Immigrants and Refugees

How Should Christians Respond to Immigrants and Refugees?

For a country that prides itself on its immigrant past, on welcoming those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” the United States as a whole is surprisingly—and persistently—xenophobic. Every new ethnic or national group that arrives on our shores is greeted with trepidation and discrimination and often with outright racism. The first major piece of national immigration law was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. From the Irish and German immigrants arriving in the mid-19th century to the Latin American and Muslim immigration of today, we have separated ourselves from newcomers, defining ourselves by their “otherness” and predicting their arrival as a precursor to the fall of US culture and civilization.

Undocumented immigrants are particularly subject to this distinction. As not only cultural but also legal “others,” they are easily targeted as scapegoats, blamed for anything from a failing economy to high taxes to increases in crime. Generally speaking, any mention of unauthorized immigration can bring out the worst in us—nationalism, a hardened and hostile heart toward the immigrant, and, most of all, a judgmental insistence on our own rights as citizens. But discussions of unauthorized immigration that launch from one of these points tend to be unproductive. As Christians we are called to view other human beings not through the lens of national or cultural allegiances but through our allegiance to God. We propose a discussion based on the reality that immigrants (authorized or otherwise) are human beings made in the image of God.

– From the introduction to As the Citizen Among Us: Loving the Immigrant as Ourselves, ESA’s free small group study guide on immigration

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