How to Celebrate Hispanics by Dispelling Three Myths

Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15 through October 15. We should celebrate Hispanics and their major contributions to America.  Rather than treat Hispanics as criminals, rapist, illegal and unwanted, let’s dispel three myths and celebrate our neighbors.

Myth #1: Immigrants are a burden, not a blessing

You’ve heard the line. Immigrants take our jobs, lower our wages and are a burden on the taxpayer. Stop taking our country and go back where you came from.

The great challenge in addressing these arguments is facts don’t matter. This election cycle has demonstrated a painful reality in America. People will pursue whatever their tickle itching ears want to hear.

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Tim. 4:3)

That time is now.

My church friends recognize this as they seek to proclaim the truth of the gospel each Sunday. But sadly too many of my church friends don’t recognize this as it extends to Biblical issues in society. We remain the most racially segregated group in America on Sunday morning. Immigration is often more political than Biblical.

For further reading on God and Immigration refer to a prior blog by Moody student, Crystal Easom.

Immigrants are a blessing not a burden

The Bible’s story is one of migration. Our salvation is through a line of immigrants including Ruth, the Moabite, who was every bit as hated as Mexicans. Yet Jesus was a descendant of Ruth (Mt. 1:5).

The Christian Reformed Church and Evangelical Immigration Table provide helpful resources. The Immigration Alliance led by Alex Mandes helps churches establish BIA approved ministries to work with immigrants.  Gospel Justice Initiative helps churches establish gospel justice centers that reach people with the gospel, provide justice, and welcome them into the family of God.

The Bible makes 92 specific references to the immigrant in the Old Testament. Matt Soerrens and Jenny Yang wrote Welcoming the Stranger to provide this Biblical perspective while discussing facts and policy. Matt and Jenny work with World Relief and partner with The Immigration Alliance in providing helpful study resources. The book Gospel Justice also covers these issues as part of a broader Scriptural look at legal injustice.

Anyone who thinks when they get to heaven there will be an American only section will be sadly mistaken. In fact that would be a pretty small section of Native Americans. The rest of us are immigrants. As Christians our citizenship is in heaven. We are all immigrants on Earth.

Economic Facts

Last week a 509 page report compiled by 14 leading economist, demographers and scholars concluded immigrants do not take jobs or lower wages. While there is a negative cost for a first generation immigrant as a result of education and other factors, that cost is significantly recouped in the second and third generation. First generation immigrants have a negative cost of $57 billion, while second generation immigrants add $30 billion and third generation add $223 billion. That’s a good return on investment.

Myth #2: Immigrants are invading our country

Like a plague of locust covering the land, immigrants are flooding our nation. So say certain individuals and media outlets. Crazy. Truth is we have the lowest number of border apprehensions in 50 years – 188. Hardly an invading force.

For more see our blog post, Immigration and the Wall.

According to a Pew report released two weeks ago the Mexican migration has declined for the last two years. You would think every unauthorized immigrant was Mexican from the media rhetoric. However, only 52% are.

Myth #3: This is an issue of law and order.

I appreciate law and order – it’s a great T.V. show. It is also an important concept. But law and order becomes totalitarianism without an understanding of the rule of law. The rule of law necessitates power be checked for the protection of the vulnerable.

More than 40% of immigrants appear without lawyers in proceedings today. We have 277 immigration judges handling a backlog of 500,000 deportation cases. The circumstances are rife for abuse. This is why 250 judges underwent implicit bias education in August. 28,000 employees in the Justice Department will undergo similar training.

Bias happens. Behind much of the hateful rhetoric lies a hurtful bias against someone different. A report released in June found 52% of Hispanics had experienced discrimination as a result of their race or ethnicity.

For more read our prior blog 5 Ways to Overcome Hateful Immigrant Rhetoric.

I have experienced this first hand. From the young Mexican girl trafficked in the sex slave industry because she had no rights, to Mexican laborers not paid for work, to unfair contracts, loans, housing and more. I have represented hundreds discriminated against because of the way they looked and spoke. That’s wrong.

For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The wages you held back cry out against you. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.  (James 5:4)

Honestly discrimination is closer to home. Today I can go out with my wonderful, godly, Puerto Rican wife and experience this first hand. I will be catered to while she is followed in a store suspected of potential shoplifting. Other places she is ignored while I am immediately served. The subtle bias invades churches as well. “These people are…. but not you of course.” My black friends understand the coded language and conduct well. We have to be more aware of our implicit bias.

Hispanic Heritage Month

Hispanics have contributed significantly to America. The above video list seven.  We should celebrate Hispanics. Ronald Reagan did. Not only did he grant amnesty to welcome hard working immigrants to come out of the shadows, he put into law Hispanic Heritage Month.

President Obama recognized the value of these contributions in his pronouncement this year:

Since our founding, our Nation has drawn strength from the diversity of our people. With faith and passion, a sturdy work ethic and profound devotion to family, Hispanics have helped carry forward our legacy as a vibrant beacon of opportunity for all. Whether their ancestors have been here for generations or they are among the newest members of our American family, they represent many countries and cultures, each adding their own distinct and dynamic perspective to our country’s story. In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, we honor the contributions Hispanics have made throughout our history, and we highlight an important part of the rich diversity that keeps our communities strong…. Today, we must continue seeking to make the promise of our Nation real in the lives of all people, including for those who are Americans by every measure except for a piece of paper.

I am aware of the political and legal issues surrounding immigration. We do not need to agree on the best solution. But we do need to agree on human dignity. Let’s celebrate Hispanics, not denigrate them.  One day we’ll be living together in the Kingdom of God.  Might as well get started now.

About Bruce Strom

I am a lawyer, pastor, CEO, and author of Gospel Justice who builds communities of justice minded Christians to free people from legal burdens so they can flourish. I didn’t always care about justice. I was busy as the senior partner of a successful multi-office law practice. But I missed something. God was less concerned about me building my kingdom and more concerned about how I was advancing His kingdom. I left private practice to start Administer Justice to serve the least of these with their legal needs. Over 20 years later, churches, lawyers, and individuals across the country are joining a movement to Administer Justice for those in need.