Out of The Shadows

By Rich Perez


Does Undocumented Mean Unwanted?

Today there are 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in our country. They are given few options.  Either you assimilate or you will be harshly marginalized, economically and socially. Statistics from the Pew Research Center show that in the biggest surge of immigration in our country took place in the last 100 years. These are not predominantly European immigrants. These are people from Latin America, Asia and from Africa. 

Of our 11.1 million undocumented immigrants, data shows us that 75% are paying payroll taxes, which includes social security, medicare, and income taxes. It is estimated that annual contributions to the social security system by these workers is about 15 billion dollars every year, even though most of them are ineligible to receive social security benefits. These are people living in this country, that are contributing to the fabric of our nation, and yet, they live in the shadows of our laws and policies.

However, the statistic that stings the most? Only 12% of white evangelical Christians and 20% of all Christians, say that they think about immigration issues primarily from the perspective of their Christian faith. That will need to change. 


Living In The Shadows

The next few years are going to be difficult. We will have to challenge ourselves and have conversations that perhaps you never thought to integrate with your faith. But if we lean into the difficulty, if we lean into the tension, and we lean into discomfort, I promise, it will produce in us what we need; a deeper sense of family and a closer walk with God.

In Jeremiah, Chapter 22 God shows us that justice is a matter of relationship. Through Jeremiah, God sends a message to the King of Judah about God’s laws and how they should govern in light of those laws. “Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.” Jeremiah 22:2

Also consider Deuteronomy 24:14 “Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns.” Or, Leviticus 19:33,  “When a foreigner resides among you, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself.”

How often do we walk past our neighbors who are “resident aliens,” without finding small practical ways to engage in their story?

We are called to embody justice as the Bible defines it. Soon this may mean providing shelter, protection, comfort, and the sharing of God’s love and mercy in whatever way we can. We must fight oppression if we believe in justice. According to God’s word, this is how our society flourishes.

Administering justice often comes at a great cost. We live in a place that has been declared a sanctuary city, and there have been threats to cut off federal funding because of it. There will be agencies, and organizations looking to serve immigrant communities that will require far more resources and volunteer help. Or maybe there is simply a neighbor that needs comfort, legal advice, or poverty relief. 

My prayer is that Jesus, who is the light of the world, and who calls us to be light in the world, would help bring those that are living in the shadows into His marvelous light—the light of His freedom, and receive mercy and justice.

Christian friends, we need to begin viewing immigration through the lens of our faith. Because when we consider what it cost Christ to bring justice to our world, we can’t afford not to.

Rich Perez is the Senior Pastor at Christ Crucified Fellowship which is in uptown Manhattan.

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