I hope this article is helpful in providing 5 ways to overcome hateful immigrant rhetoric. I strongly believe we can, and should, debate the best means of achieving immigration reform. But we must never do so by demonizing others. Americans don’t do that! We are the greatest nation on earth precisely because of our generous compassion and concern for the world in which we lead. We must not give in to hate. We must not fall victim to fear. Those have no place in America. They certainly have no place for Christ followers.
So as you sit around water coolers, on soccer fields, or even at church, will you change the dialogue? Will you pursue one or more of these 5 ways to overcome hateful immigrant rhetoric?
- Love and hate are choices. Choose love.
I believe justice is love in action and injustice is hate in action. We are blessed with the power to choose. I choose love. That is the core of my faith. God chose me in love. (1 Jn. 4:10). In love He sent his son to die for my sins. Because He loves me, He commands me to love others. (Jn. 13:34).
There are no boundaries on love. God’s love is freely given. There are no limits on God’s grace in His kingdom where every tribe, tongue and nation is represented. (Rev. 7:9).
My heart goes out to the mothers who spoke at the Republican Convention carrying hate and rage for an immigrant murderer. But that does not mean we should fear or hate all immigrants. Should we hate Karla Ortiz, the 11 year old girl who courageously spoke at the Democratic Convention? She shared her fear of having her mother taken from her and deported. She also shared her dream of being a lawyer to fight injustice. Maybe those of us who are lawyers should have Karla’s courage to love our neighbor and make a difference.
Love is easy when it involves family and people who are like us. But Christian love extends to enemies. That is the heart of America as well. After World War II, we could have been isolationist, but we showed love to the world by rebuilding Germany and Japan. We were a beacon of hope and generosity. That is America at its best. We were at our worst when citizens turned against Germans or we separated and interned Japanese. We should learn from our past and be our better selves as we work with immigrant neighbors.
- Hate is the enemy of truth. Be informed.
As Dr. King noted, and we see in our national discourse, hate blinds the truth. Isaiah provides a beautiful picture of what happens when we embrace hate.
“The way of peace they do not know; there is no justice in their paths. They have turned them into crooked roads; no one who walks in them will know peace…Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes…So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter. Truth is nowhere to be found.” (Isa. 59: 8,10,14-15a).
Find truth. Television news is never a good source for truth. They are in the business of selling ratings. Researchers, front line workers, and expert authors are places to find truth. Here are a few excellent places to start:
- Welcoming the Stranger. My friends Matt Soerrens and Jenny Yang have written an excellent book and provide free, helpful, downloadable resources for churches and individuals.
- Watch the documentary, The Stranger.
- Understand the complexities of our broken legal system and the neighbors impacted by reading my book, Gospel Justice.
- Listen to a podcast from our lawyer friends at Neighborhood Christian Legal Clinic.
- Check your heart. Get to know an immigrant.
Instead of believing hateful rhetoric, think of an immigrant as a person. Someone struggling with hopes and dreams. A parent, just like you, who wants a better life for their son or daughter. Dare to reach out to an immigrant and learn their story. You will find you share many of the same hopes and dreams. Many of the same worries and challenges. There is more that unites us, than divides us. It’s time to show we are the United States of America and not the Divided States of America.
- Know God’s word. Preach God’s word.
The Immigration Table is comprised of a broad spectrum of churches. They have sermon outlines to help. Tell the story of Ruth. She was an Old Testament Mexican (No one was hated more than Moabites). Prohibitions existed against marrying Moabites that would exclude your family from the assembly of the Lord for 10 generations! (Dt. 23:3). But God looks at the heart of a person. Ruth demonstrated amazing love, loyalty and concern for her mother-in-law Naomi. God protected Ruth from harm and provided for her and Naomi in an era where poor widows were highly vulnerable. Ruth marries Boaz and 3 generations later, King David is born. Jesus was a descendant of a despised immigrant.
- Provide practical help.
“What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes or daily food. If one of you says to him, ‘Go I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it?” (Jm. 2:14-16).
We are called to serve. We are called to get in the dirt of the Jericho road to help a hurting neighbor. Don’t walk past the needs of your immigrant neighbor. Don’t let fear prevent you from serving. It is a lie that you jeopardize your status as a church to serve undocumented people. You not only have the right – but the responsibility – to stop and bring the gospel and justice to those in need.
Too many immigrants are defrauded by notarios who fraudulently promise immigration relief while stealing thousands of dollars. Sadly, there are some lawyers who do this as well. So how can you help?
Stand against injustice.
Last week Texas backed down in a lawsuit requiring them to provide birth certificates to children born in the United States. That seems obvious, but Texas refused to turn over birth certificates without proof of identification from the parent. Foreign documents were not accepted and Texas does not provide other ids. So parents could not enroll American citizens in school, obtain benefits or health insurance. Churches and citizens joined others in pressuring the state which settled on Friday. They now allow for documents from a consulate to suffice. Small actions can have big consequences.
Have good referrals.
Here is a list of approved agencies to help with immigration matters. Visit the one closest to you.
Start a justice center.
My friend Alex Mendez leads the Immigration Alliance which helps churches establish immigration ministries. We help build gospel justice communities that meet legal and spiritual needs. Both are a visible demonstration of love to your community.
Let’s change the rhetoric. Jesus said, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” Jn. 13:35. Let’s be known by that love.
What other ideas do you have for overcoming hateful immigrant rhetoric?