My wife and I went to a Christian marriage seminar in early August of last year where one of the keynote speakers was mid-1980s comedic cultural icon, Yakov Smirnoff. Yes, that one.1 Seriously, this guy was hilarious. Anyway, he talked about how beautiful America is and how he was able to achieve success in this country with a lot of hard work. One of the happiest days of his life was when he took the Oath of Allegiance to become an American citizen.
I’ll never know the joy and pride of that but I had already witnessed it when my parents took that same oath about 20 years ago. I remember being taken out of school and going to the M.O. Campbell Center, which to my childhood-self was a day’s journey away.2 I remember sitting in that auditorium being surrounded by people from, literally, around the globe. I didn’t realize it at the time, but that moment left a long-lasting impression on me.
At my current job, we’ve partnered with an incredible non-profit called the National Immigration Forum and the New American Workforce Initiative where we help legal residents complete their path to citizenship with the help of their employer. It’s a small part of my job, in that it doesn’t take up a lot of my time, but the impact it has on individual lives is unquantifiable.
Whenever they have the seminars where they explain the process of citizenship, I can see it in people’s faces that they genuinely want to be a part of this country. They have tons of different stories about how they came, either 20 or 30 years ago to just a few. Several who you wouldn’t even know they weren’t born in the US since they’ve been here for so long and look and talk just like any other American.
One group of people we aren’t able to help with through this program are DACA recipients otherwise known as Dreamers. Dreamers are the 800,000 people who were brought to the US illegally as children but are currently shielded from deportation by Executive Order. Here’s a quick breakdown on how to qualify to be a Dreamer:
- They were younger than 18 years old on the date of their initial entry to the United States
- Have proof of having arrived in the United States before age 16
- Have proof of residence in the United States for at least four consecutive years since their date of arrival
- If male, have registered with the Selective Service
- Be between the ages of 12 and 35 at the time of bill enactment
- Have graduated from an American high school, obtained a GED, or been admitted to an institution of higher education
- Be of good moral character
In my opinion, these are incredibly reasonable requirements. So why is it that a program that seventy-six percent of Americans support can’t be signed into law?
As a Christian, I believe the Church must put pressure on American leadership to make this happen. The Bible even addresses immigration.
‘”When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God. ‘ Leviticus 19:33-34
‘For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, ‘ Matthew 25:35
‘”‘Cursed be anyone who perverts the justice due to the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’ ‘ Deuteronomy 27:19
‘Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. ‘ Hebrews 13:2
‘”Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.” ‘ Zechariah 7:9-10
‘You shall allot it as an inheritance for yourselves and for the sojourners who reside among you and have had children among you. They shall be to you as native-born children of Israel. With you they shall be allotted an inheritance among the tribes of Israel. ‘ Ezekiel 47:22
‘”For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. ‘ Jeremiah 7:5-7
So when someone like Franklin Graham (Billy Graham’s son), says that immigration isn’t a “Bible issue,” it upsets me to no end. Nonsense like this is why so many Christians feel like non-believers persecute them.
And all of this isn’t even mentioning the refugee crisis. Which, unbeknownst to me, are majority Christians.
The number of Christian refugees from Iraq, Iran, and Syria—which have long ranked among the top countries for Christian persecution—has dropped by 60 percent over that period. (Last year, Pew Research Center found that Christians still outpace Muslims—or any other religion—among refugees to the US.)
“Over the past decade, more of those admitted to the US have been Christians than those of any other faith background, so the dramatic reduction in refugee arrivals this year means far fewer persecuted Christians will have the opportunity to rebuild their lives in safety in the US,” World Relief president Scott Arbeiter said last summer.
Based on the arrivals so far, 2018 is on track to bring in the lowest number of refugees since the resettlement program was formalized in 1980.
“This, at a time when there are more refugees in the world than ever before in recorded history,” the letter said. “Our prayer is that the U.S. would continue to be a beacon of hope for those fleeing persecution.”
The fact that they’re Christians shouldn’t even matter though. It’s the fact that they are people who want to make their lives better, that’s what matters.
I do find solace that there are leaders in the Church, like Max Lucado, Beth Moore, and Samuel Rodriguez who are speaking out about this. Some people are speaking up and I challenge you to do the same.
The beauty of America is that we can all come together from different backgrounds and make the world better not only for ourselves but our future generations, that’s the American dream.
I’ll end this unintentionally lengthy post with the same words Yakov Smirnoff closed with at the marriage seminar:
“You can go to France, but you’ll never become French. You can go to Germany, but you’ll never become German. But you can come to America and you can become American.”