Pastor: We must honor God's heart for the immigrant

BY FELIX CABRERA Published: July 10, 2013

Last month, the U.S. Senate came together on a bipartisan basis and passed a broad immigration reform bill. As an evangelical pastor, I celebrate its passage for several reasons, and I hope the House of Representatives will quickly take up similar legislation.

While immigration is a political and economic issue, for me it is first and foremost a biblical issue. Scripture speaks repeatedly to God's heart for the immigrant, often cited alongside the orphan and the widow as uniquely vulnerable people whom God loves and for whom His people are commanded to care.

In recent months, many in our congregation have taken part in the 40-day “I Was a Stranger” Challenge from the Evangelical Immigration Table, reading daily one Scripture passage from the many that reference God's heart for immigrants. God's word has reminded us that all of us who profess to follow Jesus are “aliens and strangers” on Earth, that Christians are called to hospitality (literally, the love of strangers), and that God establishes and values the family unit — a father, mother and children — and is grieved when that unity is disrupted.

An equally relevant biblical principle is that of respecting the rule of law. The Senate's immigration bill goes a long way toward restoring the rule of law to a system where an archaic set of laws has been selectively ignored for far too long, establishing what Sen. Marco Rubio calls a “de facto amnesty.”

Rather than continuing to wink and nod as immigrants and many employers remain stuck in a broken system, the bill would require those who've violated immigration laws to pay a series of fines. Then, people who meet other strict requirements could earn permanent legal status through a probationary process that would stretch more than a decade.