For some 30 years I’ve followed the North American immigration debate closely. My files—first paper, then electronic—are bulging. Sadly, what is a human drama for millions still drags on as the United States considers “comprehensive immigration reform” to balance law and grace.
Before a recent trip to the Netherlands, I discovered forebears who had immigrated from Germany to the Dutch province of Groningen, apparently seeking work in the fields. On our trip, I tromped through church graveyards that contained many surnames familiar to me from living in Christian Reformed communities. Our history, in Canada as well as the U.S., is one of immigration.
As believers, we know that grace trumps all else. For that reason we must support the passage of laws to put into place a system that reflects that truth. We must unselfishly urge our lawmakers to craft just and humane measures that will keep families together and allow for paths to legal residency or citizenship.
From my earliest days, I have often heard quoted the words of Psalm 16:6: “The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places.” My paternal great-grandfather, the first of our family’s immigrant ancestors, worked as a boat hand. As I stood on a wharf that bears the North Sea’s rugged wind and weather, I imagined the struggle that prompted him and so many others to emigrate. And I gave thanks again for that decision, imitated by people from all over the world. Indeed, many who have come to North America can echo the psalmist that we are living our lives in “pleasant places.”
The Bible is a story of immigrants. Regarding strangers, God’s Word says, “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt” (Lev. 19:34). That echo from a distant time and place must resound with us.
When countries build 10-foot walls, the demand for 12-foot ladders goes up. We have the technology to do away with walls and fences and still have the necessary controls and security. For immigrants who are already here, I urge love and understanding, leading to laws that break down barriers and allow all people to flourish.
Immigration and Refugees (Office of Social Justice)
Synod 2010: Committee to Study the Migration of Workers