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More thoughts on immigration

Ministers consider a response to the issues of immigration reform.

By Ted Parks

and Erik Tryggestad

The Christian Chronicle

Manuel Magos, minister and elder for the North County church in Escondido, Calif.:
“My father immigrated to the United States from Michoacan, Mexico, to work, and we grew up on the border in Mexicali in (Baja) California. My father died of cancer — probably caused by the pesticides in the field —when I was 16, and it was then that I also decided to immigrate, and I finished by studies in California. I am from a family of 12 children whom my mother continued to work hard to educate, and we still live on both sides of the border. I am very proud of my whole family.
“It seems very incorrect to ‘reward’ those who have arrived in the country illegally. It would be irresponsible. And what about the many people throughout the world who don’t live near a rich country and don’t have any hope of crossing a border to find work?”
“I’d like to believe that (North American Christians) have their eyes open to the situation and are looking at it through the eyes of Christ, but I know that many, perhaps most, have not had the opportunity to brush up against the reality of immigration and don’t know much about it.
“They don’t know what it is to bathe in cold water, even though they have a hot-water heater, because there’s no money for electricity. They haven’t had to walk an hour or more to work because if they spend 50 cents for the bus, there wouldn’t be enough to buy bread that day.
“An undocumented person has to live with the reality that he is in a country working illegally, but that if he returns to his own country, he couldn’t adequately feed, educate or clothe his family. Each day, even though he knows he’s breaking the law, he asks God to protect him from the law so he can work one more day and pay his rent one more month. A person lives every day with the hope that the government will be merciful, at the same time recognizing that he doesn’t deserve it.
“It is an exhausting situation, physically, mentally, and spiritually.”
Mike Blackwell, minister for the Harvey Drive Church of Christ in McAllen, Texas:
“There tends to be, on a national level, more demonstrations and angst north of us than we have in the Rio Grande valley. A lot of the ire comes from north and west of us. Illegal immigration (in south Texas) is socially institutionalized, not high-profile.
“The McAllen mall gets easily 70 percent of its business from Mexico. Lots of people are here legally and have family across the border.
“(At our church) we’re not going to be checking green cards, nor are we going to seek to further or enable illegal activity.”
George Little, minister for the El Cajon Boulevard Church of Christ in San Diego:
“I am Australian and therefore a foreigner — ministering in a U.S. church with at least 13 different nationalities. The mixture of nationalities is a common thing and I expect that most ministers do not ask to see people’s immigration papers before they minister to them.
“But we also have a strong commitment to teach that all Christians must submit to the laws of the land. If any are found to be illegal in our ministry we counsel them to return to their homeland if they have no legal redress here and seek to enter legally.
“We do have a significant ministry to the Spanish-speaking, as do most Churches of Christ in southern California. We choose to minister to everyone who comes our way with no levels of discrimination.”
Roberto Santiago, minister for the Grandview Iglesia de Cristo in Nashville, Tenn.:
“The perennial conflict among believers of living our lives as ‘pilgrims’ in this world, and being citizens in a particular country, has always been difficult. Personally, I subscribe to the belief that my ‘kingdom’ or citizenship is not of this world. I subscribe to the notion that we — the church — have been called aside to a brotherhood that knows no boundaries.
“As an evangelist, I have to see individuals as souls in need of Christ’s redemption. This impedes me from asking anyone about their legal status as an immigrant.
“I would not dare ask the same of an individual who looks European. I would only be interested in their condition as human beings and the knowledge that, just like me, that person is a sinner in need of Christ.
“Christ … rebuked the apostles James and John when they wanted to ‘bring down fire from heaven’ to destroy the Samaritans (‘the foreigners’) who refused to open their homes to Christ (Matthew 9:51).
“The question remains: which attitude should we adopt, that of Christ or the apostles when confronted with foreigners?”
Mark Pugh, preaching minister for the Kings Crossing Church of Christ, in Corpus Christi, Texas.
“We are about 150 miles north of the border. Our area gets a lot of illegal immigrants coming through, on their way to Houston or Dallas/Fort Worth. Since Corpus Christi is about 60 percent Hispanic, this area is somewhat sympathetic to the plight of the immigrants. The ranchers are not, because they claim the immigrants cut their fences and trespass on their property.
“We have had some discussion of this issue in Bible classes lately. … Most people here have been to the border towns of Progreso, Nuevo Laredo, or Matamoros. We have seen the poverty there. Most of us realize that if we had a wife and kids to support and we could increase our income by tenfold by slipping across the border for work, we probably would do it.
“I don’t know anyone who condones the illegality of this situation, and we wish that the immigrants coming across the border were doing so legally. But we don’t live in a perfect world.
“What should we do as Christians? … We feel our responsibility is to show them the love of Christ, as we would do for anyone in need. … But, our response is fairly passive, considering what it could be.

Filed under: International Staff Reports

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