HELPING IMMIGRANTS ASSIMILATE
The history of the USA informs us that first generation immigrants faced many challenges assimilating with the culture. They bring with them their own language and cultural practices which are often very different from the language and culture practices of the USA. Immigrants are often met with fear, suspicion, and prejudice by those already living in this country. This is happening again with immigrants settling here from Muslim nations. As a result of these “not-so-friendly” welcomes, immigrants often choose to live within communities of those with like culture and language. There is a sense of security for them within these communities. The people in these communities also help each other to settle and prosper. Second generation immigrants have a much easier but still challenging time assimilating.
While I was waiting for the ceremony for citizenship in Portland last year a young man struck up a conversation with me. He had moved to the USA as a child with his family from an eastern European nation. He had become a Christian. He opened up about some of his struggles in assimilating with the US culture while at the same time trying to honor his parents.
Over the past 25 years, Joanne and I have proactively reached into the Hispanic culture in our region and befriended the people. Many of their stories are similar. They came here as illegals, some as children with their parents. They became Christians. They are on various paths to citizenship trying to navigate the bureaucracy currently housed within the Department of Homeland Security. Some have become citizens others are getting close. We have watched first generation immigrants handle the challenges of learning a new language and in assimilating into a new culture. We are proud of how they have addressed these challenges. Our local Hispanic pastor now leads worship once a month for the English speaking congregation. He preaches in English to that congregation from time to time and is active in leadership within that congregation. In another community, our Hispanic pastors, lead a congregation that is the result of a merger between the English speaking and Spanish speaking congregations. We also observe how most of our Hispanic leaders reach out and minister beyond their ethnic community.
Lesson learned: By reaching into their culture, loving them and becoming family with them we helped to facilitate their assimilation into our society and into the church.
If I were living in a location with a Muslim community I would have the same approach. During the citizenship ceremony in Portland, there were a number of women becoming citizens who were wearing clothing appropriate for women of the Muslim faith. Some were with their husbands. Some were from North Africa. I felt compassion for them. Had I been a Portlander I would have struck up a conversation with some of them through their interpreter and invited myself and Joanne over for dinner.
Years ago I met a Mexican missionary on furlough in Mexico. He was originally from Mexico City and was an active missionary in a Muslim nation. As a young man, he announced to his church family that God was calling him to minister in a Muslim country. His Pastor and many others in the congregation tried to dissuade him from the call because of the perceived danger. His experience in that country was quite the contrary. Muslim families compete with each other to host him for meals. During the meals the conversation inevitably turns to his testimony about his personal faith in Jesus Christ. Muslims are not offended by that. Jesus is mentioned many times in the Koran. Muslims even believe that Jesus is the healer. Through him, the people were learning “the-rest-of-the-story” about Jesus.
Anywhere immigrants choose to reside here in the USA there is local churches and Christians present who can reach out to them, love them, help them to assimilate and introduce them to Jesus Christ. Immigrants bring the mission field to our front door.
THE TRUMP WALL?
Mexican – USA Border: 1,969 miles
USA Pacific Coastline: 7,623 miles
Canadian – USA Border: 7,063 miles – Alaska border with Canada is 1,538 miles
USA Atlantic Coastline: 2,069 miles
USA Arctic Coastline: 1,060 miles
USA BORDER TOTAL MILES: 21,415 miles
(Includes Alaskan coastlines and Alaskan border with Canada and Hawaii)
If these measurements are correct, the Mexican border makes up about 9% of the total USA border. Building a wall on 9% of our border is not going to keep illegal immigrants out. Anyone very determined to get into the USA can probably find a way do it regardless of all our attempts at border security.
As Enrique Peña Nieto, President of Mexico explained to Donald Trump recently, there are more Mexicans currently returning to Mexico than coming to the USA. We have personally witnessed increasing prosperity in Mexico over the past 25 years of visiting and ministering in that country. That increasing prosperity is one of the reasons fewer illegal immigrants are coming to the USA from Mexico these days. It is one of the reasons more Mexicans are returning to their country. The best strategy to stop the flow of illegal immigrants from Mexico is to invest in the economy of Mexico in ways that raise up and encourage entrepreneurialism within that country.
The USA needs to take “reasonable” measures to protect the border but not “extreme” measures. What is reasonable and what is extreme is open to debate. For me, the proposed wall is an extreme measure. I would rather see our tax dollars budgeted for measures that address the core issues that prompt others to come here illegally.
PATH TO CITIZENSHIP
What should the USA do with the estimated 11 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the country? I think the USA should mark out a path to citizenship for these people. Here is why:
MERCY TRIUMPHS OVER JUDGEMENT
This is a key value of New Covenant Christianity. This value is inherent in the law of liberty. Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant Law and established the law of liberty. James refers to this law as perfect.
“So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:12–13, NKJV)
“But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:25, NKJV)
Whenever an individual or a people group do the work of showing mercy, God shows up and blesses.
MASS DEPORTATION THREATENS TO DISRUPT ESTABLISHED FAMILY AND COMMUNITY STRUCTURES IN THE USA
One reason this is a controversial issue is that various values are colliding. As a society, we have to make decisions about which values have priority whenever values collide. For me, family and community structures have a priority in this values clash. As someone who has developed close loving relationships with Hispanics here in the USA, I was very supportive of President Obama’s program Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, known as DACA. When DACA was enacted I could almost hear an audible sigh of relief among our Hispanic friends who are still pursuing legal status . DACA is allowing some very gifted young people an opportunity to pursue their dreams with confidence. They will become very grateful and productive citizens of our country. This is a blessing!
MASS DEPORTATION THREATENS TO DISRUPT THE ECONOMIC STABILITY OF THE USA
There are always bad apples in any people group. They are the exception, not the norm. It is quite unfair to portray a whole people group by its bad apples. Most people are good. They are willing to work hard to prosper. They want to be able to peaceably pursue their God-given inalienable rights as outlined in the Bill of Rights. Our prosperous economy is dependent upon this kind of people. To abruptly remove a people group of 11 million mostly hard working illegal immigrants would have a negative impact on our economy.
In 2007, the Council of Economic Advisors under President George W. Bush issued a report that concluded, “Immigrants increase the economy’s total output.” Although measuring such effects is notoriously difficult, the report estimated that US workers gain $30 to $80 billion annually as a result of immigration. Source: http://oregonhumanities.org/magazine/fix-spring-2015/the-problem-with-the-immigration-problem/1101/ (This article also provides some interesting US history of immigration)
THE PATH TO CITIZENSHIP PROMOTES GOOD CITIZENSHIP
As a legal immigrant from Canada, I recently exercised my right to become a citizen. Given my experience on this path, I would conclude that this is something our government does right.
The path is not free. Out of pocket. the cost for me was $680.00 plus a trip to Portland. Those with more complicated cases have to hire an attorney to help them navigate the path.
I was vetted. The application process is thorough. For example, questions were posed about any previous involvement in illegal activity and my participation and membership in various groups. (Of course one could lie on the application but that would be a federal offense with serious consequences if caught) I was also fingerprinted and a criminal background check was made. I was required to know about US history and its form of government. I was personally interviewed and tested by an immigration officer. She went over each question on my application and asked questions. She quizzed me about US history and government. She looked me in the eyes whenever I answered her. She was friendly but very serious about what she was doing. “Extreme vetting” sounds to me like just another meaningless political platitude. I would say that my vetting experience was thorough.
Currently, the 11 million illegal immigrants are a hidden people group in the USA. Offering them a path to citizenship brings them out of the shadows and allows the government an opportunity to know them and to vet them and to prepare them to be loyal, informed and productive citizens. It is our loss as a nation if we choose to punish them by not allowing them this privilege.
I publicly took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. This took place during a very serious and somber ceremony. Something shifted in my soul when I spoke that oath. I became something new, a citizen of the United States. It was akin to the oath I spoke at my wedding as I repeated my vows to Joanne. We became one flesh that day. It was akin to giving my heart to Jesus as I knelt next to my mother at the age of seven. I became a new creation that day. Having 11 million more people solemnly take that oath would immensely bless and strengthen this nation.