need of reform, but as we work to make the system more just, we must not neglect the call to be in loving relationship with each of God's children.
After all, upon which is the church called to focus - one's relationship with the United States government, or one's relationship with God through Christ Jesus?
Make Room--A Sermon for Christmas Eve
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