The Common Good
June 2009

Love and the Law

by Glen Peterson | June 2009

Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion, and the Truth in the Immigration Debate, by Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang. InterVarsity Press.

In Welcoming the Stranger, Matthew Soerens and Jenny Hwang have injected justice, compassion, and truth into what needs to become a new conversation on immigration—values that are often in short supply in this debate.

Drawing from their personal and professional experiences working with immigrants and refugees—Hwang is director of advocacy and policy for World Relief’s Refugee and Immigration Program, and Soerens is an immigration and citizenship counselor for the same organization—the authors review the history of immigration and the current legal system governing the immigration process. They also survey key biblical texts related to people who migrate, review concerns about immigration, analyze the economic value of immigrants, and propose some concrete responses.

For the last 10 years, the economy has absorbed immigrant workers at a higher rate than the legal system is designed to process. Soerens and Hwang argue that the only way to resolve the situation of many individual immigrants will be to change the law. “[T]he dilemma of wanting to welcome immigrants while also expecting people to follow the law is not insurmountable,” they write. “We can overcome this dilemma by changing the law so that many of those who today come illegally would be able to enter legally.” They don’t advocate limitless immigration or open borders, but a path that doesn’t exploit and allows for people who want and need to work.

Calling on the church to live up to its commitment to justice, compassion, and truth, the book provides practical, positive steps to disciple the church as it responds to immigration and immigrants: prayer, learning from our immigrant neighbors, giving, educating our churches and communities, and advocacy for better laws.

Discussion questions in the appendix provide the opportunity for groups to reflect on and respond to the ideas in the book. Other helpful resources include a list of books, Web sites, organizations, and ministries that work with immigrants, justice, and the root causes of immigration.

We can be ready to welcome the opportunities brought by immigrants and immigration. Many immigrants and their families would welcome friendships from majority-culture Christ­ians. Out of these relationships, a better—and more Christ-like—community can emerge.

Glen Peterson is a freelance writer living in Southern California, where he volunteers for Christians for Comprehensive Immi­gration Reform and is principal consultant for

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