The bias against "illegal immigrants" here in Dallas amazes me .
My amazement is magnified when I am in churches where I often hear the most adamant opposition to the presence of immigrants in our community.
I find this amazing for two reasons--one theological and one practical.
First, the Bible clearly embraces the cause and the plight of the immigrant or, to use scriptural language, the "alien."
Consider this reading from the Law of Moses: "Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt." (Exodus 23:9)
The prophet Jeremiah echoes the Law of Moses by establishing the importance of not oppressing or mistreating aliens or foreigners in the land (Jer. 7:6). At one place in his writing Jeremiah lists the oppression of the immigrant alongside the prohibition of murder (Jer. 22:3).
Talk about national values!
The point is so obvious no explanation is called for: the ancient Israelites are enjoined to remember their own status as immigrants in the land of promise. The same injunction could be urged on every American, with the exception of Native Americans who lost their land to the likes of the rest of us who immigrated and ravaged their homes. We are indeed a nation of immigrants.
Second, the practical reality is that Dallas could not funciton without the labor, creativity and vitality of immigrants, many undocumented from south of our border.
Over the last weekend I read an article in The New York Times ("Science vs. Culture in Mexico's Corn Staple," March 27, 2005, A11) describing one of the unintended consequences of the combination of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and the increasing use of genetically modified corn seed has been the removal of countless rural Mexicans from their farmland. Without land there is no way to make a living.
Guess where many of these displaced rural Mexicans migrate? If you guessed California, New York or Texas, you guessed correct!
People want to work. People everywhere want better lives for themselves and their families. As a result, people come to America. Nothing new there. My ancestors and yours came here for this very same reason.
Last time I looked there was a lady with a torch standing in the open waters of a rather magnificent harbor just off Manhattan Island inviting the nations of the world to send us anyone who longed to be free. Fairly open-ended invite, wouldn't you say?
Thanks to our strident quota system, folks who come to Texas from Mexico usually come illegally.
What these hard working newcomers bring to our city, especially to our inner city communities feels and looks like anything but something illegal. I can't bring myself to refer to these friends as "illegal." About as far as I can go is "undocumented."
The Bible helps me here. The words of Moses instruct me to recall my own immigrant past.
The spirit of Jesus teaches me to be open-hearted to everyone.
Frankly, obeying these rules is not hard to do with the immigrants I know.
Question: in our recent national values debate, where is the space reserved for a serious discussion of this important issue? Where is the guiding word from the church on this serious national matter?
Sorry, but I just had to ask.
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