In the last three weeks I have been drawn into at least five separate conversations regarding immigration. The general tone of these encounters has been critical of current USA policy. At the more benign level people argue that Christianity and hospitality are connected. This call to hospitality demands that Christians advocate for an open immigration policy. On the more radical end there are those who say that the USA made its wealth by taking much of the American Southwest from Mexico and continues to reap benefits from unfair trade practices and sweat shops. For these folks immigration isn’t so much about hospitality but rather it is about reparations. People are coming here because they want their “stuff” back. As you can well imagine, these discussions are filled with a whole lot of emotion.
The exchange that I keep coming back to occurred this week. It was with my friend Anton Flores. He runs a small not-for-profit in La Grange Georgia called Alterna. Alterna is a group of people that offers community, fellowship and hospitality to the “un-documentable.” It is important to note that “un-documentable” does not equal criminal or terrorist. These are people who have come because providing for their family in their home country has become all but impossible. More often than not the conditions that have driven them to the USA are tied to foreign policies and actions of the past and present.
I empathize with those who wish for stricter immigration laws and regulations. The desire to feel safe and secure is powerful. What I do not understand is why the church so often supports these laws uncritically. Hospitality and making things right are cornerstones of the Christian faith. As believers our first loyalty is to each other and humanity. When this loyalty comes into conflict with the laws of the land, our faith commitment must always come first.