Roughly about 34 million lawful immigrants live within the United States and approximately 1 million unauthorized immigrants currently possess temporary permission to live and work through DACA (Consideration of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). This proposal, like so many others, have perimeters and guidelines that govern the lawful status of those undocumented. Since the Immigration Act of 1924, we have seen a shift in the nation’s immigration system that has deemphasis family reunification and employment-based migration but instead has relied on a point-based system that must meet certain educational and employment criteria. This seems to challenge what the Gospel writer states, “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…” (Matt. 25:35). The hardships listed in this narrative are mentioned four times as a guiding principle to demonstrate acts of kindness and afford the invitation that carries with it no limitations.
The “Dreamers” are those of a younger generation that was impacted by the ending of the DACA & DREAM program that innocently grew up and self-identify as Americans but had no idea they were considered unauthorized. This act would have provided a gateway into citizenship but instead, the DACA program ended with this administration. Currently, the federal legislative proposal has introduced the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R. 2820) that would provide current, former and future undocumented graduates a three-step process to citizenship via college, work or the military. We are to love the resident alien as was commanded by God to the Israelites since they were once in the same situation in the land of Egypt (Lev. 19:33-34). Instead, we place restrictions and terms to gain lawful permanent or conditional residence. This, however, doesn’t fit from a theological standpoint if we are all under the same law and rules for both the foreigner and native-born (Lev. 24:22; Num.15:15-16).
“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in…”
Each year many green cards are issued through a program called the U.S Diversity Visa program. Nearly, 50,000 individuals receive their visas based on a lottery system, but this program is proposed to be eliminated. H-1B visas are awarded to those who are considered high-skilled foreign workers and account for a quarter of the visas issued, but this has slowly decreased in an attempt to dissolve the program. According to the book of Romans, we read, “Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Rom. 12:13). The New Testament reiterates the dimension of our Christian love through the practice of hospitality. Shelter and food are provided to the visitor and the apostle Paul admonishes the reader to “pursue it” making it a habit of the heart to go out our way for the traveler. This follows the next chapter that many refer to as a defense for opposing immigration reform, but a closer exegetical observation reinforces that “every” soul is subjected to the governing authorities (Rom. 13:1-2).
Another aspect of immigration policy is the enforcement of border security and the enactment of reforms that will hire and pay more personnel to ensure retention at the border. This full implementation of security incudes a “smart border” expansion that utilizes information technology targeting individuals who may possess a risk at entry points. DHS (Department of Homeland Security) is taking certain precautions towards those imposing danger to the welfare of these United States. Executive orders and presidential proclamations have been addressing these issues that not only separate “Alien Families” but provided only temporary detention policies for families entering the country illegally. When barriers are built instead of bridges how can reconciliation find its voice? Paul makes the argument in the book of Ephesians that God is our peace and has reconciled his people towards himself and each other. Those of Jewish and Gentile birth can now proclaim this peace where a barrier was once existent. The death of Christ eliminates the need for division among society and calls for the refreshing of the foreigner living alongside us (Ex. 23:12).
“Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality”
The current administration has proposed a two-part plan for immigration reform that includes full border security and creates a new merit-based legal immigration system. This would allow for the restoration and modernization of a new legal immigration process that will protect American workers and promote national unity. The big idea of this proposal sounds promising but must be viewed within a microscope that intends to reap a bountiful harvest. The book of Leviticus clearly says, “Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the foreigner. I am the LORD your God” (Lev. 19:9-10). The gleaning by the poor was one of the numbers of laws according to the Pentateuch that helped to relieve the plight of the poor and resident alien. This law entitled them to food each year at the expense of those more abundantly wealthy in society. We as a country can begin to learn and adapt to reconstruct our laws for the benefit of welcoming the stranger among us and enjoy peace between our borders.