Blessing Not Burden | July 22, 2016
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Dear advocates,

Our campaign has always been about changing the conversation about immigrants in this country, and this week seems especially important. The rhetoric that we’ve been hearing surrounding the Republican National Convention has villainized the immigrant and refugee community—a community with whom, as Christians, we are called to stand in solidarity.

During this time of heightened anti-immigrant rhetoric, we are going to continue saying what we’ve always said. We believe that immigrants are made in the image of God. We believe that keeping families together is a priority. We believe that there is immense value in diversity and that it strengthens our country. We believe we have a broken immigration system that prevents people from flourishing as God intends for their lives. We want our country to unlearn the myths they’ve been told because we believe that immigrants are a blessing, not a burden.

Over 1,000 of you have signed the pledge to change the conversation about immigrants. This is the perfect week to put this pledge into action. When you hear immigrants being talked about as a threat, you have an opportunity to respond with your own Christian values. Consider what God’s Word says about immigrants; consider how immigrants have blessed your community; consider the facts about how immigrants grow churches, and enhance community safety. 

Below are a few quotes that represent the negative rhetoric that we’ve heard this week and some ways you can change the conversation when you hear myths.

Myth: Immigrants are a threat to American culture

“I don’t want to become you. . . . I don’t want to speak your language; I don’t want to celebrate your holidays; I sure as hell don’t want to cheer for your soccer team!” —Lou Holtz

Jesus calls us to the ministry of reconciliation. Part of this involves celebrating and honoring the many cultures that are part of God’s creation. If we are honest with ourselves, whether it involves dyeing rivers green, wearing wooden shoes, or cheering on our soccer team, celebrating our diverse ethnic heritage has always been tied with national tradition.

It is important to remember that American culture has long been shaped by immigrant communities—so this quote begs us to define what is “American.” Ethnic diversity brings richness to the U.S. and a glimpse of the kingdom of God.

Myth: We can only be safe if we ban all people from Muslim countries.

“My opponent has called for a radical 550 percent increase in Syrian (refugees). . . . there’s no way to screen these refugees in order to find out who they are or where they come from. I only want to admit individuals into our country who will support our values and love our people.” —Donald Trump

As Christians, our first response to people fleeing for their lives from oppression should be concern and to extend a welcome. The United States has a robust, thorough, and effective screening process for refugees. In fact, refugees are the most vetted individuals to enter the United States. The screening and background check process takes 18 months to 2 years before an individual is cleared to enter the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security leads this process, and it knows exactly who enters the country and where they are from. All refugees undergo in-person interviews and are fingerprinted. If there is any doubt about the identity or the security of a refugee, they are no longer considered for admission to the U.S.

Every refugee that enters the U.S. is a victim of persecution. Many are being persecuted because of their faith. A majority of the victims of ISIS are Muslim. Religious freedom (for any faith) is a foundational American value, and the dignity of all human life is a foundational Christian value.

Myth: Immigrants steal American jobs

“To the laborer who is watching me right now, forced out of a job by undocumented workers, illegal immigrants. . . .” —Eric Trump

Regardless of whether immigrants hurt or benefit the economy, we are called to welcome the stranger. But the reality is that immigrants do not steal jobs—they create them. For each immigrant, as many as five jobs are created for U.S.-born workers. If all undocumented people were deported, 2.8 million Americans would see their jobs disappear, and our economy would shrink by $550 billion.

Undocumented immigrants are often doing low-wage jobs in conditions most U.S.-born individuals would not accept. To scapegoat immigrants for job loss and a hurting economy is unjust and fails to recognize the immense asset immigrants are to the U.S. economy.

Myth: Undocumented immigrants just need to get in line

I came to the United States from Rome, Italy, in 1985. I followed all the rules and finally became a naturalized citizen in 1996. Others who want to come to the U.S. to live and work should follow the same rules. We are a nation of laws for a reason. There should be no shortcuts for those who don’t want to pay or wait.” —Antonio Sabato, Jr.

To be faithful stewards of our voices, it’s important that we understand the systems that impact the people we are called to welcome. For the majority of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States, there is no legal pathway available to come to the U.S. This is the highlight of our broken immigration system--that our labor market needs workers but does not provide enough visas to allow people to come legally. Immigrants do not want to take “shortcuts.” Crossing the border illegally is dangerous and surprisingly expensive, and then you arrive in the United States only to live in the shadows. If there were a legal pathway for the undocumented immigrants who are here, they would take it.

Myth: Immigrants are dangerous

“I see in his eyes the sadness of innocent lives lost, like those of Kate Steinle and Jamiel Shaw and so many others cut short by illegal immigrants in sanctuary cities, victims of a revolving door of government ineptitude and corruption that leaves innocent Americans defenseless.” —Eric Trump

These deaths are tragedies that no one wants to see repeated. However, enacting overly broad policies could lead to more tragedies—through unreported crimes and unjust deportations. Sanctuary cities enhance community safety through encouraging interaction between the immigrant community and local law enforcement, without the fear of deportation. Communities are safest when all members feel confident in engaging local law enforcement.

Jesus preached against scapegoating entire communities. Immigrants, regardless of status, are less likely to be involved with crime than native-born individuals, and communities with higher immigration levels have  lower crime rates.

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