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Editorial Reflections

Faith communities have moral obligation to advocate for migrants

Migration has been part of human history from the beginning of human life. Scholars and historians have identified the time after World War II as the age of migration.  It was when the largest population was on the move from one place to another.

In the biblical story of Abraham in Genesis 12, we read that he was an immigrant in the land of Canaan. Migration happens for many reasons. One is that early people were primarily explorers, like many who came to America. Second, people moved into this land looking for opportunities. Waves of migration continue.

Some came here, not of their own free will, but because of political or economic circumstances or because they were forced into slavery. Slaves gained freedom through the Emancipation Proclamation. Because they no longer had ties to their former homelands, this became their home.

News reports cover how the people in Syria and other parts of the Middle East are fleeing from their homelands and becoming refugees in Europe and elsewhere because of war and genocide.

Every day people cross the U.S. border from Mexico and other parts of South and Central America looking for opportunities for work or for a non-violent place to live.

Migration and immigration continue to happen.

We all have a moral obligation, because many face different difficult experiences. Some are welcomed. Others are rejected. Some died trying to cross the border. The government is trying to reinforce the border patrol and build higher fences to keep people out.

While we appear to be protecting people inside the fence, a wall or fence also can keep people from going out and learning more about other people and cultures.

Some immigrants or refugees are able to find a home, work and education, while others discover that there is little difference in the level of violence, given gangs, guns and crime, between the place they were and this new place. Others realize, perhaps too late, that they should not have left.

Migrating populations often face political, social or economic strife in their new locations, such as in the struggle for resources—jobs, land ownership, food and clean water.

In response, there are a growing number of aggressive legal attempts to limit immigrants’ movement and rights by laws to restrict every aspect of their lives—housing, education, employment and opportunities.  There are also efforts to deny them due process under the law, which leads to illegal deportation, abusive detention and hate crimes.

Many restrictions lead to marginalization and dehumanization, so immigrants often face racial discrimination and human rights violations both from citizens and from other immigrants who arrived before them.

The best advice comes from words given to the Israelites in the Bible: “You shall not oppress the sojourner. You know the heart of a sojourner, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)

Religious and humanitarian organizations are advocating for Americans to accept more refugees and immigrants.

Religious communities, churches, organizations, groups and individuals who stand up for immigrants from the local to national to international levels, help reveal the realities migrants are facing.  Then they can move to advocate on their behalf and to call for the protection of all migrating people, knowing we were all once migrants in this land.

Ikani Fakasiieiki
Contributing editor

Copyright © November 2015 - The Fig Tree