No person is illegal. People can break the law, but God’s children cannot be illegal, any more than there can be illegal mothers, or illegal fathers, or illegal brothers and sisters.
I am a priest. You call me Father. But, my legal status in this country is “alien.” Nine out of ten, when I come back to the United States, immigration officers stop and take me to another office back for further investigation. Whether I wear a collar, it does not matter. I am an alien, a stranger who seems to be suspicious until I prove myself innocent.
In the immigration office, I have met many people like me—feared, confused, annoyed and insulted. No question is allowed because you are an alien; no cell phone is allowed because you look suspicious, maybe all the time.
But, migration has always been part of human history. Abraham was an immigrant and the founding fathers were as well. We all are immigrants, at least the descendents of immigrants. Your father or grandfather or great grandfather was some point an alien in this country. Only difference between you and current immigrants is timing—your ancestors came a little early, definitely a little early in God’s eyes. Now people claim and make immigrants feel unwelcomed and unwanted.
God is clear on this. The scripture says, “You shall not violate the rights of the alien or of the orphan, nor take the clothing of a widow as a pledge. For, remember, you were once salves in Egypt, and the Lord, your God, ransomed you from there; that is why I command you to observe this rule…Remember that you were once slaves in Egypt; that is why I command you to observe this rule” (Deu. 24:17-22).
We stand by the immigrants—documented or undocumented because we are all sojourners here. If we fail to recognize our brothers and sisters in disguise, we have no hope that God will satisfy our deepest hopes. God in Jesus so loved the world that migrated into the far and distant country of our broken human existence and laid down his life on a cross so that we could be reconciled to God and migrate back to our homeland with God and neighbors. Jesus crossed over human borders—races, religions, and cultures. It is our belief that Jesus migrated from heaven to earth and, through his death and resurrection, passed over from death to life. It is our duty to cross over the division, the hardness of heart. It is our responsibility to welcome strangers into our country, our city, our school and our home.