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Commentary: Jesus would demand justice for immigrants

August 09, 2013|By the Rev. Sarah Halverson

The nation is engaged in a conversation on immigration and, therefore, our congregations should be too. After all, this is not just an abstract philosophical topic — this cuts straight to the core of who we are as Americans and, ultimately, who we are as people of faith.

Those of us who claim one of the Abrahamic traditions know that we have been called to care for the immigrant among us. It is a biblical mandate. And any of us living on this side of the border knows (or at least should know) we are all immigrants.

Our human journey began somewhere in Africa, and here we are, centuries later, a migrated people who came to call this North American plot of land home.

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I can hardly imagine what 11 million people looks like, but that's how many immigrants in the United States today have entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas. To wrap my mind around it, I looked up the population of Costa Mesa and Newport Beach (the potential readership of the Daily Pilot) and realized that, together, our cities make up only about 200,000 people (as of 2011).

So even if our two cities were filled solely with immigrants who entered the country illegally or overstayed their visas, they would make up less than 2% of that 11 million. It's hard to fathom.

That's why we need to focus in from that cosmic perspective on the overwhelming number of 11 million and try to think about one or two of those people — our neighbors, our kids' classmates, maybe even our co-workers.

Last week, I directed high schoolers at our church camp up at Pilgrim Pines. And I invited a keynote speaker, who just happens to be a brilliant Dreamer who shared his story through poetry. Teenagers who had never dared enter into this national conversation suddenly began to see with eyes wide open and to listen with ears that truly heard.

That’s what Jesus calls us to do, after all. Remember, Jesus made the foreigner the hero of one of his most beloved stories, “The Good Samaritan.” In doing so, he completely overturned the popular view that looked down upon Samaritans and demonstrated that ultimately God's kingdom has no borders. Jesus boldly declares: “You have ears to hear, listen!”

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