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.
Those fines would be used to dramatically tighten border security, establish a system to ensure that people overstaying visas (who account for nearly half of the undocumented population) can be identified, and implement a functional, mandatory workplace authorization system, removing the incentive of work that tempts desperate individuals to migrate unlawfully.
The Senate's bill appropriately combines compassion for immigrants — recognizing their dignity as people made in God's image, the importance of family unity, and their desire to embrace the responsibilities of citizenship — with respect for the rule of law, ensuring secure national borders and fairness to taxpayers. According to the Congressional Budget Office's analysis, it would also dramatically reduce the federal deficit, which means that it's also good fiscal stewardship.
I and many other evangelical Christians are grateful for the Senate's leadership. Along with people of faith throughout the nation, we've committed to pray that God would give our elected officials wisdom and courage to solve this problem once and for all with common-sense, broad-based, bipartisan immigration reform.
Cabrera is the Hispanic pastor at Quail Springs Baptist Church in Oklahoma City.