Change the Conversation About Immigrants in the U.S.

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So far, the upcoming 2016 presidential campaign has been the most anti-immigrant in its rhetoric since the 1850s (source). Christians are not exempt from this anti-immigrant rhetoric. Nearly 50% of white evangelicals believe that immigrants are a drain or burden on the U.S. economy, and more than half of evangelicals believe that an increase in immigrants will threaten American values (source).

But we know immigrants have brought great richness to this country -- not just economically, but also culturally. Most immigrants reflect the best of American values: ingenuity, community pride, strong families, hard work, deep faith.

Even though immigrants bring a wealth of cultural and economic growth to the U.S., mainstream culture frequently describes them as a burden. We’re not seeing Christian teachings or values represented in our churches, communities, and politics when it comes to immigrants either, which is why we’re committed to changing the conversation. America is a nation of immigrants, and immigrants deserve respect.

So it’s time to unlearn that immigrants are a burden. Scripture teaches this truth: immigrants are a blessing, not a burden (Matthew 25, Hebrews 13:2). Our own experience and truths about the economy and our communities teach us that immigrants are a blessing too.

Supporters of the new Immigrants Are a Blessing Not a Burden campaign represent a community of Christians from many backgrounds committed to changing the conversation.

The Office of Social Justice invites you to join the conversation. Help share the truth about immigrants and change the conversation in three main ways:

  1. Sign: Sign the pledge to commit to changing the conversation about immigrants and to call on congressional representatives to enact immigration policies that reflect the reality that immigrants are a blessing, not a burden.
  2. Share: Share the message on social media and with those around you using the hashtag #BlessingNotBurden. Share facts and truths about how immigrants bless our churches, communities, and economy.
  3. Wear: Wear the campaign tote bags, t-shirts, and sticker with the message that immigrants are a blessing, not a burden.

To learn more about the campaign, visit BlessingNotBurden.org and like the campaign page at Facebook.com/BlessingNotBurden.

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Guide

Thank you CRC and OSJ for this important and much needed reminder that immigrants bless my life and that as an immigrant I also bless the lives of those around me. It is both disheartening and frustrating when some people around me and part of mainstream culture either explicitly or indirectly refer to me as a burden and other me with their language and assumptions. So, I am glad that the church and others around me are counteracting that narrative with this positive message. Muchas gracias! 

That is a helpful comment, I agree!

Community Builder

I am so grateful that the CRC is leading this campaign! It is time for Christians to make their voices heard in national and local conversations about immigration.

Participant

Many Christians already make their voices heard in national and local conversations about immigration, without the lead, and sometimes in ways contrary to, the way the CRC/OSJ would instruct.  The more pertinent question is whether OSJ should tell all CRCers what exactly they must think and express when they make their voices heard in these conversations. 

Wouldn't it be better to invite CRCers (and other Christians) to discuss the complexities of the issues involved instead of just tell them what they should think and what they should do?  Does this topic have to be a one-way conversation?  Of course, a one-way conversation isn't a conversation at all.  And do we have to reduce our perspective to one that is so black and white?

CRCers are invited to discuss the complexities of the issues. The OSJ would be happy to facilitate the Church Between Borders workshop at any congregation in the U.S. It receives outstanding feedback from all sides of the discussion everywhere it goes. (http://www2.crcna.org/pages/osj_churchbetweenborders.cfm

Congratulations to CRC staff who have put this campaign together. In order to have a good conversation it is important to be grounded in evidence. Immigrants are blessings and not burdens happens to be a true and significant statement in multiple spheres - economic, social, and faith among others. It is this reality - this insight - that ought to ground and inform the important policy discussions needed in the public square. Love it!

Participant

I would suggest it is never the case that a phenomena as complex as legal and illegal immigration, in a nation as large as the US, with immigration numbers (legal and illegal) as great as they have been in the US of late, can be called all good or all bad (or all "blessing" or all "burden").  It will always be a mixed bag.

In contradiction to the claims made by this campaign, I personally know of people in my community, including my clients, who are substantially burdened by immigration, especially when the numbers of unlawful immigration increases as it has.  To put it simply, a high number of lower-skilled immigration increases the supply of low-skilled workers as well as small businesses who, whether with appropriate licenses or not, engage in certain kinds of lower skill work and small business efforts (e.g., roofing, painting, yard work, etc).  That reality effectively reduces  wages and the amount of available work for some workers and some small businesses.  And of course, this would be true not just where I live but anywhere there are high numbers of immigrants, especially when high level of immigration is unlawful.

The problem with declaring -- and then pushing in a political way as does this campaign -- a hyperbole (that unlawful immigration produces all upside (blessing) and no downside (burden)) is that lawmakers get caught up in the bumper sticker mantra and tend to legislate accordingly, which of course means they tend to simply ignore the problems unlawful immigration in fact creates.  That is, they ignore the lower-skilled work force and the small business that can get hit hard by the effect of high unlawful immigration numbers.

A better approach would be to simply avoid hyperbole in this sort of campaign.  Better yet, if avoiding the hyperbole proves too difficult, would be to allow intelligent CRC members to speak for themselves to their own political representatives, based on their own experience and fact-finding.  Above all, that approach respects the rights of CRC members to be part of the CRC church without surrendering their political voice to a proxy.

No more hyperbolic than saying "kids are a blessing and not a burden". We all know that sometimes kids are and feel like a burden - a pain in th but even. That does not negate the truth of the assertion and it does not fit the definition of hyperbole. But if you insist Doug, I'll buy you a T-shirt that says "Immigrants are a Blessing - (but sometimes and in some places some of them can be a bit of a burden)" If you will post a picture of yourself wearing it?

Participant

That's a fascinating analogy (kids as immigrants).  I'm willing to play with that.  So my client Jon is in his early thirties and married with two kids.  He started a roofing business some years back.  The more the unlawful immigration (I distinguish between lawful and unlawful even if you and this campaign refuse to), the more "black market" (and "white market") competition he has.  For Jon, unlawful immigration is a hardship.  If Jon was required to accept additional children because the government said he had to, the effect would in fact be the roughly the same -- hardship.  To be clear, all people are created in God's image, as are all children.  But people who come to the US in violation of US law and become a particular burden to particular segments of the US population (in this case, small businesses and lower skilled employees) were as much created in God's image in Honduras, or Mexico, or Nicaragua and they are if they come to the US.  

The irony in all of this is that a political campaign like this one, which advocates a simplistic message that lacks nuance, hurts the small, poorer people in the US (like my clients Jon and Andrew and others like them) and helps the big ones (like my client Larry and companies much bigger than that who are not my clients -- I mostly represent small businesses).  The reason is simple: uncontrolled, unlawful immigration from third world countries favor big businesses and higher skilled employees and disfavors small businesses and lower skilled employees.  As I said before, this is really the opposite of what OSJ says they advocate for.

You and OSJ are right that on the whole, when all the numbers are counted in a macro kind of way, immigration, probably including illegal immigration, is more a blessing than a burden.  But peoples' lives aren't lived at the macro level; they are lived at the micro level, in the real world as it is.  Why should the government ignore its own immigration laws so that the rich can get richer but the middle class and lower class are economically pinched?  And why should OSJ push a political campaign that supports that? 

I suspect my clients Jon and Andrew would be interested in your t-shirts, but only if you put the word "Legal" in front of the word "Immigrants."  My client Larry would be interested in the shirt without that added word, and maybe even prefer the word "Illegal" (illegal immigrants are easier to manipulate and abuse for bigger business and bigger agricultural operations because they are more vulnerable).

Why are you and OSJ favoring the wealthier class of Americans over the middle and poorer classes of Americans?  Micro justice for real people may be as much or even more important that macro economic growth for a nation and more wealth for the already wealthy.  Not?

Pew says the number of unauthorized immigrants in Oregon has "decreased" since 2009 by 20%. 

I think this article from the Acton institute has some great lines like, "Humans are assets, fashioned in the image of God with creative potential and unbounded relational capacity. All is gift, and we are all destined to be gift-givers in God’s grand economy of all things. We are made to build and innovate, share and collaborate, and immigrants of whatever skill set from whatever country or political system are born with that same creative capacity." 

And the author is generous in taking time to converse in the comments section. It is helpful read, imo.  

The myth that immigrants (including legal immigrants) are a burden to society, the economy, jobs, and the "American way of life", is THE root reason that the U.S. immigration system has not been reformed in 50 years--the myth of the burdensome immigrant is more powerful than the political will to reform the broken system.  

The bitter irony is that unauthorized immigrants, while being offered no options for legal status and while contributing over $80 million in Oregon state and local taxes and billions to Social Security, continue to receive most of the suffering and most of the blame. 

Christians are called to be a voice that stands with vulnerable immigrants burdened by American myths. That is what #blessingnotburden is all about. I shared the article from Acton. If anyone has research or opinions from trustworthy sources to the contrary I would be happy to read them and learn more.          

Admin

Yes! What a great read. 

Participant

Without checking the uncited Pew research, I do wonder how Pew would know.  Most of the unlawful immigrants I know personally) don't publicize that they here unlawfully.  But even if we assume, for the sake of the argument, that your uncited Pew reference is true, I don't understand the point.  Would it be that we should decrease the number of unlawful immigrants?  If not that, what?

To the broader point, I've already conceded that on the whole, from a macro perspective, immigrants as a whole probably benefit the US economy.  Still, from a micro perspective, especially unlawful immigration predominantly benefits the more wealthy class but burdens the middle and lower classes.

Nor have I denied that immigrants and all other people are image bearers of God, but that's not really a particularly helpful observation either.  They are image bearers of God even if they are live in their home countries of Honduras, or San Salvador, or Mexico, or China, etc.  Image bearers of God don't have to unlawfully come to or stay in the United States to be image bearers of God.

Again, my point, which seems to be missed, is that we have to be more nuanced about all of this than to just say that we should lobby government to regard all immigration, legal or illegal, to be a blessing to all and a burden to no one (which is, effectively, a call for an unrestricted immigration policy).  Again, we owe it to everyone involved to be more nuanced than that.

50 years ago humans were persons, corporations were businesses, and raw materials were assets to be consumed. These days corporations are persons and persons are raw materials to be consumed.  I knew the jig was up when personnel managers disappeared and personnel departments were renamed "human resource" departments.

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