Monday, March 20, 2006

Compassion, not Criminalization in Immigration Reform!

"I was a stranger and you welcomed me," (Matthew 25:35).

Immigration is a deeply relevant issue for both Americans and Christians. The U.S. is a nation of immigrants, one that has been continually reshaped by new groups of people bringing diverse cultures, perspectives, and resources. Immigration is also a core issue for Christians: the biblical story continually shows God's concern for the migrant and the outcast. The early Hebrews were "strangers in the land of Egypt" and were asked to remember this heritage by protecting the strangers among them in the promised land. Similarly, throughout the New Testament, Christians are called to care for the outcast and the stranger.

The U.S. desperately needs to heed the biblical imperative to care for the stranger. Since the mid-‘90s, when the government established operations in San Diego, El Paso, and Arizona increasing fencing and border security, more than 2,500 people have died of dehydration and exhaustion crossing the desert into the U.S. In addition, thousands of immigrants who do make it into the U.S. are treated inhumanely by an increasingly militarized border security system of police, fences, and jails.

A common misconception exists that immigrants use up national resources. However, immigrants actually contribute $1,800 more on average in annual taxes than they receive in benefits, according to a 1997 study by the National Academy of Sciences. Immigrants pay local taxes through work, purchases, and housing, as well as direct federal taxes. Young immigrant workers contribute to Social Security through payroll taxes. Immigration is also key to a vital economy; in the U.S. immigrants add about $10 billion annually to the U.S. economy. Immigrants to the U.S., documented and undocumented, contribute a great deal to our national economy and government.

"The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19:34)

Links to organizations and resources providing more information on immigration reform:

National Immigration Forum

National Council of La Raza

American Friends Service Committee

U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

No More Deaths Campaign

Latin America Working Group

New American Opportunity Campaign

Mennonite Central Committee Washington Office

Justice For Immigrants Campaign

World Relief

Studies on U.S. Immigration:

National Academy of Sciences

U.S. Department of Labor

1 comment:

  1. Lack of compassion and cultural sensitivity seems to be at the source of many of our country's issues, since its inception. As a Catholic, I see the present-day inhumane treatment and negative attitudes Latino immigrants receive as, above all, morally wrong. I think it is also important, and less alienating to non-believers, to speak of inhumane treatment of immigrants as a violation of human rights, not only Christian values. It should follow that the world's most powerful leader, as a practicing Christian, should regard the maltreatment of the migrant as against the bible's teachings, yet recent immigrant policy shows otherwise. Reflecting on my assigned reading for next week by Raymond Buriel, Mexican immigrants have higher levels of education and literacy rates than the average Mexican national. Mexican immigrants as a group should be regarded as resourceful, hard-working and embodying an entrepreneurial spirit, not as a drain on US society.