What do you believe about immigration?

28 May

In light of the new immigration laws signed into effect in Arizona, I believe now is the perfect time to take a look at our own opinions of these strangers in our own land. For those of you who don’t know, on April 23rd Arizona passed a bill allowing police to question and arrest people without warrant if there is “reasonable suspicion” about their immigration status, among other items. Whether you see this bill as a step in the right direction toward preventing illegal immigration or view it as legalized racial profiling, you should be aware that this is not the only case of its kind making headlines across the country.

Several states, especially throughout the South and Midwest are in the process of voting on bills that have to do with prohibiting people from taking their driver’s license tests in a language other than English. As of now, Georgia has passed this bill in the Senate, and the governor has publicly said he would sign it into law. Currently Georgia offers the test in 12 languages. Tennessee, Alabama, and Missouri are all also in the process of getting similar bills passed. All four states cite road safety as their number one concern in requiring that drivers be English-literate. However, in Georgia, the new law would still allow illiterate English speakers to have the driver’s test given to them orally – thus nullifying the “literacy and safety” argument.

Whether you agree or disagree with these new laws, I think it is important to assess the condition of this country. Where did we get these opinions of foreigners? Are we not all foreigners on this earth? Certainly the media has helped to form our stereotypes by portraying floods of illegal immigrants taking our jobs and neglecting taxes and clogging up our health care system, but we must decide for ourselves whether we are merely regurgitating the opinions of others that have been so forcefully spoon-fed to us our whole lives or if we truly believe that the reason for the decline of America is immigration.

What do our own personal experiences with other cultures say? For me, if I am honest, they tell me that Mexicans are some of the hardest-working people around, Asians are some of the best educated, and those from the Middle East know how to throw a party.

As for my opinion on the matter politically, I am far more interested in what the church is doing about it, as opposed to my local House Representative. We, as believers, are measured with a different ruler than those who have yet to find Jesus. What are we, the church, doing to educate our foreign neighbors? How are we serving “the least” in our own community?

Though I don’t believe immigrants should abandon their own culture, I know for a fact that learning English would greatly improve their quality of life. It will help to ease their transition into American life and open doors to higher education and to jobs. Personally, I see it as a form of social justice to provide people with a means to learn English, as it can affect their life in so many positive ways.

Unfortunately, for many adult learners, it is extremely difficult to learn English. Many refugees have never even held a pencil before. Many are too busy or too tired or too poor to be able to find the time and resources to learn English. Many of them don’t even have access to English language programs.

It is my fervent prayer that this country does not regress into a place that turns its back on the foreigners among us. Discrimination is so contrary to the ways of Jesus. As Christians, we should be at the forefront of the movement to ensure that this land continues to be a place of cultural diversity, where we welcome the foreigner and treat them with kindness.

What if the church held community English classes? What if the church became a place to empower people to succeed and to break the chains of poverty and oppression that often characterize the life of a non-English speaker? What if we removed the blinders of judgement and hatred and the veil of stereotypes? I believe we would see a person. We would see a beloved son or daughter of God.

We, the church, have the power and resources to extend grace and hospitality. Wherever you stand politically, you should know where you stand morally. This is not a Democrat vs. Republican conversation. This isn’t about taxes or laws or elections. This is about the church. This is about the followers of Christ truly following Christ. Jesus didn’t preach a message of hostility to the stranger. He taught of love for all men. And though I often don’t know where I stand when it comes to politics, I know I stand on the side of love. Where do you stand?

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