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The Immigration Debate

What's a Christian to Think?

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Adult Study, Adult Study
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In a country largely made up of immigrants, have conditions changed for incoming workers and potential citizens? Or is the current debate about who can enter and under what conditions part of the same argument that has been around for centuries in the U.S.?

On Saturday, April 8, 2006, a second round of protests brought out more than two hundred fifty thousand mainly Latino immigrants in several major U.S. cities. The first round of demonstrations had brought out even larger numbers in California and Texas. The protests were prompted by a new immigration law passed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would make undocumented workers and their families into felons, liable to detention and deportation, and also would make assisting them a felony. Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger Mahony of Los Angeles publicly called for his congregations to resist this potential law. Many others, even those favoring increased restrictions on immigration, thought the House measure would be too punitive, even hostile rather than hospitable.

Thus, although most of those demonstrating are not U.S. citizens and do not vote, their political influence is already being felt in a new way--and they represent eleven to twelve million illegal aliens, at least half of whom are from Mexico.

The current debate does not cut easily across political or religious party lines in our country. This study shares a brief history of U.S. immigration, examines the current issues being debated, and introduces a few ethical principles regarding immigration named by churches. Finally, it provides six provocative questions for discussion that should encourage healthy debate among thoughtful Christians who care about doing the right thing.

Christian Iosso is Coordinator of the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and an ordained minister in the PC (USA). He serves as the Senior Editor of UNBOUND, an online journal of Christian social justice, and has written numerous articles on peacemaking and social justice for The Presbyterian Outlook, Horizons, and Presbyterians Today. Iosso was the coeditor of Prayers for The New Social Awakening, also published by Westminster John Knox Press.

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