The Answer to America's Immigration Dilemma: A Just Integration Strategy
The Hispanic National Association of Evangelicals, The National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, stands recognized as the leading faith organization in both articulation and advocacy of a solution to the current immigration crisis from a biblical worldview. In partnership with organizations ranging from Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform to America's Voice, National Association of Evangelicals, Congress of Racial Equality and Freedom Federation; the NHCLC seeks a solution that reconciles the rule of law with our Judeo Christian heritage. Without a doubt, the current reality continues to leave our borders unsecured, polarizes our communities and serves as a facilitative platform for racial profiling and other activities non reflective of America's ethos. Accordingly, permit us to present a number of understandings and a subsequent solution to America's immigration dilemma.
PRRI's recent study of religion, values, and immigration reform is here: www.publicreligion.org/research/?id=279
Analysis of white evangelical Protestants' support for comprehensive immigration reform: www.publicreligion.org/blog/2010/05/20/white-evangelicals-support-immigration-reform/
- Amnesty is not a viable solution
- Deportation of 12 to 20 million undocumented individuals is not practical, financially feasible or programmatically sustainable.
- The majority of Americans as of May 1st, 2010 support Immigration Reform that does not provide amnesty but rather an earned pathway to a guest worker status, permanent residency or, after meeting determined criteria, citizenship.
Solution: A Just Integration/Assimilation Strategy with the following components:
- Protect the Borders: America has a right and a moral responsibility to secure our borders and citizenry particularly in light of the recent drug wars in Northern Mexico. We must stop all illegal immigration.
- Create a system that will serve as an integration measure where the undocumented can come out of the shadows with the following stipulations:
- Admonition of Guilt
- Pay Fines
- Criminal Background Check in order to identify perpetrators of serious crimes including murder, rape, drug trafficking, and other nefarious activities. We recommend that such individuals be deported.
- Learn English
- Acquire a guest worker status with the possibility of permanent residency and after meeting determined criteria, if desired, citizenship.
In essence we propose that the President and Congress pass a Just Integration Strategy that:
- Respects the God-given dignity of every person
- Protects the unity of the immediate family
- Respects the rule of law
- Guarantees secure national borders
- Ensures fairness to taxpayers
- Establishes a path toward legal status and/or citizenship
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, NHCLC President, recently testified before the United States Senate Judiciary Committee. His presentation captures the spirit of a Just Integration Solution.
Rev. Samuel Rodriguez
President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
Senate Hearing Testimony
October 8, 2009
Embedded within the fabric of the American faith community lies a clarion call and a prophetic supplication for national unity accompanied by an alignment of our core values. Values that include both security and compassion, the rule of law and welcoming the stranger, mercy and justice.
Accordingly, the lack of passage of Comprehensive Immigration Reform legislation has created a reality where our Borders are yet fully secured and the immigrant families a long with the entire Hispanic American community find ourselves facing racial profiling, discrimination and a hostile ethnically polarized environment not seen since the days prior to the successes of the Civil rights movement. For at the end of the day this is not a political issue but rather one of a moral and spiritual imperative. An issue of justice firmly grounded on biblical truth.
In scripture, the number twelve emerges as the foundational pillar of the Nation of Israel and as the initial composition of the followers of Christ. My prayer is that this Congress remembers another twelve. Twelve million people living in the shadows. Twelve million hiding in fear. Twelve million without rights, Twelve million without a nation, and without legal covering, Twelve million not knowing if today is the day they will be separated from their children. Twelve million people living in a land without the opportunity of ever experiencing the fullness of life, embracing the hope of liberty or pursuing the promise of happiness. Yet these 12 million carry one common commodity; hope.
Hope that the President and members of Congress that ignited a movement and ushered in change will bring down the walls of political expediency and incorporate within immigration reform the bridge to assimilation and a pathway to the American Dream. Hope that this Congress who stands committed to saving the auto industries, our banks, homeowners and healthcare will similarly apply that saving grace and spirit to these 12 million souls. Hope and faith that this Congress will pass comprehensive immigration reform.
Via our 25,434 churches , the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, , stands committed in framing the moral imperative for CIR by reconciling both Leviticus 19, treating the stranger amongst us as one of our own and Romans 13, respecting the rule of law.
Let us be clear. As Hispanic Christians, we stand committed to the message of the Cross. However, that cross is both vertical and horizontal. It is salvation and transformation, ethos and pathos, Kingdom and society, faith and public policy, Covenant and community, righteousness and justice.
For example, as we deal with immigration, via the prism of the vertical and horizontal cross,, we humbly encourage Congress to finally pass and sign into law legislation that will protect our borders, put an end to all illegal immigration, create a market driven guest worker program and facilitate avenues by which the millions of families already in America that lack the legal status can earn such status in a manner that reflects the Judeo Christian Value system this nation was founded upon.
But here lies the challenge; can we reconcile Leviticus 19 and Romans 13? Can we repudiate xenophobic and nativist rhetoric, push back on the extremes from both the left and the right and converge around the nexus of the Center Cross where righteousness meets Justice, border security meets compassion and common sense meets common ground?
For the fact of the matter is that these immigrants are God fearing, hard working, family loving Children of God who reflect the values of our founding fathers and embrace the tenets of the American Constitution, The Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Moreover, our desire is for every immigrant in America to become a productive citizen, master the English language, embrace the core values of the American idea and realize the American Dream.
Finally, we understand that every day that passes without Comprehensive Immigration Reform adds tarnish to the soul of our Nation. The question arises, can this nation be saved. Let us save this nation, not by providing amnesty but by providing an earned pathway to citizenship. In the name of Justice, in the Name of righteousness, in the Name of The Divine, pass comprehensive immigration reform. By doing so we will protect our borders, protect families, and protect our values and in the end we protect the American Dream.
Since 1992, via AMEN (Today the NHCLC), Hispanic Evangelicals have sought a biblical solution to the immigration crisis in America. For that matter, in 2006, the NHCLC commissioned an immigration task force, the National Latino Evangelical Coalition on Immigration. Today, the coalition functions as a subsidiary of the NHCLC committed to promoting a Just Integration Solution by working with other ethnic faith groups, community development organizations, government agencies and civic partners.
Often politics and economics frame the immigration debate in North America. Yet Christ-followers must frame the topic of immigration by wider parameters— by two biblical mandates: the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
Matthew 28:19–20 says to make disciples of all people—not legal people only, but all people. As Christ-followers our focus must shift from nationalism to the Great Commission and the Great Commandment, from politics to the gospel, from winners and losers, to how we can best glorify God.
We must never deny that illegal immigrants are breaking the law. Yet these immigrants’ law-breaking is no reason for the church to remain uninvolved in North America’s largest mission field today consisting of fifteen to eighteen million people, many of whom tremble in the shadows of our society. Civil law is written on soft paper and constantly evolves. God’s law was chiseled on stone tablets and has remained unchanged.
The eighteen million undocumented people living among us present both danger and opportunity. The danger lies only in the sense that the people are outside of the “system.”But we have an opportunity in terms of our mission. Many of these people are outside of their home countries, separated from their families, and outside of their own governments’ systems. They are prime for the gospel!
Many churches want to do something, but they wonder what they can do. And here’s where we need some reminders: it is legal to evangelize; it is legal to make disciples; and it is legal to be compassionate. What the law says is that it’s illegal for us to hire them. We also cannot provide false paperwork.
So how do we live out our biblical mandates?
• We must remember that immigrants were made in the image of God. That means in all our dealings we must treat them with dignity.
• We must keep in focus the Great Commission and the Great Commandment.
• We must emulate Paul’s actions in the first century as we walk the fine line between compassion and execution of the law.
Paul’s epistle to Philemon mentions the runaway slave, Onesimus. Onesimus was out of his country and running from the law when he encountered the apostle Paul. Knowing the legal system, Paul could have turned him in immediately. Instead, Paul loved him, evangelized him, and discipled him. This probably happened over the course of months or even years.
But as any disciple must be, Paul was also a person of obedience. For that reason Paul ultimately sent Onesimus back to his master. Yet he did not return him empty handed. He sent him with a letter that told Philemon to treat Onesimus as a brother and put his debt on Paul’s account. In other words Paul, rather than turning in Onesimus or staying aloof from him, stayed on mission. The result was fruit. And the ultimate result was obedience in all spheres—first to the gospel, then to compassion, then to civil law.
So what must the church do about contemporary illegal immigrants?
• Speak. Christian leaders must articulate that the commission and commandment apply even to these modern-day Samaritans.
• Pray. Pray for the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers, and work for a legal resolution on the matter of immigration reform.
• Love. Show compassion. Mercy builds bridges to the gospel in ways words cannot.
• Serve. Volunteer to teach English as a second language. Serve as a life coach. Counsel the vulnerable.
• Share. Spread the gospel. Show the way to Christ. If God put immigrants in our paths, we have the privilege of sharing the message of salvation.
• Enjoy. Build relationships without worrying about the language barrier. Love is a universal language.
• Envision. Recognize that many illegal immigrants are demographically the future of North America. We have an opportunity for significant outreach in a time of need.
Within three to five years approximately eighteen million North American immigrants will probably come out of the shadows. Those who have shared in their pain have an opportunity to share in a harvest of souls in a magnitude never before seen.
Most evangelicals did not join with Dr .Martin Luther King Jr. in his nonviolent opposition to racial injustice. Now many wish they had. The church today has an opportunity to show compassion, to be missional, to demonstrate obedience to the Great Commandment by reaching immigrants with love.
So here’s the question to ask ourselves about immigration: Will we think only politically or will we think missionally, eternally—like Paul. And ultimately like Jesus?
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