Immigration policy is fairly complicated. Here are some resources to help get your mind around it.

Why we care

People of faith care about immigrants and refugees for numerous reasons. Immigration is the story of the Bible and the story of the world. There are dozens of passages about this. Here are a few:

  • Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden.
  • Abraham was commanded by God to go from his home in Ur to a new country he didn’t know.
  • The central story of the Hebrew Bible, the Exodus, is one of a great migration of greed slaves from Egypt to Israel.
  • The Bible commands the people of God to welcome, love and treat strangers as citizens, “for you were once sojourners in the land of Egypt.”
  • The Israelites in the Babylonian captivity were refugees who had lost land, king and temple.
  • Jesus, Mary and Joseph were told by an angel to flee into Egypt during Herod’s persecution.
  • Jesus commanded his followers to love and welcome the stranger. “When I was a stranger your welcomed me… fro whatsoever you do to the least of these, you do unto me.”

Lutherans in the U.S. care about immigration because there would be no Lutheran Church in the U.S. without immigration. We are an immigrant church.

What’s the difference between an immigrant, a refugee and an asylum-seeker.

  • Immigrants are those who move from one country to another. The majority of immigrant in the U.S. are here legally. Of those here without proper documentation, nearly half came legally, but overstated their visas, usually because visas are so hard to get.
  • Refugees are those who have been forced from their home, and who request to come to another country. They are vetted and approved before they come to the U.S. In 2019 the U.S. has a ceiling of 35,000 refugees. That number has been as high as 200,000 (during the Reagan administration). They are here legally.
  • Asylum-seekers are people who come to the U.S. and request asylum (protection). They apply and are given a court hearing to determine their eligibility. They are here legally.

Why don’t they come legally?

Most do. Those who come to the U.S. and stay without documentation often do so because our immigration system is outdated and backlogged. Some visa applications from twenty years ago are just now being processed.

Here is an infographic that may help to get some clarity on how complex the system is:

What Part of Legal Immigration Don’t You Understand?

What about the crime rate?

The crime rate among immigrants is lower than that of native born citizens.

Are immigrants a drain on the economy?

Studies show that immigrants pump much more into the economy than they take out. And yes, they pay taxes. Even illegal immigrants pay social security, which they will never collect. Some believe illegal immigrant has kept Social Security afloat.

Aren’t immigrants taking our jobs?

Immigrants often take low paying, hard working jobs that native-born citizens won’t, line picking cotton.

Immigrants are also much more like to start businesses which employ people. Immigrants are job creators:

Why don’t they learn our language?

They do. In one generation. Every immigrant knows you can make more if you speak the language. Grandma may struggle, but the kids learn English right away, and the grandkids already start to lose their mother tongue.

Comparatively, Lutherans continued to speak German for 100 years in the U.S. Confirmation was taught in German and the Texas Synod newsletter (Der Treue Zeuge) was in German until World War II.

Are we in a border crisis?

No. Illegal border crossings hit a historic low in 2015, and have remained low. Immigration to this country, legal and illegal is lower than 100 years ago:

“Between 1905 and 1914, ten million people, mostly from southern and eastern Europe, poured into the United States—a country that had only eighty-three million people to begin with… By 1910, immigrants and the children of immigrants made up almost three-quarters of the populations of New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Boston.”

—Bill Bryson, “One Summer”

Here is a June 2018 Forbes article on the “border crisis:”

Why Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service says a wall won’t work:

On the racist origins of immigration policy

In 1909, in a report for his employers, future president Herbert Hoover declared that black and Asian laborers should be avoided because they suffered from “a low mental order” and a pathological “lack of coordination and inability to take initiative.” Stressing his own firsthand experience, Hoover concluded that “one white man equals from two to three of the colored races, even in the simplest forms of mine work such as shoveling or tramming.”

It was often taught that immigrants during this era (mostly from southern and eastern Europe) we the cause of all the country’s ills: disease, unemployment, divorce, alcohol abuse and so on. Keeping immigrants out was considered the way to keep order.

At the Sesquicentennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1926, the American Eugenics Society had a stand with a mechanical counter showing that a person of inferior nature nature was born somewhere in the United States every forty-eight seconds, while “high-grade” persons came along only once every seven and a half minutes.

The Passing of the Great Race, by Madison Grant, was published in 1916. Grant believed the best race of humans was what he called the “Nordic race,” by which he meant essentially all northern Europeans except the Irish. America needed to breed better. Interracial marriage was illegal in many states. The seeds of why would find horrific manifestation in Nazi Germany were alive and well in the U.S.

Congress responded to the “research” being done on race, and public sentiment by quickly passing the 1921 Dillingham Immigration Restriction Act followed by the 1924 National Origins Act. This legislation, designed to keep America white, determined racial quotas for immigration. People could only be admitted by the percentage that they were already represented in the general population. By 1927, more people were being deported from Ellis Island than were coming in through it.

Much of what is diving the immigration debate today is also racism, or what some call nativism. Yes, there are legitimate border security issues, but let’s face it, there are some who simply don’t want “those people” here.

It’s easy for any country in any age to blame immigrants for the problems of the day. We believe immigrants are what have made the US what it is today. We believe welcoming those seeking a new home, for whatever reason, is a sacred duty.