Looking at Immigration as a Christian

Matthew Soerens
A Biblical Blind Spot
A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

• By their own admission, most Christians do not think about
immigration from a biblical perspective
• Just 9% of all Protestant Christians and 12% of white evangelicals say
that their views on immigration are primarily influenced by their
Christian faith (Pew Forum Survey, September 2010)

• Why? Perhaps because just 20% of Protestant Christians (and 16% of
white evangelicals) have heard about immigration from their pastor or
other clergy (Pew Forum Survey, September 2010)
But That’s Not because the Bible is Silent on the Topic
• Ger, the Hebrew word closest to ―immigrant‖ in English, appears 92
times in the Old Testament
• Fundamentally, God’s people are called to love and seek justice for
immigrants because we are to follow God’s example
• The Lord your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords,
the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites
and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and
widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and
clothing. That means you must also love immigrants
(Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEB)

A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

Many of the heroes and heroines of the biblical narrative
were immigrants themselves
• Abraham
• Rebekah
• Joseph
• Ruth
• David
• Jesus
• Paul
• Called by God/Fled Famine
• Family-Based Immigrant
• Victim of Human Trafficking
• Family-Based Immigrant/Fled Famine
• Asylum Seeker
• Refugee / Celestial Immigrant
• Employment-Based Immigrant
A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

God’s Law for the Israelites repeatedly insists that the native-
born and the immigrant be treated equally
•The same law applies both to the native-born and to the
foreigner residing among you (Exodus 12:49 NIV)
•Just like the citizens, immigrants were entitled under the law to
• Fair treatment as laborers (Deuteronomy 24:14)
• A Sabbath rest from work (Exodus 20:10)
• Prompt payment for labor (Deuteronomy 24:15)
• Equal treatment when accused of a crime (Leviticus 20:2, 24:16,

A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

God recognizes immigrants as uniquely vulnerable to injustice,
alongside the fatherless and the widow
• The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the
widow (Psalm 146:9 NIV)
• “Cursed is anyone who obstructs the legal rights of immigrants, orphans,
or widows.” All the people will reply: “We agree!” (Deuteronomy 27:19
• If you truly reform your ways and your actions; if you treat each other
justly; if you stop taking advantage of the immigrant, orphan, or widow; if
you don’t shed the blood of the innocent in this place, or go after other
gods to your own ruin, only then will I dwell with you in this place
(Jeremiah 7:6 CEB)
A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

God commands His people to remember their own
immigrant history
• You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be
a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land
of Egypt (Exodus 23:9 NLT)
• See also Leviticus 19:33-34, Deuteronomy 10:19
• Most North American Christians also have immigrant histories,
which we would do well to remember and to allow to inform
how we treat immigrants
A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

Christians are called to hospitality (philoxenia, literally, the
love of strangers)
•I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me
something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and
you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came
to visit me… Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers
and sisters of mine, you did for me (Matthew 25:35-36, 40 NIV)
•Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained
angels without knowing it (Hebrews 13:2)
•Scripture challenges us to think that immigrants—rather than aliens to be feared—
might actually be a blessing

A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

Christians are called to uphold justice
•“So I will come to put you on trial. I will be quick to testify against
sorcerers, adulterers and perjurers, against those who defraud
laborers of their wages, who oppress the widows and the fatherless,
and deprive the foreigners among you of justice, but do not fear me,”
says the Lord Almighty (Malachi 3:5 NIV)
•Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Execute true justice, Show mercy
and compassion… Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the
alien or the poor” (Zechariah 7:9-10 NKJV)
•Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from
the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no
wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow,
nor shed innocent blood in this place (Jeremiah 22:3 ESV)
A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

Some Examples of Injustice
Human Trafficking and Abusive Labor Practices
•As many as 17,500 foreign-born individuals are trafficked into the U.S. each
year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice
•95% of the victims in Department of Justice-prosecuted labor trafficking cases
are foreign-born, and more than 70% of those were undocumented
•Our dysfunctional immigration system is a trafficker’s best friend
•Many more undocumented immigrants are victims of exploitative labor practices
which may not meet the legal definition of labor trafficking
• Undocumented workers, who tend to be wary to report violations of labor
laws, are disproportionately victims of wage theft
• Farmworkers, about half of whom are undocumented, earn an average
annual salary of just $11,000
• A study of immigrant carwash workers in Chicago found that 75% earn
less than the legal minimum wage and only 2% report being paid overtime

A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

Some Examples of Injustice
Immigrant Detention
• Immigration & Customs Enforcement detains about 400,000 people per
year, some for months or years
• About half of detainees have not been convicted of any crime
• Detainees must pay exorbitant prices for basic amenities like pillows,
Tylenol, or telephone cards
• They work within detention facilities for as little as 13 cents per hour
• Many detention facilities are operated by private corporations with
federal contracts
• They earn an average of $122 per detainee, per night
• And they have spent more than $20 million on federal lobbying efforts to
encourage detaining more individuals
• The Congressionally-mandated number of detainees increased five-fold
from 1995 to 2011
A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

Christians are Called to Submit to the Law
•Most immigrants in the US have legal status
•But about one-third of immigrants are present unlawfully, so we also need to wrestle
with passages that speak to how Christians should relate to the law
•Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority
except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been
established by God (Romans 13:1)
•For the US citizen, there is no conflict between welcoming immigrants and following
the law (at least in most states)
•Were laws to change, and ministry to be made illegal, Scripture makes clear that
there are certain instances where ―we must obey God rather than men‖ (Acts 5:29)
A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

Christians are Called to Submit to the Law
•Undocumented brothers and sisters need to wrestle before God with their situation
•Many came out of desperation, seeking to provide for their families, and
Scripture tells us that ―if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and
especially for his immediate family, he has denied the faith and is worse than
an unbeliever‖ (1 Timothy 5:8)
•Most undocumented immigrants within the Church are eager to get right with
the law, but current law does not allow for this reconciliation
•Our current immigration system—where laws are selectively ignored—mocks
the ideal of the rule of law; we can all advocate for a more functional system
that restores the rule of law
A Biblical Blind Spot @MatthewSoerens

A Missional Opportunity
•Jesus commands us to ―make disciples of every nation‖ (Matthew 28:19)
•With immigration, the nations arrive at our doorstep, representing an enormous
missional opportunity
•Many are already strong believers, who become agents of mission within their own ethnic
communities and beyond
•Others arrive with a nominal faith or from entirely unreached people groups and are much
more open to the gospel than they might be in their home country
•The movements of peoples are part of God’s sovereign plan to draw people to
•―From one man [God] made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth;
and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.
God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him.‖
(Acts 17:26-27)
A Missional Opportunity @MatthewSoerens

A Missional Opportunity
―86% of the immigrant population in North America are likely to
either be Christians or become Christians. That’s far above the
national average…The immigrant population actually presents the
greatest hope for Christian renewal in North America… This group
that we want to keep out is actually the group that we most need for
spiritual transformation… We shouldn’t see this as something that
threatens us. We should see this as a wonderful opportunity.‖
- Dr. Timothy Tennent
Missiologist & President, Asbury Theological Seminary

A Missional Opportunity @MatthewSoerens

A Missional Opportunity
• But many evangelical churches are missing this missional opportunity
• That may be because most white evangelicals say immigrants are ―a burden on
our country‖ and that immigration ―threatens traditional American customs and
values‖ (Pew Forum Survey, May 2011, analyzed by Christianity Today)
• Just 10% of churches in the US have any sort of ministry or ministry partnership
focused on refugees or other immigrants (Harford Seminary Faith Communities Today
Survey, 2010)
• And, as a likely effect, fully 60% of those from non-Christian religious traditions in
the U.S.—most of them immigrants—say they do not know any Christians (Center
for the Study of Global Christianity, Gordon-Conwell Seminary, 2013)

A (Missed) Missional Opportunity @MatthewSoerens

John Faison
Do I have my facts right? @CIRaleigh

Why Don’t They Immigrate the Legal Way, the Way
That My Ancestors Did?
• Gone the days that most of our ancestors came – Ellis Island the Golden
door has been shut!

• Immigration policy changed drastically in 1965, switching to a family- and
employment-based system.

• Immigrants today come for many of the same reasons as they have always
come, but US immigration policy has changed drastically in the past century

Do I have my facts right? @CIRaleigh

Myths and Misunderstandings about Immigration?
Myth: Undocumented Immigrants do not pay taxes
•Fact: The Social Security Administration estimates that 3 out of 4
undocumented immigrants have payroll, Social Security, and Medicare taxes
deducted from their paychecks with ITIN numbers

•The Social Security Administration has received as much as $12 billion per
year in the suspense fund. However, they do not benefit from Social Security or
Medicare, and from almost all public benefits and services

Myth: Immigrants send all of their money back to their home countries
Fact: In addition to the consumer spending of immigrant households,
immigrants and their businesses contribute $162 billion in tax revenue to the
U.S. federal, state, and local governments

MYTH: Border crossings are historically high
FACT: Border crossings are actually down from where they were in the 1990s,
when more than 1.5 million people would come to the U.S.every year.
U.S. border apprehensions overview:
• 2000: 1,675,438 people
• 2008: 723,825
• 2013: 420,789
Do I have my facts right? @CIRaleigh

Myth: Anyone who enters the country illegally is a criminal
Fact: According to federal immigration law unlawful presence in the country is
a civil offense, and therefore, not a crime.

Myth: Immigrants don’t want become ―Americanized‖ or U.S. citizens
Fact: The typical pattern of assimilation in the United States has remained
• The first generation struggled with English and didn’t learn it.
• The second was bilingual.
• The third can’t talk to their grandparents.
• If anything, the speed of assimilation is faster today than at any time in
our past, mainly because of public education and mass media.
Do I have my facts right? @CIRaleigh

Do I have my facts right? @CIRaleigh

Myth: They could come legally. Just filled out the paper work and get in line.
Fact: Most undocumented people in the US could not have come legally
There are 5 basic ways to come to the US
1.Family based visa (can be more than 20 years)
2.Employment based Visa (R, O, H1b, H2b, etc)
3.Investment (More than 1 million to invest)
4.Diversity Visa - Its a lottery but it excluded Bahamas, Bangladesh, Brazil,
Canada, China, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Haiti, India,
Jamaica, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Philippines, South Korea, United Kingdom,
5.Specialty Visas - Asylum, Refugee, Humanitarian, Cultural etc.
Why Should I care? @CIRaleigh

1. Becasue God cares and
2. Justice is measured in terms of how we treat the vulnerable
3. Demographics - The ―browning of America‖ is underway.
• White America, expressed as a percentage of the population, is
• Even if immigration stops
• 10,000/day - Latinos turning 18
• 1/2 of kids in NC public schools are brown
• 10,000/baby boomers turning retire
4. The Church
• Evangelicalism would be in decline if it were not for immigrant churches
• Immigrants are the fastest growing segments of the America church
• God is offering to His church in America a blessing.
5. Other implications
• Social
• Political
• Spiritual
• Economic

Why Should I care? @CIRaleigh

What can I do? @CIRaleigh


•Scripture tells us to ―pray without ceasing‖ so prayer should be at the
beginning, middle, and end of our engagement with this issue
•This issue is a huge issue, and none of us has the authority to change the
structural problems in the immigration system… but God does
•We can pray in particular for
•Immigrants in our community
•Our churches, for wisdom and courage in engaging this issue
•Our legislators and the President, for wisdom and courage to pass just laws

#Pray4Reform www.evangelicalimmigrationtable.com
What can I do? @CIRaleigh

• Get the facts and tell others
• Encourage your local church to get involved.
• Churches could ask a pastor of a nearby immigrant congregation to share
with their congregation
• Dedicate a Sunday School class, missions conference, or Sunday
sermon to looking at immigration in Scripture
• Invite a speaker to your church or event
• Follow and repost on twitter and facebook
• Respond to newspaper as a Christian
• Connect with WR, CIR, IH to keep informed

worldrelief.org immigranthope.org ciraleigh.org

What can I do? @CIRaleigh

―We are not to simply bandage the wounds of victims beneath the wheels of
injustice, we are to drive a spoke into the wheel itself.‖
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer
• Call/write your Federal Rep & State
• Speak up on local issues
• Run for office - we need candidates with His heart
for the immigrant

Call 866-877-5552
ShepherdProject.net @CIRaleigh

The opportunity

The 92,000+ unaccompanied children comming to our
communities should be exposed to the heart of Christian love
during their time in America, however short it may be.

• Most of their families, cannot afford a lawyer;

• Not enough pro-bono capacity

• Courts over booked

3 major parts:
1. Assigning each child a trained Compassion Shepherd who will
help meet their emotional needs and may accompany them
through the court process.
2. Providing financial assistance (Financial Shepherd) with
coordination of legal system, fees as well as travel expenses to
the immigration court.
3. Helping families navigate the legal system with preliminary
intake, case management, and initial steps before connecting
them with a pro bono immigration lawyer (Legal Shepherd).

ShepherdProject.net @CIRaleigh

Immigration Legal Services
A Guide for Churches

Ben Johnson @ImmigrantHope

Ben Johnson
Assistant Director, Immigrant Hope
(612) 516-5422
Contact Information
The Need
Why open an immigration center?
Immigrants Need Legal Services
• The immigration system is complex and unforgiving – think tax law
• No representation provided
• Conmen pose as immigration experts to defraud vulnerable immigrants
• Severe consequences for mistakes
• Detention
• Deportation
• Separation from family
• Return to war, persecution, economic devastation
The Need

Immigrants Need Jesus
• NO ONE, regardless of their ethnicity, history, or legal status, is
outside of the church’s mission.
• Affordable, reliable, caring immigration help builds bridges for the
• [God] marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries
of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps
reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of
Acts 17:26b-27

The Need

Ben Johnson @ImmigrantHope

Church-Based Immigration
How does it work?
What does it look like?
• The only people who can practice immigration law are:
• Immigration attorneys
• Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) Accredited individuals
working at BIA Recognized nonprofits
• Requirements for BIA accreditation
• About 40 hours of immigration law classwork
• About 100 hours of shadowing experience
• Must work at a BIA recognized agency
• Must be separately accredited at each location where they work
• Clients
• meet with an expert
• explain their need
• get information about their situation
• make a plan
• get help completing and filing forms
• Simple cases (green cards for family, citizenship, DACA…)
• Advanced cases (asylum/refugee, domestic violence, trafficking,
crime victims, deportation defense in court…)
• Director
• Leader/administrator, responsible for staff oversight and training
• Attorneys/BIA accredited representatives
• Give legal advice, review and sign forms
• Support staff/volunteers
• Legal support: do interviews, collect documents and info, enter
data, write case notes, prepare application packets…
• Office support: answer phones, make appointments, filing,
• Translators/interpreters
• Other: web design, writing, marketing, childcare, accounting,
community engagement, tech support, hospitality, follow-up care,
• Accessible to immigrant communities
• Secure storage for case files
• Private meeting rooms
• Could be multi-use
• Launch can take 9-18 months, cost $5-10K
• Staff/volunteer investment
• BIA accredited reps may need to travel for training
• Requires a lot of learning and a lot of work
• Commitment to clients
• You are responsible for cases for their duration
• You are responsible to maintain files for years after completion
• BUT – You can do it! And you can make a huge impact relative to
your investment.
Next Steps
Ben Johnson @ImmigrantHope

Find Help

• Support organizations can help:
• Set up your program
• Apply for BIA recognition and accreditation
• Provide ongoing legal and program support
• Immigrant Hope
• Church-based only
• World Relief
• Centro Internacional de Raleigh (CIR)
• North Carolina
• The Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC)
Get Training

• IMMIGRANT PATHWAY Institute (Immigrant Hope & CIR)
• San Antonio, TX; Oct 20-24, 2014
• Raleigh, NC; Mar 2-6, 2015
• 40-hours, week-long
• www.immigranthope.org/ipi
• World Relief
• Baltimore, MD; Nov 3-7, 2014
• Akron, PA; Mar 3-7, 2015
• www.worldrelief.org/immigrant-legal-services
• Others
• Check our websites for lists of other training
Contact Information

Ben Johnson
Assistant Director, Immigrant

John Faison
Web site www.ciraleigh.org

Matthew Soerens
EIT Field Director/World Relief
(920) 428-9534
Additional Resources
How Can I Learn More?
• Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the
Immigration Debate by Matthew Soerens & Jenny Hwang (InterVarsity Press,
• Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible
by Daniel Carroll (Baker, 2008)
• www.evangelicalimmigrationtable.com
• g92.org undocumentedtv
• ciraleigh.org
• immigranthope.org
• worldrelief.org
• Church Leaders Guide to Immigration (at World Relief web site)

Additional Resources
Evangelical Immigration Table
• Hundreds of Evangelical
• Working towards Biblical,
compassionate reform