The Common Good
January 2008

The Right Words

by John G. VanDerWalker II | January 2008

I appreciate Sojourners’ attention to U.S. immigration policy (“The New Sanctuary Movement,” September-October 2007).

I appreciate Sojourners’ attention to U.S. immigration policy (“The New Sanctuary Movement,” September-October 2007). I appreciate also the language that addresses those whom we find on our doorstep as “strangers” in the biblical sense, and that we are to extend to them hospitality.

I do, however, see that our language is not adequately addressing the root plight of most of the people who seek a new life in the U.S. As a beneficiary of Christ’s peace in my life, I see the lack of that peace for these immigrants as being an economic issue and that these people are economic refugees. The use of a label like “refugee” may soften the debate and guide it toward solutions that don’t involve fences and armies but that rather employ justice and peace.

If the church can raise awareness through its rhetoric, Americans will ask, “Refugees from what?” With the question will come the beginning of solutions. Most people recognize that refugees have circumstances forced upon them and thus their choices are limited; they usually include two: live or die. I fear that many think these immigrants choose from a list of many options to cross our borders illegally. That certainly isn’t the case.

Language is important, and a group such as Sojourners maximizes its influence when language that truly explains the situation is used.

John G. VanDerWalker II
Hayden, Idaho

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