From August 20-30, I will walk with a multitude of 100 others from the Mexican/US border in San Diego for about 150 miles to downtown LA. We are walking to be in solidarity with the millions of immigrants and refugees who have left their homes looking for a better life, and to raise awareness for the need for immigration reform in America at this time.
The Scriptures make clear that it is God’s desire that we care for and even love the immigrant, and speak up for those who have no voice for themselves.
Leviticus 19:34 – The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.
Luke 10:25-37 – After telling how the Good Samaritan rescued his ethnic enemy from certain death, Christ says, “Go and do likewise.”
Proverbs 31:8 – Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.
I believe these Scriptures teach us principles that apply to our present day reality in America.
What reality you might ask?
The reality that nearly 12 million people live in our country undocumented, without papers, hiding in the shadows, often times being used and abused by others. This reality exists in part because our country has allowed it to for decades due to greed (from the desire for cheap labor) or inaction and negligence in Congress (gridlock due to the desire for political gain), further complicating the situation because now thousands of immediate families are “divided” by papers. They fear because they could be separated at a moment’s notice.
The reality that millions of refugees are fleeing war and danger in the Middle East and Africa right now. Their homes and communities have been destroyed. Many of their friends and family members have been killed. They have lost almost everything. Millions have chosen to leave their homes and literally walk for hundreds of miles to find a better place. They have entered dangerous refugee camps and have crossed hostile borders looking for a place to start over.
The reality that our immigration system is broken. It has not been updated since the 1960’s. George W. Bush saw the reality and urged Congress to move during his presidency. They didn’t. Obama sees the reality and has urged Congress to move again and again. Many in Congress on both sides of the aisle have tried to act only to be blocked.
Many evangelicals and evangelical organizations, such as the Christian Community Development Association, have seen the reality and are advocating for change in the form of Comprehensive Immigration Reform. The Evangelical Immigration Table has formed and signed off on 6 principles of comprehensive reform (human dignity, families, rule of law, secure borders, fairness to taxpayers, and a path to legal status or citizenship) that we believe will honor God’s Word, show compassion to the hurting, and make our nation stronger.
At Open Door Ministries, we have signed these principles and are lifting our voices for those who can’t speak for themselves. ODM is called to serve immigrants on an occasional basis, but we serve the poor and hurting in Denver every day. We know how easy it is for people to ignore the cries of the hurting when they feel like it is not their problem. As a white American who lives in a Latino community, my family and I have seen firsthand the struggles immigrants face and the problems in our immigration system. My kids attend school with classmates from families who are undocumented and have little access to higher education or legal employment. We often see hard-working people doing cleaning and construction from house to house to make ends meet. It breaks my heart that these people don’t have the same opportunities my kids or I have. How can I love them like myself if I don’t want to solve this problem?
Will immigration reform solve all of our immigration problems? Of course not. Should America take in all the refugees? That isn’t realistic or necessary. Will everyone who wants to come to America be allowed? That isn’t possible. Will new legislation work for everyone who is undocumented? I’m sure it won’t. Will some have to go back? In all likelihood. But it will solve many, many problems, and we should act as a people and a country.
Law enforcement, business leaders, politicians on both sides, and evangelicals are speaking up for reform. Good legislation has already been put forth and in fact had already passed in the Republican led Senate. We have good answers to the problem.
So we walk…in solidarity with the millions who have walked, are walking, or will walk to escape death, poverty, and violence looking for life, opportunity, and peace. We walk because we care, we walk to show a way forward, we walk to lift our collective voice…
We walk because it’s just radical enough that maybe Jesus would have done it.
David Warren is Executive Director of Open Door Ministries, an urban Christian community development ministry in Denver, CO. He has been on staff with ODM for 20 years and is married with three children.