Mindful that the Christian Reformed Church in North America was itself started by immigrants, the CRC should now advocate for immigration reform and practice hospitality toward today’s immigrants, regardless of their legal status.
Those proposals are among the recommendations contained in a report coming to Synod 2010 (the church’s annual leadership meeting).
The report, requested by Synod 2007, notes that millions of immigrants are compelled by poverty or persecution to leave their home countries, many leaving behind family and braving great danger to find a new start in North America. Those who arrive in the U.S. undocumented live in fear of being discovered and are vulnerable to mistreatment and exploitation by both employers and criminals. For many there is no path by which they can become legal residents.
In Canada temporary foreign workers can get through the bureaucracy more quickly, but they are not allowed to bring family members and have no option to continue living in Canada beyond their temporary status.
Refugees may wait years to have their claim of persecution heard, and while they wait, they get established in Canada with jobs, sometimes with marriages and children as well. If their claim is eventually denied, some remain as undocumented immigrants rather than risk returning to their home country.
The authors of the report acknowledge that governments are right in establishing laws to protect their citizens, including laws governing immigration. And it notes that Christians have a biblical injunction to obey the laws of the land.
But they also point to Christians who defied Hitler in Nazi Germany and civil rights leaders in the 1960s who resisted U.S. laws that discriminated on the basis of race.
“Citizenship in the kingdom of God obligates believers to the highest law of love for God and neighbor above all, and the exercise of this love should lead believers to advocate for laws that will mandate the just and humane treatment of immigrant peoples,” the report states.
The report points out that a preponderance of biblical instruction—from the words of God through Moses to the parables of Jesus—requires Christians to protect and welcome immigrants.
“However various immigrants came to be in our midst, their very presence as vulnerable persons without social standing activates the Bible’s long tradition of providing love and compassion without requiring lots of calculations to see if a given stranger is worthy of our love or of the gospel ministry of the church,” the report states.
The committee that wrote the report recommends that the CRC’s Office of Race Relations make it a priority to raise cross-cultural sensitivity across the denomination. And it wants the church’s Office of Social Justice and the Canadian CRC’s Committee for Contact with the Government to advocate for policies that will lead to immigration reform and the just treatment of those without documented status in Canada and the United States.
It also calls on individual church members and congregations to speak out for immigration reform, and to speak out against unduly harsh or unjust laws and practices concerning the treatment of immigrants.
It will be up to delegates to Synod 2010 whether to adopt the report’s recommendations. Synod 2010 will meet in June in Palos Heights, Ill.
To read the entire “Migration of Workers” report, look under Resources/Synod at www.crcna.org. The report is also printed in the Agenda for Synod 2010, provided to each church.