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In the Walking, Talking and Breaking of Bread: The Road to Emmaus and Immigration

I usually like to have things all figured out before I do something. I don’t support charities without researching them nor vote for politicians without applying the same scrutiny. You can get burned if you don’t do your due diligence.

However, many aspects of the faith only become apparent once we take that first step on the journey. We can still research and verify as we go, but we have to be moving in the right direction to get an accurate read.

Case in point: The two disciples on the road to Emmaus traveling with the Risen Christ (Luke 24:13-35). Their hearts burned when they talked with him, but they didn’t realize what this meant until they had time to reflect later. They finally did recognize Christ in the breaking of the bread. Talking, walking and breaking bread is what it took for them to understand. Had they only seen Jesus standing by the side of the road without interacting or journeying with him, they could easily have dismissed him.

A lot of Christians are unsure what to do about immigration problems in the U.S. However, I am convinced that if we just do what the Bible says, the wisdom will be clear in time. Let’s follow the biblical mandate of hospitality and give them a warm welcome. Let’s attend to their immediate needs and take time to listen to their stories. Let’s walk on the road with these immigrants and break bread with them. We may not have all answers figured out, but once we do this we will recognize Christ among us.

You simply have to trust in the words of Jesus and in the Bible. The wisdom will become apparent as you follow his way.

At first glance, some arguments against hospitality to immigrants may seem reasonable. Our country has a right to secure borders and immigrants can come here legally if they want to, right? Once you start justifying the breaking of some laws, how can you have an ordered society?

Here are some points to consider that become apparent in the walk with undocumented immigrants:

Does the punishment fit the crime? Separating families over a legal misdemeanor is out of scope. Imagine if the police took your children from you just because you got a speeding ticket! That’s a parallel situation. Colonists were frustrated with English laws that could imprison someone for years over small debts. The U.S. Constitution is built with the idea that the punishment ought to fit the crime. Further, all human beings have the right to due process under the law, whether they are here with documents or not.

As Glenmary’s President Fr. Chet Artysiewicz says in a recent statement:

There is an adage which states, ‘The cure is worse than the disease.’ That could well apply to enforcement activities that separate families. We are a nation of laws and affirm that reality, but the application of laws must be done in a way that improves a situation, rather than exacerbates it… The families affected by ICE detainment and deportation are our neighbors. Our country must find a better and more moral way of dealing with these issues.”

Imprisoning children and separating them from their parents—possibly for life—is cruel beyond all belief. They should not be kept in cages in warehouses under any circumstances.

Many immigrants coming to the U.S. face impossible situation in their homelands. Many face death if we send them back. They are here desperately seeking safety. Very often, the situation they are running from is at least partly the result of U.S. policies in the first place, which speaks to our responsibility to do something.

In many cases, there is virtually no legal path to entry. Our nation has needed to overhaul our immigration system for many years now. Quotas and other parameters do not match the current needs of our business community nor the wishes of immigrants. The immigration system should be continually updated and reformed as circumstances change. Instead, immigration reform has been the victim of political gridlock now for more than a couple decades.

Multiple studies show that the overwhelming majority of undocumented immigrants are simply hard-working, family-oriented people who are less likely to commit crimes than native-born citizens. As a result, they pose no national security risk. They are simply well-meaning people caught in an impossible situation attempting to do the best for their families that they can.

Myths abound about immigrants taking welfare money from the U.S. On the contrary, undocumented immigrants pay substantially more into the system than they could ever hope to extract.

Christ tell us that when you see the people who are the “least of these” you will see Christ (Matthew 25:31-46). It is hard to find a group that qualifies as “least of these” more than undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Most are fleeing life-threatening circumstances in their homelands and they face persecution, family separation and unending prison sentences in the country they are going to for asylum. They are desperately poor and willing to work for less-than minimum wage and without the safeguards that U.S. citizens enjoy.

Christ promises that what we do to the least of our brethren, we do to him. He commands us to be close to the poor and marginalized, because that is in fact where we will find him. Sometimes it takes the rest of us some time and effort to see the Christ within.

The people who have close, personal relationships with undocumented immigrants almost always have a favorable, sympathetic opinion of them and overwhelming disdain for their circumstances. Maybe like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, they were only able to see the Christ within while on the journey with them.

Visit Frank Lesko’s website here.

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