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Welcoming the stranger

Blogger Mark Kadel

Today we will examine the Christian church’s compassionate and informed role as we “Welcome the Stranger” to our land.

How is the issue of immigration affecting the church?
Demographers tell us that immigrant churches are the fastest growing segment of evangelical churches in the U.S. In fact, some researchers predict the immigrant and ethnic church will be the largest evangelical body of believers in the U.S. by 2025.  Increasingly, when we talk disparagingly about “those people,” we are talking about ourselves because the Church is one body of which each of us is an interdependent part. When one part suffers, as many undocumented brothers and sisters do, every part suffers (1 Cor 12:12-26).

What should our church do?
I suggest several steps:

  • Prayer — for wisdom as your church engages with this issue, for immigrants in your community, and for your political leaders
  • Listening — to immigrant brothers and sisters’ experiences, as well as to what the Bible has to teach us about how to interact with the foreign-born.
  • Education — help others in your congregation to understand the issue. Some churches have dedicated a sermon or Sunday school class to the topic, or created opportunities for interaction between immigrants and non-immigrants within the church
  • Advocacy — your legislators need to hear the moral voice of churches and their leaders. Some churches have created or signed a statement in support of immigration reform. Others have visited, written to, or called their legislators to share their opinion.  Most white evangelicals regret the way that, for the most part, we sat out on the Civil Rights Movement, leaving our African-American brothers and sisters on their own as they struggled for what we now readily affirm was biblically-mandated justice.  This time around, we have the chance to stand with our Latino, Asian, Mid-Eastern and African brothers and sisters as they struggle to start their lives over again in a country that prides itself in being a land of opportunity.
  • Evangelism — While many immigrants bring a vibrant faith with them, others will encounter the transformative message of the gospel for the first time in the U.S.  Immigration provides a missional opportunity to make disciples of all nations—right on our doorstep.
  • Invite a Speaker — World Relief would be happy to send a speaker to your church, Sunday school, cell or growth group, women’s or men’s meeting, or a mission club to talk about immigration issues and the biblical response.
  • Become involved — World Relief Spokane has a volunteer program that provides cultural orientation, training and tools to empower the local church to serve the most vulnerable.  If this message pricks your heart a little, makes you think you should maybe be a little more neighborly, or just excites you with possibilities, check out our website at   nd click on the “Get Involved” tab for a list of ways you can become an advocate for the vulnerable.

Thank you again for looking into the issue of immigration with me these past four weeks.  I realize there is much, much more on this subject that we could explore and many more scriptures that talk about welcoming the stranger and a lot more angles of looking at immigration that I have not touched on in these four posts.  I welcome comments, opinions and different viewpoints so please comment on this post or email me at

Blogger answers questions on immigration policy

By Blogger Mark Kadel

Blogger Mark Kadel

We continue the second seriesof our blog examining answers to common questions about immigration.  This post will focus more on the facts and figures about immigration policy.Why don’t these people come the legal way, the way my ancestors did?

It’s easy to romanticize the immigrants to the United States of a century ago. But in reality, the immigrants who came through Ellis Island or arrived in California from China and southeast Asia came for the same primary reasons that immigrants come today. And, at the time, they faced much of the same resentment from some native-born U.S. citizens. What has changed dramatically, though, and the reason that many immigrants today do not come legally, is our government’s ever changing immigration policy. Prior to 1882, no one came illegally to the United States because all immigration was legal. There was no requirement of a visa and no federal restrictions on who could immigrate. That began to change with the Chinese Exclusion Actin 1882 and several gradual changes that, by 1924, nearly closed off immigration to all but a fortunate few. While immigration reforms passed in 1965 reopened the possibility of immigration for some groups, current policy provides most who would like to immigrate with no legal option.Why don’t immigrants just wait their turn in line?

There are four basic ways a person might obtain Lawful Permanent Resident status in the United States:
  1. Employment-Based Immigration through the H1A/H1B/H2a/H2b/H3/H4 visa program.  These employment programs allow U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.  However, these visas are almost exclusively reserved for those with “advanced degrees” and “extraordinary abilities,” not for those content to do low wage labor.
  2. Diversity Visa Lottery is a United States congressionally mandated lottery program for citizens of foreign countries to receive a United States Permanent Resident Card.  The odds of winning are about one in 300, and it’s only a possibility for individuals from “under-represented” countries, not for those from Mexico, the Philippines, China, India and other “over-represented” countries.
  3. Refugee or Asylee Status is reserved for those fleeing severe persecution, but not for those fleeing poverty, natural disasters or environmental degradation.  Only a fraction of 1 percent of the world’s refugees are allowed to be resettled to the United States in a given year as the president sets a cap on the number of Refugee and Asylee allowed to resettle here.
  4. Family Based Immigration through the I-730 visa process.  Backlogs can be as long as 20 years, and many others do not have the requisite relative in the United States to sponsor them.
Many individuals who come and find work in the United States do not fit into any of these categories, so there is really no “line” in which they could begin to wait.  For many there is no legal way for them to come under current law.Aren’t undocumented immigrants a drain on the economy?

Actually, almost all economists (44 out of 46 of those surveyed by the Wall Street Journal) agree that undocumented immigrants are good for the U.S. economy. Contrary to popular perception, most undocumented immigrants do pay taxes. The Social Security Administration estimates that three out of four undocumented immigrants have Social Security, Medicare and income taxes deducted from their paychecks, and the Social Security Administration has taken in as much as $12 billion annually in recent years in contributions that do not match a valid Social Security number.  Immigrants using invalid Social Security numbers will not be eligible for any Social Security benefits under current law, nor are they eligible for public benefits such as welfare or food stamps.  Undocumented immigrants are responsible for certain costs to the economy—particularly at the local and state levels for education and emergency healthcare—but, overall, the economic benefits they bring outweigh the costs.Next time we will examine Biblical perspectives on current immigration policies by answering such questions as:
How do we justify the fact that illegal immigrants broke the law? And, What does the Bible say about this issue?

Nativity story an invitation to examine immigration issues

By Blogger Mark Kadel

Blogger Mark Kadel

As Christians around the world celebrate the birth Jesus Christ, we are reminded that his family also suffered persecution and oppression at the hands of those who were misinformed about their circumstances.  As those of us who work with immigration issues and refugees know, Jesus and his family were refugees, fleeing to Egypt for a number of years before the threat of King Herod passed.  When they returned to Israel, the angel directed them to resettle to the primitive village of Nazareth, out of the spotlight, perhaps to not draw attention to themselves.   The same is true for many immigrants who resettle in our country today.

As we think of how this affects us during the Advent season, we are reminded that the United States is a country mostly made up of immigrants from around the world.  Our forefathers, who sought freedom and opportunity, have for years resettled in this country to capture a part of the American dream.  We are a country with a rich cultural diversity that together makes a beautiful mosaic.

However, regardless of our heritage, some in our society see immigration as an invasion. Many see immigrants—especially immigrants who are present in our country unlawfully—as a threat to our economy, our security, and our national identity.

As Christians, I personally hope we see things differently. I believe that immigrants are a blessing and an opportunity.  Immigrants, including refugees and undocumented immigrants, bring a great deal to our country and present a wonderful, missional opportunity for the Church.  Through immigration, the nations of the world show up right at our doorstep.  While many immigrants arrive in this country with a vibrant faith, others encounter the hope of a transforming relationship with Jesus Christ for the first time in this country.  God has given his Church an enormous opportunity in the arrival of immigrants to our country.  But we have the option of ignoring this opportunity, of allowing our response to be one of fear, rather than by the liberating truth and love of Scripture.

“Why is immigration policy important to Christians? Certainly because we believe what the Bible teaches about treatment of ‘aliens in the land.’ It is also because so many Hispanic, African and Asian immigrants are evangelical Christians who are in our denominations and churches by the millions. They are us,” said
Leith Anderson president of the National Association of Evangelicals.

I will be sharing a four-part series on a Christian perspective on immigration and will be using some information on World Relief’s website,

Let’s start by answering a few common questions:

What is the immigration “crisis,” and why does it matter to the church?
There are an estimated 32 million immigrants presently living in the United States, with about 10.8 million living here without legal status. All sides agree that this is a problem—with some viewing the situation as an “invasion” of “illegal” immigrants threatening the culture, safety, and economy of the United States, while others lament that “undocumented” immigrants are kept in the shadows, with families divided by unjust laws. Christians often feel stuck in the middle of these two views—recognizing the tension between the biblical commands to respect the law and to welcome, love, and minister to our new immigrant neighbors.

Who are these undocumented immigrants?
A lot of what we hear and read about undocumented immigrants is inaccurate.  Of the approximately 10.8 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States, about 40 percent entered lawfully with a visa, but overstayed, while the rest entered illegally.  While about 56 percent of undocumented immigrants come from Mexico or other Latin American countries, there are also millions of undocumented Asian, African, and European immigrants—so this is certainly not just a Hispanic issue. Most immigrants without legal status, like those with legal status, come to improve their economic situation (which is often very perilous in their country of origin), to reunite families, or fleeing persecution in their country of origin.

Next week we will explore answers to questions like:
Why don’t these people come the legal way, the way that my ancestors did?
And Aren’t undocumented immigrants a drain on the economy?