The Alien in Your Land
by Kathye Hamm
“When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
Those of us who live in California now live in a “Sanctuary State.” Recently, the State of California and cities and municipalities that have declared themselves to be “Sanctuary Cities” have become a target of I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids that have been carried out across northern California. Whether you agree with these actions or not, or whether you live in California or not, I would remind all of us of the action of our 2017 Sierra Pacific Synod Assembly, when we declared our synod to be a “Sanctuary Synod:”
RESOLVED that the Sierra Pacific Synod of the ELCA declares itself to be a Sanctuary Synod; and be it further
RESOLVED that the Sierra Pacific Synod pledges to support and encourage the congregations and members of this synod to support meaningful reform of immigration law and policy; and be it further
RESOLVED that the Sierra Pacific Synod pledges to resist by advocacy, protest, and nonparticipation those policy proposals that target and seek to deport millions of undocumented immigrants, and to advocate against attempts to eliminate the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; and be it further (the rest of the Resolution can be seen here)
Questions you might be asking:
1. Does this mean that every congregation in our synod must become a “sanctuary congregation?”
No, although a few congregations have declared themselves to be so, or reaffirmed their willingness to serve as a sanctuary congregation.
2. Does this mean I have to advocate for persons who are under threat of being arrested in ICE raids?
No, although you may wish to visit the website for the ELCA’s AMMPARO initiative to learn how you or your congregation can advocate for unaccompanied minors and their families who are in the immigration court process.
3. Doesn’t this seem a bit too “political” for our churches to be involved with?
There is no doubt that advocacy may be seen as more political than religious. I would suggest that the justice which Jesus for which calls us to advocate is in harmony with the support we have offered in the past for racial, gender and sexual equality, and the support we are now being called upon to offer to those whose immigration status has left them vulnerable to injury or political exploitation.
4. How can I offer support to those who are being left vulnerable because of their immigration status?
a. First of all, pray for those who are living in fear that their families may be torn apart because of current immigration policies, especially unaccompanied minors and DREAMERS.
b. Pray for just and equitable immigration policies to emerge from the current debates in the United States House and Senate.
c. Talk as a congregation about what is happening in your community or in our country that may require advocacy and action for fair and just immigration policies and discern how you could be equipped to address the needs around you.
d. Become aware of the legal rights of those who are vulnerable to being detained and have copies of this information available in your congregation or place of work. You may reach out to an organization focused on immigration advocacy in your community to learn more about the local impact among our neighbors. I commend to you the following resources to use as you have opportunity:
Thank you for prayerfully considering this call to advocate for those who are living in fear — who are our neighbors and co-workers and classmates of our children and grandchildren. May God grant us courage, wisdom and grace for such a time as this.
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