Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Bible & Migration

Following my last two posts, a professor from Oxford, who has spent many years engaged in the academic study of migration, informs me that my comments about illegal immigrants “leeching public benefits” reveals a “breathtaking” level of “ignorance and prejudice.”

I will have to let the Californians know that immigrants who use Medicaid are not leeching public benefits through using Medicaid. (That doesn't sound right - am I missing something?)

The professor didn’t stop there. He went on to say, “even with your amended comments…You provide ample evidence to confirm my view that those concerned with the poor and downtrodden in society should stay a million miles from the kind of Christianity you claim to represent.”

The point I had been trying to make concerned the disproportionate treatment between of legal vs. illegal migrants. I’m not quite sure how that makes me harsh against the poor and downtrodden in society, especially since I have yet to articulate a position on migration in general.

As a general principle, however, let me make clear that "the kind of Christianity [I] claim to represent” is particularly compassionate towards immigrants. This is because the theology of covenantal continuity to which I subscribe acknowledges that it was our forefathers who were strangers in the land of Egypt. The premium which the Lord put on corporate hospitality to sojourners and aliens apply equally within the new covenant:

Exodus 22:21

“You shall neither mistreat a stranger nor oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Leviticus 19:33-34

“The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”

Matthew 25:35-40

"I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me ... And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me'."

America has a strong tradition of welcoming migrants, and this has contributed to our rich and diverse cultural legacy. One can recognise the need for USA to have migrants (at a rate the nation can manageably assimilate, to be sure) while still questioning the justice in a system that fails to protect its borders and yet functionally penalises those who want to migrate it legally.
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