Issues related to immigration are in the news this week. A new study finds that immigrants from Mexico and Central America are now “living under a dramatically increased sense of siege.” A poll reported in the study found that “More than one-third of Central Americans and 30 percent of Mexicans said their biggest problem in the United States was discrimination, compared with single-digit responses for similar questions in 2004, and 83 percent of Mexicans and 79 percent of Central Americans said this year that discrimination was rising.”

The McClatchy Newspapers report quoted Sergio Bendixen, founder of the Miami-based Bendixen & Associates, who conducted the study: “What I have found is both ugly and sad. There are millions of Latin American immigrants, especially those living in the deep South and the upper Midwest, whose lives have been made miserable by the anti-immigrant sentiment that is now so prevalent in so many geographic areas.”

As a result of Congress’ failure to pass comprehensive immigration reform, that sentiment is now playing out with states and local jurisdictions passing harsh anti-immigrant legislation. The Los Angeles Times reports that nearly 200 state laws have been passed so far in 2007, with the trend being toward more restrictive measures. But, as Tamar Jacoby, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute said: “The problem is these local measures are not going to deliver control. It’s probably not going to work, but it will make life miserable for a lot of people.” Not only have these restrictive measures been proven consistently unconstitutional, but the enforcement of such a patchwork of conflicting local ordinances would be unpractical and create increasingly divided communities.

Not to be outdone, the federal Department of Homeland Security is planning tough new rules on the hiring of illegal immigrants. And according to The New York Times, “Officials said the rules would be backed up by stepped-up raids on workplaces across the country that employ illegal immigrants.” A spokesman for DHS added, “We are tough and we are going to be even tougher.”

Ugly, sad, and tougher. With the failure of Congress to enact a fair and just immigration system, that’s what we’ve come to. More raids on workplace and more families separated. It’s time to remember and act on our fundamental beliefs as people of faith, as the Statement of Principles of Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform puts it:

  • We believe that all people, regardless of national origin, are made in the “image of God” and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect (Genesis 1:26-27, 9:6).
  • We believe there is an undeniable biblical responsibility to love and show compassion for the stranger among us (Deuteronomy 10:18-19, Leviticus 19:33-34, Matthew 25:31-46).
  • We believe that immigrants are our neighbors, both literally and figuratively, and we are to love our neighbors as ourselves and show mercy to neighbors in need (Leviticus 19:18, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:25-37).
  • We believe in the rule of law, but we also believe that we are to oppose unjust laws and systems that harm and oppress people made in God’s image, especially the vulnerable (Isaiah 10:1-4, Jeremiah 7:1-7, Acts 5:29, Romans 13:1-7).
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