Immigration

The Journey is Long

WRITER EDWIDGE DANTICAT encourages us to “read dangerously,” because once we begin to read of the immigrant experience, we cannot return to how we were before. Inevitably, stories and information will change our perceptions of those we might consider “alien.” The seven books in this list don’t focus on specific policy agendas; rather, they allow us to consider different perspectives and unique immigrant experiences.

According to the United Nations, more than 210 million people live in countries other than the one in which they were born. Driven from Home: Protecting the Rights of Forced Migrants (Georgetown University Press) is an interdisciplinary collection of academic essays on the issues that arise from the growing number of migrants and a growing resistance in many countries to accepting them. Edited by David Hollenbach, SJ, of Boston College, the book has a section dedicated to engaging migration with a Christian framework. And You Welcomed Me: Migration and Catholic Social Teaching (Lexington Books), edited by Donald Kerwin and Jill Marie Gerschutz, is an outcome of the Theology of Migration Project at Woodstock Theological Center in Washington, D.C. Its essays range from analytical to more reflective in tone, such as “Christian Hospitality and Solidarity with the Stranger.” Both books tie the immigration debate here in the U.S. to the broader theme of global migration.

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When in Romans...

Most of us can agree that our immigration system is broken. We are in desperate need of a federal immigration solution that works; however, given the environment in Washington, we are unlikely to get that any time soon.

As a result, many have been trying to address this issue at the state level. Notably, people of goodwill in Utah -- elected officials and civic and religious leaders -- have drafted and signed the "Utah Compact," spelling out five principles for immigration legislation. First, immigration is a federal, not a state issue; second, local law enforcement should focus on apprehending criminals, not undocumented workers. Third, because strong families are central to our society, family unity must be the aim; and fourth, immigrants, as workers and taxpayers, are critical to the state’s economic health. Finally, any solution must value all people of goodwill -- citizen or immigrant.

In March, Utah's legislature passed immigration legislation. Some parts of it -- such as a guest worker program -- were in keeping with the spirit of the compact, but much of the legislation, including an Arizona-style enforcement bill, wasn't. Despite this mixed result, the Utah Compact's principles can still be used to drive the federal immigration conversation in a positive direction. While these are not explicitly Christian principles, they mirror closely the values many Christians, on the basis of their faith, hold on this issue.

However, some Christians can’t seem to get past Romans 13 as a justification for enforcement-only immigration policy. This chapter is used by anti-immigration folks to make the case that God has ordained the laws of the earth, and immigration laws are some of those laws, so if people break the (current) law they need to be punished.

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