Faith and Immigration Part I: The Immigration Table and the 40-Day "I Was a Stranger" Challenge
I am hopeful. This past week we’ve experienced an openness to comprehensive, and compassionate, immigration reform in the United States that we have not seen in more than 25 years. (This post was originally published shortly after President Obama was re-elected). “Comprehensive” immigration reform means a change in immigration policy which recognizes the huge economic contributions made by undocumented immigrants to our economy (to the tune of some $2.4 trillion a year) by providing them with a pathway to legal residency and citizenship; at the same time, this approach is also “comprehensive” in so far as it still recognizes that border security is a legitimate concern. Ironically, the last time the U.S. passed this type of comprehensive immigration reform was in 1986 under the leadership of Ronald Reagan (a hero to many present-day opponents of such reform). On Monday, an influential bipartisan team of senators known as the “gang of eight,” put forth a plan for comprehensive immigration reform, and on Tuesday, President Obama presented a similar plan. In response to the walloping that Republicans experienced by Latino voters (like myself) in the recent presidential election, there’s been a complete about-face in U.S. politics related to immigration reform. Many Republican and Democratic politicians realize that their harsh stance on immigration reform has disaffected millions of Latino voters, and they are eager to get that vote back. In fact, according to a recent poll, 76% of conservative Republicans now favor comprehensive immigration reform.
I am also hopeful because of the proactive stance that the evangelical Christian church in America has taken to promote compassionate immigration reform. Yea! I’ve been waiting a long time for this. I’m particularly inspired by the Evangelical Immigration Table (http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/)
and its 40-Day “I Was A Stranger Challenge.”
The Immigration Table consists of a broad evangelical coalition including: the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE) in Orange County, the Christian Community Development Association, Sojourners, the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief, Bread for the World, and the Southern Baptist Denomination. In support of their position, they have put together the following “Evangelical Statement of Principles for Immigration Reform”:
“Our national immigration laws have created a moral, economic and political crisis in America. Initiatives to remedy this crisis have led to polarization and name calling in which opponents have misrepresented each other’s positions as open borders and amnesty versus deportations of millions. This false choice has led to an unacceptable political stalemate at the federal level at a tragic human cost.
As evangelical Christian leaders, we call for a bipartisan solution on 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 path toward legal status and/or citizenship for those who qualify and who wish to become permanent residents
We urge our nation’s leaders to work together with the American people to pass immigration reform that embodies these key principles and that will make our nation proud.”
Good job Evangelical Christian Table! As an Asian-Latino, Chican@ and Asian American Studies follower of Jesus, I can now proudly say that the church in America has stepped up to the plate to pass immigration reform that is consistent with God’s amazing love and concern for immigrants. Yea!!!
To read the original statement and the long list of signatories from many cross-cultural and denominational backgrounds, go to: (http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/). On the website you can also sign a post-election letter to President Obama and Congress urging them to pass compassionate, comprehensive immigration reform now!
I also strongly encourage you to take the 40-Day I Was A Stranger challenge! For more information and a free “kit” that you can download, go to: (http://evangelicalimmigrationtable.com/). You can do the challenge on your own, or with friends. The first part of the challenge consists of reading 40 different Bible verses about immigration—one a day for 40 days. Along with this reading, you are urged to pray for compassionate immigration reform. As the second part of this challenge, you are asked to contact your local Congressperson, ask for a meeting, and encourage them to take the 40-day challenge and implement compassionate immigration reform!
Inspired by hope, I’m launching this 40-day series of blogs about Faith and Immigration. More soon…
Robert Chao Romero