How Dare You Turn Away the Stranger!

05/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The morality of our nation lies at a critical crossroads. Will we continue to accelerate the unfair deportation of immigrants or will we work together to create an immigration system that is just and humane? Will we find the moral imagination and prophetic courage to care for immigrants no matter what the cost?

Representative Luis V. Gutierrez of Illinois ignited a spark this past Monday at a Bronx rally, one that is galvanizing faith leaders and community leaders from New York to join thousands from around the country who are marching to Washington, D.C. for comprehensive immigration reform.

The first Latino to be elected to Congress from the Midwest, Rep. Gutierrez introduced immigration reform legislation into the House of Representatives in 2009, but the Senate tabled the issue. Americans should no longer tolerate immigration reform getting shut down by partisan politics and cowardly community leaders. It's time to move out.

On March 15th over five hundred religious and community leaders gathered at the Latino Pastoral Action Center (LPAC) in the Bronx to voice their support for comprehensive immigration reform. An ardent advocate of immigration reform in the House of Representatives, Rep. Gutierrez proclaimed, "We will not rest until immigration reform comes."

The winds of change are blowing. A national movement for immigrant justice is stirring, mobilizing Americans to put direct pressure on President Obama and Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, to introduce just bipartisan immigration legislation this month, so there will be enough time for the Senate to debate and pass the measure before the end of May.

The dignity of our common humanity and the integrity of our families require that we drastically reform our immigration policy. America is a nation of immigrants. We are all immigrants, unless we are of enslaved African or Native American ancestry. This nation's identity is rooted in its citizens hailing from all over the world. Regardless of our country of origin we are all fellow humans, and each person should be treated with dignity and respect.

Our common humanity grounds the social struggle. In the Hebrew, Christian, and Islamic scriptures, we see that all humans are made in the image of God. The prophetic literature of these traditions reflects a fervent commitment to "widows, orphans and strangers" (Deuteronomy 10:17-19). For example, in the Hebrew Scriptures the love for humanity is focused on a call to care for the "stranger in our midst."

If God has called us to care for the stranger, how dare we turn away the strangers in our midst! Immigrants today are the strangers in our midst. Our treatment of immigrants provides a reflection on whether or not we are serious about embodying the best of the prophetic imagination. We need to offer hospitality to immigrants now and care for them in concrete ways, including advocating for just immigration policies.

Comprehensive immigration policy should not only help our nation's immigrants find a pathway to citizenship, but also address the underlying global problems that are causing mass migrations. We need an immigration policy that supports global economic growth and social stability, and is shaped by a vision of true equity, political transparency and social accountability around the world.

Deporting immigrants breaks up families. Families are being torn apart now and we can't wait any longer. Healthy families are essential to the health of the nation. "Family values," no matter how we define the term, must entail keeping families together, for both moral and financial reasons. Comprehensive immigration reform will allow families to stay together.

Inaction is no longer an option. As Americans marched on Washington on behalf of the rights of African Americans in August of 1963 and were inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, a new generation of dreamers is marching on Washington this Sunday morning, March 21st on behalf of the rights of immigrants.

Now is the time for change. Religious and community activists are organizing a robust movement for immigration reform that is growing rapidly. The faith community is showing up because immigration is an issue that affects churches, communities, and the strangers for whom the church is called to care.