A CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
Using values gleaned from the pages of Scripture, what can Christians practically do to help immigrants (mainly undocumented, but also legal) in their plight? First of all, Christian employers can provide jobs to undocumented workers and seek to work within the legal framework of our country to gain work visas for their laborers. Since it is easier to apply for visas if a job is offered, a Christian employer can really help immigrants by becoming an advocate for them. The employer can go farther and solicit workers legally from Mexico that may be in need of jobs.
Advocate for Their Basic Needs to Be Met
For those Christians who know undocumented immigrants personally, writing letters of recommendation and providing sponsorship may be a good way of helping them to gain more permanent residence. Many Christians know immigrants in difficult situations, and they can advocate for them by vouching for their character and their values that we share.
Provide Needed Resources
Christians can also provide resources to immigrants. Many immigrants (again, both legal and undocumented) come from regions that have different customs than ours and may not understand how to navigate the American systems. As Christians, we can provide invaluable help in helping them figure out how to get around, where to shop to get the best deals, where to find basic necessities such as medical help and food, helping them with their English, driving them places if they are without transportation, and helping them to find other resources that are cheap and/or free.
Provide Connecting Points for Christians and the Church
For example, we list here in our website several organizations in the Memphis area that serve the under/un-insured Spanish-speaking community (which, of course, includes immigrants). Christians can also volunteer at organizations that specifically minister to the needs of the immigrant community. You can check our various service providers and ministries here in Memphis that serve immigrants locally. Volunteers to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) or to teach computer training, or on community development projects which include a community garden, medical and dental care, and clothing banks. These organizations need volunteers to do the hands-on work with immigrants and their issues, but also with various maintenance and organizational needs as well. Christians cannot only volunteer with such groups, but they could also start these types of organizations in their cities or towns where they do not exist already.
Advocate to Remove Unjust Laws
The Church as a whole can also be sensitive to immigrants in their midst. The Church can provide affordable housing, meals, and other services that could help these sojourners make a place in this country.
Those in the Church with legal experience can put their skills to use to try and find ways to gain legal visas for those who are undocumented. While we hesitate to encourage Christians to advocate for the Church should to pursue an open border policy, we believe it is wise for the government to regulate the border somehow because of other illegal activities such as terrorism and drugs. Where the Church comes in though is that it needs to be involved with public policy making in the form of political advocacy for immigrants. Many of the decisions made about the border and about policies that affect Mexico (and therefore movement across the border) are decisions that Christians can lobby for or against in the political arena.
Especially with economic policies (such as NAFTA) that erode the well-being of those across the border, the Church can step into those political arenas to remove laws that create unjust systems. What CMIRA wants to do is create an urban missions experience for the students and church members here in Memphis to encourage us to explore Christian responses to immigration. CMIRA has created curriculum that helps others to look at Scripture, and work through a Christian response to immigration themselves.As we partner with organizations around the city, we encourage others to volunteer alongside of undocumented immigrants and hear their stories. They can also learn first-hand the issues and needs of these workers.
Bottomline – Provide a Biblical Response to the Immigrant among Us, Not a Political One
In conclusion, the current issues of immigration in the United States need to be approached by the Church in a thoroughly Christian way. The Church should seek to not be silent, and to not be swayed by the secular arguments that surround this issue. Instead of focusing on the pros and cons of the economic viability of immigrants, the Church should maintain an understanding of their own role as exiles in this world, of Jesus’ commands towards loving others, of God’s desire for justice for those made in his image, and of hospitality. Armed with this good hermeneutic of Scripture, the Church can feel confident in its position, it can make positive headway, and it can love immigrants in the ways that Jesus would have loved them.
Over the years, many in the Christian community have consistently advocated for immigration laws to better reflect the heart of God which calls for us to love and care for the stranger in our midst. Our shared calling is to (P.L.E.A.S.E. – pray, listen, educate, advocate, serve, and evangelize) pray for understanding, educate to understand the issues, advocate for civil discussion and meaningful change, serve where God calls us to serve, and evangelize as the nations come to our door here in America. Join us on our journey!
Source: A Christian Response to Immigration in the United States, by Hans Schenk