Evangelicals for Immigration Reform

tens of thousands of other Americans, I'll be in Washington D.C. this Sunday in
the March for America rally on behalf of undocumented immigrants. The
Evangelical congregation which my wife and I have the privilege of pastoring is
taking our worship on the road . At 6 a.m. we are getting on a chartered bus to
Washington D.C. for the March for America gathering. Many of the faithful at
the church, along with thousands of Evangelicals, believe that marching on
behalf of some of the most vulnerable is a form of worship. In the words of
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, "the church is only the church when it exists for the
other." So we are going to wake-up early not to go to church but to
"be church" at the National Mall with close to 100,000 people.

well-meaning Americans have some legitimate questions about comprehensive
immigration reform and wonder why clergy and other people of faith are
advocating for it. So let me respond to what I believe are some of the most
pressing questions about immigration reform and its impact on the U.S.:

The economic question: They are a
burden on our tax and economic system; Why don't they go home?
Studies show that the close to 12 million undocumented immigrants, many of whom
already pay taxes and Social Security, want to continue to contribute to the
system. Comprehensive immigration reform should require these immigrants to pay
back taxes, learn English, and wait in line behind the people who entered
legally. The system as is does not allow for this integration nor does it address
unscrupulous employers who exploit cheap labor. A new system that requires
these immigrants to integrate and employers and employees to pay taxes will add
hundreds of millions of dollars to the economy. The status quo does not in any
way address this challenge; reform does. Reform can help the economy.The U.S.
can have the creative genius to make this a win-win for all.

The culture question: This is going to
fundamentally change U.S. culture. Will America be radically different?Studies
show that most immigrants want to learn English and contribute to the larger
mosaic of U.S. culture. In addition, the United States has always been a nation
of immigrants that allows for diversity without balkanization. This is one of
the great values of the U.S. "E pluribus Unum- out of many one."
Moreover, history shows that cultures are enriched and deepened through
respectful mutual encounter.

The moral question: How do we balance
respect for the rule of law and compassion for all people? This
is a fair question. I think we should respect the law and that's why any reform
should include requiring: Paying back-taxes, penalties to employers who may
have circumvented the system, and borders being controlled and supervised in
humane ways. Nevertheless, what do we do with the 12 million men, women, and
children that are already here? Deportation is not reasonable and it remains
beyond our economic capacities. In short, reform must include both respect for
the rule of law and a way that integrates all people in common sense ways.

The faith question: What does the
Church or my faith have to do with it? Simply stated, as a
Christian I am mandated to love my neighbor as myself without prejudice to
origin, color, or creed. Jesus himself reminds Christians to "welcome the
stranger" in Matthew 25. In addition, the Torah of the Hebrew Scriptures
reminds us continually to be kind and merciful to the stranger, widow, and
orphan. In the end a nation is judged by how it treats the most vulnerable
among them. My faith compels me to speak with the immigrants and their

Immigration reform is a moral issue that requires us
to live up to the highest of our values. This is not an easy
issue but I will march because I believe that our country has the moral
capacity to welcome immigrants. If
Christ welcomed me unconditionally should I do any less with others? So
on Sunday in a peaceful manner I will repeat the words on Lady Liberty written
by Emma Lazarus with tens of thousands of my fellow human beings : "Give
me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.The
wretched refuse of your teeming shore.Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to
me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"


by Gabriel Salguero

Latino Leadership Circle

Originally posted in the On Faith Section of the Washington Post 4/18/2010

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