Guest Blog by Kris Van Engen
Few would argue with the statement that it is nearly impossible for low skilled workers to immigrate to the U.S. legally. This puts poorer immigrants in a pretty difficult situation. So, if a church wants to serve the oppressed in a powerful way, working for immigration reform is a good way to go. Here are 7 more reasons:
1. There are many excellent, creative, and free resources available from Christian organizations. Nearly every week I stumble on a new resource that I would highly recommend – so many I’ve given up trying to keep track of them all. There are books, documentary films, fictional movies, small group bible studies, activities, workshops, conferences, speakers, facilitators and other resources of every kind all available to help churches learn and make an impact. (World Relief, g92.org, Church World Service, and your denomination’s website are a few good places to start your own search.)
2. One of the biggest burdens immigrants face is getting legal documentation. Even the best case scenarios often involve waiting ten years or more—for most individuals, immigrating legally is impossible. These immigrants live in the shadows, under threat of deportation, unfair wages, separation from loved ones, or jail time. This is a stressful way to live. Some might say that undocumented immigrants need to face the consequences of their choice. The church might say no one should have to choose between a life of poverty or an undocumented life.
3. This issue affects children who are friends, schoolmates and teammates of immigrant children. The picture that children currently see is one where good parents just like their own get deported. Good students just like them disappear from school or youth group without warning. Our children ask themselves: is this the way the world is supposed to be? By addressing the issue as a church, we demonstrate our belief that God has something better in mind for people made in his image.
4. Most congregations include service in their mission statement. This isn’t for good PR or to win new members—churches serve to point toward God, who does anything necessary to transforms lives. Sometimes what’s needed most is a roof on a house, food in a pantry, or a spiritual mentor. In the case of many immigrants, what’s needed most is a green card.
5. Immigration issues correlate strongly with church mission trips to Latin America. Churches who are building schools and houses and offering medical care to people in Latin America on mission trips can complement that work by speaking up for a better immigration system when they return home.
6. Supporting change in our immigration system doesn’t cost much time or money. It does require courage, changing attitudes and building relationships.
7. Immigrants don’t really have a voice in making the laws by which they are required to abide. These laws are always at risk of becoming unjust. When Christians welcome immigrants and see the challenges they face through a biblical lens, church members will become like salt keeping immigration laws fair and palatable for future generations.
Rev. Kris Van Engen works for the Christian Reformed Church Office of Social Justice and Christian Reformed World Relief Committee as their Congregational Justice Mobilizer. He previously worked for 10 years as a pastor and church ministries director. His focus is on congregations working together to end root causes of poverty and hunger. You can contact him at [email protected].
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, contact [email protected].