Guest Blog by Elizabeth Conde-Frazier
What is the worth of a person? Are we all of equal value? The United States holds to standards of human rights and has reprimanded nations who do not respect human rights. Nonetheless, how we treat immigrants in this country many times does not respond to the same standards. Do we as Christians believe that all persons are of equal value before God? How do we understand political complexities before our belief that God demands that all persons have equal rights to sustenance?
Matthew 25:31-46 defines what sustenance is: clothing, water, food, hospitality and even prisoners are to be visited as a way of reminding them that they are still a part of the community. Do laws keep us from keeping to this teaching from Jesus? Laws are to be followed as long as they are congruent with the kingdom values. When they are not, the church is to carry out her prophetic role and call the rulers to make just laws. However, the immigration issue is not so simple as that. Why do persons immigrate?
The need to immigrate comes from the desire to care for the family. This is referred to as the global economy of care. Parents emigrate from their countries as a strategy for support. Political and economic inequities determine who has and doesn’t have access to work. This controls the decisions of parents. When a family does not have access to the necessary resources to provide a future for their children as competent members of society they seek out higher salaries at jobs outside of their countries. The needs that they seek to cover include food, education and medical care.
In poor countries, the resources of the state have often been used to cover the foreign debt. The decision to use funds to pay for the foreign debt depletes the infrastructure of the nation: schools, hospitals and local businesses. The decision to make the payment of the foreign debt a priority over other state needs takes place so as to gain good faith from the foreign creditors in order to continue taking loans.
In free trade agreements, global competition on the open market does not always benefit local producers, who find themselves in the position to compete with the prices of foreign products. The higher prices of local producers create a slow market, a lowering of the exported products and a continuous dependence on the imported products. The power of the foreign investors limits the capacity of the country to diversify its products. Working for lower wages becomes the only basis of competition in the global economy. Multinational corporations are seeking a cheap labor force. A portion of the population will find work but these jobs pay such low wages that families cannot survive. This pushes these families to send one of its members out of the country to seek the sustenance of the family.
Immigrant families spend more time apart than together as a whole family. Immigrant parents do not see their children grow up. Stronger immigrant laws and the complications of visas make it legally impossible for parents to visit their children. Shared moments occur only sporadically, but this does not reflect the genuine interest of the parents for being with their children. Those who can return to be with their children can only do so temporarily before they must leave again. Are we as family-oriented as we say, or are we only oriented towards maintaining that right for our own families?
One of every five children in the United States lives in an immigrant family. The majority of these children will be life-time resident of the U.S. and their presence will affect the basic institutions of society. Children are “the least of these.”
Does the body of Christ have a prophetic word to offer in the midst of these circumstances? Have we held the discussions about this issue with Scriptures in hand? Have we understood that the immigrant is our neighbor? Even when we disagree on these issues, has the spirit of our conversations been one where we have affirmed the equal value of all persons?
At the burning bush, God reminded Moses of the suffering of the slaves in Egypt: to open himself to the slave was to open himself to God. He internalized God by internalizing the plight of the slaves, and then Moses, the slaves and God were intertwined in a story of salvation and liberation. As we seek to be faithful in bringing the message of salvation we must remember that souls are encased in flesh and that Jesus took on our flesh so that the story of salvation begins with the incarnation. Can we follow this model in being faithful to Jesus today?
Is the immigrant under the love of God? Then he or she is a friend of God. Laying down our life means that we can no longer act out of self interest, which is what most of the arguments against the immigrant are made of. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier is dean of Esperanza College at Eastern University in St. David’s, Pennsylvania and the author of the new release Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families/Escuchemos a los niños: Conversaciones con familias inmigrantes (Judson Press). This bilingual resource invites the reader to eavesdrop on fictionalized conversations between immigrant parents, their children, and their caregivers, offering insight into their emotions, perceptions, and realities.
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.
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