Segregated Churches and Immigration

My latest article for Out of Ur went up a few days ago.  In it I attempted to show how the critical need for comprehensive immigration reform offers the American church an opportunity to live up to our calling in some significant ways.  Given how polarizing these issues can be, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the (mostly) thoughtful comments left by that blog’s readers; a small sign perhaps of the growing conviction among Evangelicals of the pressing need for immigration reform.

The NAE on Immigration Reform

The National Association for Evangelicals recently released a position paper on immigration.  Because this group represents many within the hard-to-categorize evangelical subculture, this paper is especially noteworthy.  While the paper points out the illegality of undocumented immigration, it takes a mostly sympathetic view of the experience of many undocumented immigrants.

The following paragraph impresses for its acknowledgment of immigration’s many causes and the injustices faced by many for whom illegally crossing the border seems the only option.

Due to the limited number of visas, millions have entered the United States without proper documentation or have overstayed temporary visas.  While these actions violate existing laws, socioeconomic, political, and legal realities contribute to the problematic nature of immigration. Society has ignored the existence of an unauthorized work force due to the economic benefits of cheap immigrant labor. Without legal status and wary of reporting abuses, immigrants can be mistreated and underpaid by employers. Deportation of wage-earners has separated families and complicated the situation for many. Most undocumented immigrants desire to regularize their legal status, but avenues to assimilation and citizenship are blocked by local, state, and federal laws. This has generated an underground industry for false documentation and human smuggling.

The paper closes with a call to action that includes seven points.  It’s interesting that all but the first are directed at the government.  Is this an acknowledgment that immigration reform must take place on the national level, or a cop-out for the role local churches could play in this pursuit of justice?  I’m not sure.

  • That immigrants be treated with respect and mercy by churches. Exemplary treatment of immigrants by Christians can serve as the moral basis to call for government attitudes and legislation to reflect the same virtues.
  • That the government develop structures and mechanisms that safeguard and monitor the national borders with efficiency and respect for human dignity.
  • That the government establish more functional legal mechanisms for the annual entry of a reasonable number of immigrant workers and families.
  • That the government recognize the central importance of the family in society by reconsidering the number and categories of visas available for family reunification, by dedicating more resources to reducing the backlog of cases in process, and by reevaluating the impact of deportation on families.
  • That the government establish a sound, equitable process toward earned legal status for currently undocumented immigrants, who desire to embrace the responsibilities and privileges that accompany citizenship.
  • That the government legislate fair labor and civil laws for all residing within the United States that reflect the best of this country’s heritage.
  • That immigration enforcement be conducted in ways that recognize the importance of due process of law, the sanctity of the human person, and the incomparable value of family.

The entire position paper is worth the five minutes it takes to read.

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