Provided by Central Pastoral Office for Hispanic Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
These answers are intended to be a resource for Disciples pastors, regional ministers and other leaders who are grappling with concerns and questions related to immigrants and immigration in local ministry.
While we often think of all the undocumented people as having sneaked into the country, 40 percent have merely stayed past the expiration of their visa. Many others were brought into the country without proper documentation by their parents. The rest found no other way to enter the country through our current system, and so came illegally.
Thirty percent of all immigrants to the United States (and more than 50 percent of undocumented immigrants) in recent years have been from Mexico, which influences our view of immigration as an issue. Another 7 percent of all immigrants are from Central America, but around half of all American immigrants are not of Latin American or Caribbean descent, so we should not leave them out of the conversation. Many immigrants other than Hispanics are struggling with these same issues.
Short answer: No.
The longer answer is that there is no law that currently exits that requires citizens to report a known undocumented immigrant to any authority. Nor is there any law that exists that says citizens cannot welcome undocumented immigrants into their lives, drive them to doctors’ appointments, teach them English, watch their children and help them with their schoolwork, and advocate on their behalf. A believer can stand in full compliance to governmental authorities while still welcoming and building relationships with undocumented individuals and families. It is also important to recognize that there is no conflict between the submission to authority mandated in Romans 13 and serving undocumented immigrants: we can minister to immigrants’ physical needs, help to teach them English, share the good news of the gospel, and advocate for just policies that would better their situation, all without violating the law. Since we live in a democracy, we can advocate for immigration policies that are both welcoming of immigrants and maintain the importance of the rule of law. We can also seek justice as God commands (Micah 6:8) by addressing the structures of poverty that create the situations from which immigrants feel they must flee.
It is important to note that while there is no duty to report, you cannot lawfully hire a known undocumented individual. A helpful clarification on this point is that while a church cannot hire someone who is undocumented, they can reimburse someone who is undocumented for any expenses incurred while volunteering (i.e. travel costs, purchasing of materials, etc.).
According to the August 2013 governmental reports (Visa Bulletin) our immigration services are now processing some visa applications for those from Mexico who filed an application 20 years ago in September 1993. So, for some Mexican nationals, right now the line is approximately 20 years long. Not all can apply for a visa either. The above “ideal” situation is for someone entering that was petitioned for by a family member. One can enter the county legally for certain employment, an advance degree or extraordinary abilities. There is a diversity visa lottery but that is only possible for “under-represented” countries. Refugee status can be sought for those fleeing persecution due to race, religion, national origin, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group. And finally one can apply for family-based reasons. The reality is that there are people in our churches waiting for a legitimate family-based visa.
U.S. immigration policies have not kept pace with global realities and our economy’s need for immigration. The last major reform came over 27 years ago.
In a Wall Street Journal Study, 44 of 46 economists said they are in fact beneficial for the economy.
In fact, 3 out of 4 undocumented workers do pay taxes and the government has taken in as much as $12 billion annually as a result.
Matthew 25:35, is the most compelling passage, where Jesus says that by welcoming a stranger (in the original language, an alien to our land, an immigrant), we may be welcoming him.
In the original language, the word hospitality literally means loving the stranger or the immigrant. We often think of hospitality as only having friends over for dinner or letting extended family stay at your house for the weekend, but it really means welcoming the stranger into your life. This theme of hospitality runs throughout Scripture and is tied directly to the practice of love of the stranger/immigrant.
Repeatedly in Scripture, God shows his heart specifically for the “triad of the vulnerable” including the immigrant, the orphan, and the widow. Through the Psalmist he said: “God watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless, and deprive the foreigners among you of justice” with adulterers, sorcerers, saying each will face God’s judgment. God commanded his people not to mistreat or oppress an immigrant precisely because “they know what it’s like to be an immigrant, because they were immigrants in the land of Egypt.” God’s people are called to “Treat them (the immigrant) as if they were native-born”.
First, it is not wise to try to resolve these issues on your own. As Disciples we have embraced immigration justice seriously. Our general ministries have funded the position of immigration legal counsel, housed in Disciples Home Missions, to help us with immigration law. Our attorney is Tana-Liu-Beers. You can send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. She also has a website: www.disciplesimmigration.org
The book is “Welcoming the Stranger” by Matthew Soerens & Jenny Hwang – ISBN 978-0-8308-3359-7
Refugee and Immigration Ministries website www.discipleshomemissions.org/refugee-immigration-ministries
Adapted from materials produced by the Wesleyan Church
On Monday, July 10th, Disciples Refugee & Immigration Ministries’ Director joined with Immigration Legal Counsel, the National Benevolent Association, the Central Pastoral Office office of…Read more >
RIM’s Director (a board member with Southeast Asian Resource Action Center) was grateful to join this a.m. in speaking at Press Conference outside the White…Read more >
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 26, 2017 CONTACT: email@example.com | 202.733.5151 FAITH LEADERS STAND AGAINST SCOTUS RULING ON REFUGEE AND MUSLIM BAN EXECUTIVE ORDER Call on…Read more >
Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Rev. Dr. Ronald Degges, President, Disciples Home Missions “Disciples are a…Read more >
“The courts have spoken yet again in favor of justice and humanity. As CWS has maintained since January, President Trump’s ill-advised travel ban should never…Read more >
The Disciples RIM Staff celebrates the 4th Circuit Appeals Court ruling in Richmond, Va. on May 25 that upheld a lower court ruling which had…Read more >
Please deliver to, scan and email, or mail your national, state, and local legislators these postcards that indicate your support for refugees, and share how…Read more >
Call on DHS Secretary Kelly to extend Temporary Protected Status for Haiti for another 18 months WASHINGTON, D.C. (May 2, 2017) — CWS and Catholic…Read more >
In the beginning of Holy Week, marking the entry of Jesus to Jerusalem, his suffering and his death, we watch with sadness and grief the…Read more >
Disciples and United Church of Christ Holy Season Statement on Violence in the Middle East and Refugees In the beginning of Holy Week, marking the…Read more >