Welcoming the Stranger: A Call for Just Immigration Reform

Update: As more reporting has been done on this issue, more accurate numbers have become available on the number of children separated from their parents. From April 19th-May 31st, 1995 children were separated according to Department of Homeland Security data. 
The Church of the Brethren has long acknowledged the Bible’s call for justice in immigration policy. Matthew 25:35 says, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me,” reminding us that our response to “the least of these” is just as important as the manner in which we would choose to treat Christ. As people of faith, it is essential that we respond to God’s call to welcome strangers, extend hospitality and recognize the inherent dignity of each human being. 
Yesterday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited the Bible in an attempt to justify the separation of children from their parents at the border as they flee violence, poverty and oppression in their home countries. Once separated from their parents, these children are held in detention centers. Over 500 children have been detained under this policy, putting them at risk for emotional trauma and abuse. 
This past spring, the world watched as the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program was rescinded, leaving hundreds of thousands of students and community members not knowing the future of their immigration status- despite having grown up in the United States. Erick, a Church of the Brethren member, shared his own story with us here. 
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) programs, which gave legal residence to people from nations facing violence or natural disaster, have also been cut. Some TPS holders have been in the country for decades, starting families and businesses, and will be forced to return to their original country if a pathway to citizenship is not created. The Haitian Church of the Brethren in Miami, Florida has been impacted by these policies, and you can read about the March for TPS they held here. 
The uncertainty, fear, and danger faced by immigrants impacted by these broken U.S. immigration policies is not acceptable. Our 1982 Annual Conference Statement on Undocumented Persons and Refugees in the United States calls for the United States government to adopt legislation and policies “which welcome and promote the welfare of immigrants and refugees,” and “to bring about a general amnesty for those people who once entered the United States as ‘undocumented aliens’ but have settled peacefully among their neighbors.” 
As people of faith, we urge the United States government to fix its broken immigration system. U.S. policies must be compassionate and just, and recognize the importance of strong families and communities. The Bible condemns those who exploit immigrants (Ezekiel 22:7), and instead calls for us to love those who are foreigners (Deuteronomy 10:19). Immigrants continue to make valuable contributions to the country, and each human being who enters the United States deserves to be treated with compassion. 

8 thoughts on “Welcoming the Stranger: A Call for Just Immigration Reform

  1. 1 John 3:16-18 New International Version (NIV)
    This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. 17 If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? 18 Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

  2. It’s sad when biblical compassion is confused with a”leftist agenda” or any political agenda.. We as Christians and Brethren must witness to policy makers when their words and acts work against our long held values.

  3. Oh my goodness, Ron Spurgeon!

    With the extraordinary long wait for LEGAL immigration which has recently been made even much longer, don’t you think we should show some compassion to these people who have nothing and who are having their children taken from them which will eventually cause many more problems both for them and for us? What do you think Jesus would do?

    Fortunately, it seems that MOST of the people in the U.S. believe that we need to be more compassionate now. Even our president has reversed his position and taken a more compassionate attitude. I have always been an independent voter, so political party means nothing to me. Biblical instruction is by far the most important guidance we have and I pray that we all try to do as Jesus would do in these situations.

    Would Jesus separate children from their mothers who are escaping terrible circumstances and who have no resources? When you separate a child from his or her mother in a country where the child doesn’t speak the language and has no ability to get to his or her mother, how do you think that child might feel?

    Ron Spurgeon, is this how you want these innocent children to feel? I understand you may want to punish the parents for breaking our law, but that is not the question. The question addresses the least of us – the children, in this case.

    John E. Hagni
    John and Brenda Hagni

  4. Dear Ron,
    Did you read the official 1982 Annual Conference statement on “Undocumented Persons and Refugees in the United States”? This document was adopted by the annual conference and is the basis for the Church of the Brethren’s policy on refugees and immigration. Which is exactly why this is church business and why Victoria wrote her article. I think that as a Christian and a member of the Church of the Brethren we can all agree that attacking each other for having a leftist or a conservative agenda will do nothing to solve the problems with our immigration system.
    Dave Midgley

  5. To Ron Spurgeon: I am not commenting pro or con on your opinions, but am asking you to be less angry (Caps) and confrontational when replying to Victoria. If you are a member of the COB you certainly are familiar with our stance on love and respect toward all.

  6. I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me. Matthew 25:43-45

  7. Thank You, Victoria, for speaking on my behalf as a member of the Church of the Brethren. Treatment of refugees should not be a political issue, but a moral one. When we see desperate people arriving at our borders, we should promoting compassionate treatment. “Chain Migration” used to be called “Family Migration” and was the mechanism by which my family came to America. A big percentage of U.S. voters do not believe that building a wall is the solution to our Immigration woes. I hold to the belief that COB values peacemaking and working for consensus and I hope that consensus comes out on the side of a just and compassionate immigration change.

  8. Victoria,
    You have misled your readership on multiple levels.
    1) If a family chooses to enter LEGALLY through a port of entry, they are NOT separated from their children. PERIOD. THey are required to stay in Mexico until their petition for asylum is reviewed. Granted, not all those who petition are granted asylum. (example, spousal abuse isn’t grounds for asylum, IN ANY COUNTRY!)
    2) IF a family chooses to enter ILLEGALLY and gets caught, they are IMMEDIATELY given a choice. Be returned to Mexico WITH THEIR CHILDREN or petition for asylum which they will be required to separate from their children since they will be prosecuted for breaking federal law by entering illegally. (Not to mention that many “parents” are not even the childs parents and only using them for convenience).
    3) TPS was created for TEMPORARY resident status in the USA while home country problems were resolved such as hurricanes, storms, etc. The Trump administration is just putting TPS back to a policy that it was originally intended to be.
    4) you are demanding our broken immigration be fixed. So am I and so is Trump Administration. The Trump administration has repeatedly asked for DACA legislation that provides a path to legally stay in America, IF funding is provided for a wall (which will force legal entry and stop the arguments we are all having), stop chain immigration, and stop the lottery immigration. Democrats have declined to agree to this. Even your previous communique demanding a “CLEAN” DACA bill was an insult. I suggest you take your demands to the Democrats and get them to agree to the Trump bill.

    In summary, you have no business taking up this issue as “Church of the Brethren” business. Instead you are USING the COB as a personal vehicle to promote your own leftist agenda. Most of the COB membership would appreciate it if you would stop it.

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