Culture At Large

Jim Wallis on welcoming the stranger

Jim Wallis

Editor’s note: This is the sixth and final installment in A More Welcoming Way, a series of TC articles on the immigration experience, attempts at reform and the church’s role in the process.

For the past few years, Sojourners has been intimately involved in efforts to reform America’s broken immigration system. We took up this issue because we believe that our Christian faith compels us to struggle for a more humane immigration system as a moral imperative.

The Scriptures are very clear on this issue, as Matthew Soerens of the Evangelical Immigration Table has already outlined in this Think Christian series. This text from Matthew 25 was instrumental in converting me to my Christian faith and has converted millions of Christians to support immigration reform:

"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Beyond the clear Biblical imperative to welcome the stranger, at Sojourners we have felt called to struggle for comprehensive immigration reform because of the very real human costs that our broken system exacts on the “strangers” among us.

It is to Congress that Christians who believe in immigration reform must direct their witness and voices.

I recall a teary single father, who was stopped for a missing bolt on his license plate, telling us that he was being deported away from his two young daughters who were hanging on to his legs with fear in their eyes. I remember a conversation in the White House where a group of evangelical pastors were told that only criminals and drug cartel members were being deported. A pastor from Orange County raised his hand and said to the president’s top staff, “I’m sorry, but you deported Jose from my congregation, and now his son Joaquin has joined a gang.” There were tears in his eyes. These stories go on and on in the faith community - one family after another broken apart by a broken system.

In our work to raise the voices of the millions of Christians who believe it is time to fix this system, Sojourners staff, supporters and partners have played an important role in coalitions whose breadth and diversity is unprecedented in the history of this issue. To give just two examples, we came together with a number of key evangelical organizations and leaders to form the aforementioned Evangelical Immigration Table, a broad coalition advocating for immigration reform consistent with Biblical values. We have also worked closely with the National Immigration Forum’s Bibles, Badges and Business network, which brings together faith leaders, law enforcement officials and business leaders to advocate for reform.

Ultimately, permanent reform of our broken system can only be accomplished by an act of Congress. And so it is to Congress that Christians who believe in immigration reform must direct their witness and voices. We have won the public debate on immigration reform: 73 percent of Americans support passing comprehensive reforms to our immigration system, including 68 percent of evangelical Christians. However, a minority of Republicans in the House of Representatives have so far been able to block the reforms that are needed.

I believe there is still majority support for comprehensive immigration reform in both the House and the Senate. But in order for a bill to pass, congressional leaders on both sides must be convinced to put people above party and ideology. For this to happen, we must keep growing and broadening our coalition, and never give up fighting for the people among us who so desperately need our help. By focusing on people, faces and stories, we can transcend and transform the politics of this issue and bring about real reform.

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