Category Archives: Immigration

Love the immigrant

As I’ve said before, I think Christians in the United States need to react with compassion toward immigrants. That’s not about policies nor practices; it’s about attitudes. Even if you think there should be a hardline, zero-tolerance approach to illegal immigration, your attitude toward immigrants should be one of compassion.

Listening to some people talk about immigrants, you’d think that the majority are conniving scoundrels seeking to take advantage of legal loopholes. Such people do exist. I remember talking with some young men in Argentina who would come to the U.S. every year as tourists, then go work illegally in the ski areas here in this country. They were merely taking advantage of the system.

There are even criminals who take advantage of porous borders to commit crimes. Again, these do exist.

But the majority of the people coming to our southern borders are desperate people trying to find a way to survive. They aren’t trying to take advantage of anybody or anything; they are looking to protect their families as best they can.

Does that mean they should automatically be given amnesty? No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that whatever your views toward immigration policy, your view toward immigrants should not be one of hatred, disdain, or resentment. If it is… you’re wrong. As a Christian, you’re wrong. As an American, a Democrat, a Republican, or whatever, you may be fully justified. But if, as a Christian, your attitude is not one of love and compassion… you’re wrong.

Even if you advocate for building a wall, closing the borders, and deporting all aliens, I’d beg you to look on these people as neighbors, as people made in the image of God, as huddled masses yearning to be free… and look on them with love.

Make this world great again

I’ll interrupt my series because something must be said about President Trump’s statements yesterday regarding immigrants from developing nations. Since the election of Donald Trump, I’ve committed myself to being guided by 1 Peter 2:17 and similar passages. I avoid criticizing the president himself because of this passage. I’m also aware that such statements tend to be seen as partisan, as if I were supporting another party or candidate.

But with all the uproar from yesterday’s vulgar remarks, I want to state a few things clearly, directing my remarks to Christians who live in the U.S.:

  • If the only thing about the president’s remarks that bothers you is the fact that he used a vulgarity, then something is very wrong.
  • If you’re willing to explain away the president’s remarks because you agree with his politics, something is very wrong.
  • The United States is not a church and should not be expected to act like one. But we Christians are the church, 24/7, and must never forget that.
  • If greatness for one country comes at the expense of other peoples, then we Christians cannot promote such greatness. We are Kingdom people first and members of some nation of this world second.

Much more could be said. Probably should be said. But it’s hard for me to say much more without violating the principles I wrote about in the first paragraph.

Pray for Africa. Pray for Haiti. Pray for all the nations of this world. May God make this world great again.

Manuel Manrique and the Luis Guzmán family

On Friday, I mentioned that there were several big events that happened last week(s), one being the passing of Wanda Martin. Two other big things happened while I was on my Cuba trip.

The first was the passing of Manuel Manrique. I’ve written about him a couple of times before. Back in 2011, I described a visit to Manrique’s house and the joy that was. Then I shared a video back in 2015 when Manrique had fallen, and I thought he was going to pass.

This time it was for real. Manrique passed away on the morning of October 21, the day I arrived in Cuba. As is their custom, they buried him that same afternoon. I was blessed to arrive in time to be at his funeral and was even asked to say some words at the graveside ceremony. That was a privilege for me; as I said then, Manrique is one of the few heroes I have.

On Monday, I got some bad news about my dear friends Luis and Lido Guzmán. They are from Mexico and have been living legally in Abilene for the past 6 years. Their temporary status was coming to an end, and they had applied for permanent residency. They found out that their application had been denied and that they had to leave the country within a week. How awful! They had bought a home in Abilene, their daughter is a freshman at ACU, and they were building a life here.

I’m sad for them and especially sad for our church. As I told someone, I can think of many problems that the Guzmáns helped solve, and I can’t think of any that they were the cause of.

Later this week I’ll share more about the trip itself. But I needed to share those major happenings first.

Why some legal immigrants are afraid these days

HandcuffedIt’s very difficult today to separate the topic of immigration from political partisanship. I’m going to ask you today to try to do just that. Let’s not talk about the ins and outs of immigration laws nor enforcement.

Please hear me today as I try to address the feelings of immigrants. I’ve tried this in the past. On this blog, it had mixed success; fortunately, it went much better in the congregation that I’m a part of.

At that time, I talked about Hispanics who felt uneasy because of changes in immigration enforcement. A lot of people thought that was only those who were here illegally. In fact, many questioned why legal immigrants would feel uneasy. A story in the news this week shows why many feel uneasy.

(Yes, this may be an isolated incident. No, no one is saying that this is evidence of widespread raids targeting Hispanics. Please put down your politics for a moment, pick up your compassion, and keep reading)

Fox News reports:

According to Sava’s representative Bree Stillwell, who spoke with Eater.com, five ICE agents entered the dining establishment at about 11:30 a.m. to eat breakfast. When they were done, they “went into the kitchen to apprehend one of our employees who wasn’t on at the time,” as they suspected he did not have the proper documentation.
When the ICE agents realized the employee wasn’t on duty, Stillwell says they turned their attention to other cooks in the kitchen, and started demanding their documentation instead.

One employee had an especially bad time. Yahoo notes:

About the same time, line cook Carlos Rivera-Ochoa took out the trash in the back when officers slapped handcuffs on him, according to Lelcaj. Rivera-Ochoa told MLive he carries his permanent residency card with him, and he was released shortly after being taken into a vehicle and fingerprinted.

So Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents went to a restaurant looking for a certain individual. Upon not finding them, they began questioning others about their immigration status. One legal immigrant (with documentation) was handcuffed, placed in a vehicle, fingerprinted, then released.

This is what many legal immigrants fear. Will it become commonplace? I doubt it. Will there be widespread raids? I doubt it.

Will many people live with a degree of fear and uncertainty? I’m sure of it.

The New York Daily News has this from the restaurant owner:

Lelcaj said that she and her team were shaken by the incident. “They are feeling like they can get arrested anytime because of the color of their skin. There is heightened fear in their community,” she said.

The next time you hear about fearful immigrants, please respond as a Christian and not just a Democrat or a Republican. The fear exists, whether it’s justified or not. Show some compassion.

Clarifying some statements on immigrants

OK, so last week’s post about hurting people drew a lot of attention. It was primarily directed to my home church and has led to some very healthy discussion within that church. Our leadership has stepped up in amazing ways.

But I also know that what I’ve written has created some misconceptions, and I take responsibility for that. Let me try and address some things:

  • The vast majority of the church members that attend our bilingual service at the University church in Abilene are in the United States legally.
  • The hurt felt within the Hispanic community extends far beyond the subset that doesn’t have proper immigration status. Much goes to the climate around what’s going on; see my post about the border wall to get a feel for that.
  • In a comment, I stated that illegal immigration is not a crime. I should have said that being here without proper status is not a crime. The act of crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor, which is considered a crime. A large percentage of those who are here illegally entered on a legal basis. During the campaign for the G.O.P. nomination, Marco Rubio put the figure at 40%; surprisingly, there are no good numbers available to confirm or contradict that. Rubio’s guess seems to reflect a good approximation.
  • I have never suggested to a Christian that they enter the U.S. illegally. I personally don’t know any Christians that have done so. I do know many who became Christians after entering the country.
  • About two-thirds of those who reside in the U.S. illegally have been here for more than 10 years. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/03/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/) Most Christians that I’ve known who are here illegally are not border hoppers; they fall into this category of people who have come to establish a new life.
  • Someone having broken the law does not preclude our extending compassion toward them. I wrote this in a comment on Facebook the other day: “If someone who is texting hits someone and kills them, can I not feel compassion for them even if they are suffering for their own mistake? What if they drive drunk and kill themselves; should I not feel for their families even though the loss was based on a broken law?”

I’ve written lots about the justice and injustice of our current immigration system. There’s nothing black and white about this situation; anyone who tries to reduce this issue to a phrase or two is on the wrong path.

But one thing is black and white: we are called to show compassion to our brothers and sisters who are hurting. A lot of people quoted Romans 13 to me; few quoted Matthew 25. The first one is about them; the second about us. It’s always easier to point out what they’ve done wrong.