David Batstone: The Christian face of immigration

02 May

Given today’s amazing demonstrations in the USA, a wake-up call if ever there was one, David Batstone’s Sojourners article is not only a reminder that the Right does not own God, but that many other voices, voices of of compassion and conscience, are coming from people of faith in the USA.

“I look around and see so many immigrants here who are working so hard to make a good life,” Diana said. “Why can’t people see the big picture?”

Indeed, the big picture tells a different story to the political fear-mongering on immigration. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that nearly 12 million undocumented immigrants are living in the U.S. A number of studies demonstrate that they are anything but a “drain” on the U.S. economy as is widely feared. Douglass S. Massey, a Princeton University professor, has documented the contributions of undocumented workers to the government: 62% have taxes withheld from their paychecks, and 66% pay Social Security. Their payments to Social Security totalled $7 bilion in 2004, and in the same year they paid $1.5 billion to Medicare. Ironically, Massey found these workers usually don’t take advantage of these programs, fearing the INS will be alerted to their presence in this country, Forbes reported.

All too many Americans do see immigrants as criminals, unfortunately. The New York Times on April 25 cited a Survey USA poll taken in the state of Kansas that shows nearly three-quarters of adults in the sample surveyed agree to the proposal that “the United States should find and deport all illegal immigrants.” If only they could meet the Dianas who will suffer from this xenophobic zeal.

Diana studies in Westmont’s San Francisco Urban Program in this semester. As part of her school work, she interns with a Catholic Charities program that aids immigrants. She is beginning to make a deeper connection between her life story, and that of other immigrants, to the gospel. “It comforts me that Jesus was seen as an outsider, and gathered around him followers who also were considered outsiders,” said Diana. “Too many Christians at this moment are too scared and confused to see Jesus in the stranger, and realize how lives would be torn apart by these new laws.”

The true Spirit is definitely in that.

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2 responses to “David Batstone: The Christian face of immigration

  1. Confused

    May 3, 2006 at 4:14 am

    Aha, so your compassion extends only for Christians? What if an illegal immigrant is not a Christian?

    Will Jesus still save him?

  2. ninglun

    May 3, 2006 at 8:56 am

    You miss the point: first, I am merely quoting Batstone as an example of a Christian who favours a compassionate reading of the immigration issue, and there I agree with him; second, nothing in his article, or in my own view, suggests that only immigrants who are Christians should be regarded with compassion. Here in Sydney, for example, the Asylum Seekers Centre in Surry Hills “aims to assist asylum seekers regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality and religion. The Centre is committed to human rights, believing that all people have the same human, social and legal rights.” And that is a Catholic outfit, not unrelated to UNIYA. (I am not a Catholic myself.)

    Anyone who says “compassion extends only for Christians” is almost certainly a very bad Christian. See also If the War Goes On.

    Oh yes: thanks for your comment. Your blog is really good, and I’ve added it to my Blogroll.

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