People are doing a lot of searching their family history. They have access through the internet to all kinds of records instantly that saves what used to be years of painstaking research. There are even DNA tests that can help – often matching people as relatives who can share their genealogical history. I don’t know a lot of my family history. I know a bit about one side of my family. On the other side my great grandfather immigrated from Sweden. Supposedly, we would have difficulty going back and searching Swedish records because he apparently came to America when he fell out of favor with his Swedish employer – the King – and changed his name.
We are a nation of immigrants. When some of my first relatives came to America, they were helped by those who had been living here. In fact, were it not for the Native Americans who helped, my early forefathers might not have survived. When my great grandfather came over from Sweden, though, he got a different reception. He was greeted with signs that said, “No Swedes hired.” That’s not too strange, immigrants in every wave have met signs like that. Now we have laws about how many people can come in from what country. People want to come to America so much that they are willing to break those laws and what has happened is that we have seen a suspicion over those of other nationalities known to break those laws. We look down on people of that nationality even if their families have been residents of the state since before it became a state. God gives us guidance in dealing with foreigners in our midst. “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.” (Leviticus 19:33)
Please don’t take this as a political post. I am not commenting on the ability of a nation to make laws regarding immigrants or to limit those coming into the country. I am looking at the issue as a Christian ministering to people living in a broken, sinful world. One of the major problems of illegal immigration is that those who come here contrary to our laws and are looking for work are often mistreated. They are paid wages way below the prevailing rate, and should they complain, they get threatened with deportation. They are often kept in virtual slavery with no freedom to leave. It is easy to take the position that these people are lawbreakers and thus deserve what comes to them. We vilify those who come over, often paying their life savings to gain passage and enduring all kinds of indignities – abuse, rape, sickness, and even death for the opportunity that America offers only to end up in hiding, sometimes captured in a form of slavery, and doing jobs that we wouldn’t do for that money. And in the midst of our feelings and emotions about “illegals” we are reminded by God that when a foreigner resides among us, we are not to mistreat them.
I’m going to be honest with you. I found that some of my best students were children of people who were here illegally. Their parents recognized the value of an education, especially coming from lands where it was too expensive to get and education. They made sure that their children respected the teacher and got their work done. I point this out because it is so easy to attack those who come here illegally and forget why they wanted to come. And again, I am not looking at a political situation to a problem; I am looking at a Christian response to people in need. God calls us to minister to the foreigners among us without checking for green cards. We must show His love to all people.
Lord God, I am so often guilty of seeing people in need as being part of a group. They are “illegals” or “poor” or any of the other labels we put on those groups to dehumanize them. Remind me that each person in such a group is a human being that You love and that I should love for You.