I Was a Stranger and You Welcomed Me

There are a lot of problems with the way the United States deal with the immigration issue, up to and including the current discussion on reform. To say there’s discord on the subject is a bit of an understatement. I think we can get some insight into what the uproar is all about by looking at the term “illegal”. Let me start by saying I think it’s a disgusting name and I don’t care for it. I know how it came about; “illegal alien” is a bit of mouthful to say so Americans, being a bit lazy, shortened it to “illegal”. But, the thing is it’s dehumanizing. Nothing in it hints that we’re dealing with human beings. Understand this: people cannot be illegal; they can commit illegal acts, such as being in this country illegally, but they are not illegal. The term calls into question not just their citizenship or status in this country, but their status as human beings. Lumping them all under an offensive name ignores the fact that each and every one has a story to tell, a reason for being here. And, let’s be honest, there’s a racial component, too. Because you and I both know that “illegal” is a code word for brown people, i.e. Latinos. And, here we are at the root of the problem. Certain groups of Americans see the rise of minorities, especially Hispanics, as threat to their well-being. It’s why you keep hearing them shout about “taking this country back”. This is rather funny in a country known for being “a melting pot”.

There’s a problem with the “melting pot” metaphor, however: it’s not true. Well, in a way it is. The United States became the place it is due to the efforts of a widely diverse group of people. Where the metaphor falls apart is that it implies that widely diverse group of people was welcomed with open arms and eagerly integrated into American society. Nothing could be farther from the truth. About the only immigrant group welcomed in any way were Africans between the 1650’s and 1865. Of course, we only wanted them here so we could exploit them as free labor, so you can’t really call that “open arms”. Other groups, like the Irish in the early to mid-1800’s and the Italians in the early 1900’s, didn’t get much of a reception either, being ostracized to ghettos and slums and kept out of the better jobs and professions until a new group to hate and be suspicious of came along. For some reason, humans have a need to feel superior to someone else and these groups were no exception. The Irish worked diligently to keep the Italians down and all white people did everything in their power to keep African-Americans in their “place”. You’d think that, by the 21st century, we’d have learned this doesn’t work. Instead, Americans are doing everything in their power to keep Hispanics down. Not exactly what I’d call progress.

I could go on about the reasons why it happens (economics, fear, etc.), but we already know what they are whether we want to admit it or not. Instead, I’ll say this: If the United States is the Christian nation some of us say it is, why aren’t following Christ’s words on the matter? In Matthew 25:35, Jesus said to His disciples

“I was hungry and you gave me food to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

“I was a stranger and you welcomed me” pretty much shuts the door on treating immigrants to this country (regardless of their status) like crap. To do anything else makes a mockery of the Gospel.