I am not an expert on politics or immigration, but there seems (to me at least) to be some sort of shift in America regarding immigrants and immigration. Theologian Roger E. Olsen has recently blogged (here and here) about immigration. Apparently a few states are trying to make it illegal for anyone to help out illegal immigrants. Even giving one a ride may be punishable under the law. This includes helping the children of illegal immigrants as well. From a Christian perspective this raises some questions.
To help guide us through this series of posts I will be leaning upon M. Daniel Carroll R.'s book Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. Including this introduction there will be five posts in this series: (1) Intro; (2) Old Testament pt.1; (3) Old Testament pt.2; (4) New Testament and (5) Conclusion.
When a discussion on immigration comes up there are usually a few questions or issues that seem to surface.
One has to do with work. Sometimes someone will claim that immigrants are criminal and a danger to the host country. In actuality, the highest group of immigrants to the US are Hispanics and the rate of incarceration among Hispanics is much lower than the general population (p.52). M. Daniel Carroll R. points out further:
"All social groups of any size have a percentage that will be criminal; this is unavoidable and expected. The fact that the percentage is significantly less than among those who are native-born should discourage unfair stereotyping of immigrants" (p.52).
Labor issues are typically brought up as well. Sometimes it is claimed that immigrants are taking the jobs of the host country. To this M. Daniel Carroll R. points out that the American labor force is aging and the largest number of jobs and job growth in the US falls within the service industry. The service industry employees huge numbers of unskilled workers that do not require a high level of education. The US workforce, on the other hand, is becoming more and more educated. In regard to this, immigrants can and do fill these labor requirements which the host country (the US) cannot (see p.52). Also, we cannot miss the point that each major period of immigration to the US has coincided with larger migrations happening around the world. Therefore, immigration in the US cannot be viewed apart from the political, social and economic conditions of other countries around the world. The backdrop for US immigration is global, not just local (see p.29, 55).
Another issue that is often overlooked deals with the faith of the immigrants. As I mentioned above, the Hispanic population is the largest number of immigrants to the US and most of the Hispanics that arrive in the US arrive with some sort of background or awareness of Christianity (p.56). This also places upon Christian immigrants a certain level of responsibility. They must live and engage the host culture from a Christ-centered perspective. "Many immigrants are brothers and sisters in Christ, with all the respect and attention this fact should engender in those of the majority culture who claim to love and follow Jesus" (p.59-60). As a matter of fact, there is something referred to as "the browning" or "the globalization" of Christianity. There are more Christians living in the world outside of North America and Western Europe (p.60). M. Daniel Carroll R. explain the implications of this when he states:
As a result, the demographic, administrative, and educational hub of the Christian faith has shifted progressively over time from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe to the United States, and now to several locations in the South....Many Hispanics and pastors sincerely believe that God has led them here for a purpose: to play an important role in a revival of the Christian faith in this country. In other words, if Christians of the majority culture take a very different look at Hispanic immigration, they will see that something much bigger than they might have imagined is happening. The church of Jesus Christ is growing and being impacted in unexpected ways. The work of God is part of an enormous movement that spans the globe" (p.61-62).This intro merely scratches the surface on this deep topic. Our next post will look at this issue in light of some teachings from the Old Testament which will hopefully shed more light on how we as followers of Christ should live in regard to immigrants and the immigration issue.