Young Progressives speaker: Why Christians should support immigration reform

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Photo: Annie Z. Yu

Lisa Sharon Harper discussed immigration reform from a Christian perspective.

The Young Progressives Club presented Sojourner magazine’s Director of Mobilizing Lisa Sharon Harper last Thursday to talk about the highly controversial topic of immigration reform.

The event, titled “Thinking Theologically About Immigration,” was held in the Wilden’s Wyant lecture hall and focused on why Christians should support immigration reform. Over 50 students, faculty, alumni and other guests attended the event.

Immigration reform is a huge topic in current political conversations. President Barack Obama started his second term this year with a major push toward immigration reform along with stricter gun control regulations.

Harper discussed various scripture passages that describe how humans have a divine command to migrate. Humans exercise dominion under God’s image, she said.

Harper said that God’s judgment falls on those who create the kind of system that forces people to “twist themselves in order to survive”—a system that oppresses people made in the image of God.

She cited the example of Abram and Sarai when they immigrated into Egypt. Egypt’s immigration system back then, Harper said, was to kill the husbands of beautiful women. When Abram lied and said he was Sarai’s brother, the consequences of Abram’s deceit ultimately fell on the Pharaoh, not on Abram.

Harper also cited various bible passages that praise hospitality and equal treatment toward strangers and immigrants.

“God loves immigrants, so we should love immigrants,” read one of her presentation slides.

Many prominent Bible figures were immigrants as well, Harper pointed out, including Noah, Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Ruth, Paul and Jesus. When Jesus was an infant, his parents escaped from Herod’s rule and sought asylum in Egypt.

“Jesus would be a Dreamer,” Harper said, referring to the term for illegal immigrants who would have a path to citizenship under the DREAM Act, if passed.

An APU undergraduate student attendee who wished to remain anonymous said she thought Harper often tried to make her opinions pass as facts and had no evidence to back it up.

“I think she [stretched] the word ‘immigration’ out for all it was worth when she stated that Jesus was an immigrant from heaven,” the student said.

Many Christians may be against immigration reform because Romans 13 commands them to be subject to the authorities. How to show love to the 11.5 million illegal immigrants in America while being subject to authority is a legitimate question, Harper said.

However, it is important to look at the context of Romans 13 and remember that Paul is writing this letter from jail, she said.

“Maybe being subject to authority does not necessarily mean obeying the authority,” Harper said. “There’s a difference between resisting the authorities and confronting the authorities… there is such a thing as good law and bad law.”

Being subject to authority, Harper said, means accepting the consequences of nonviolent resistance to “bad law,” following the example of Apostle Paul and Martin Luther King, Jr.

“[Harper] believes, and so do I, that it is important to love everyone no matter who they are or where they are from,” the anonymous student said. “But I believe that people need to come here legally and do it the right way.”

According to Harper, the U.S. immigration system is “completely confusing.” The U.S. ultimately causes much of the immigrants’ oppression and poverty, she said.

“Immigration reform would restore the rule of law by fixing our system and making it followable,” Harper said. “Right now the law has no integrity.”

Harper claimed that the only churches within the Evangelical world that are growing are the immigrant churches.

She also stressed that people treat illegal immigrants as if they are criminal offenders despite the fact that illegal immigration is a civil offense, just like a traffic violation.

“If you repeat something enough times, people start to believe it,” Harper said.

In the Q&A; session at the end of the event, Harper said many of the people who willingly went to jail for protesting for immigration reform were also involved in the Occupy Wall Street movement that exploded in Sep. 2011.

“[Occupy] actually served a really great purpose—it got us talking about the disparity between the rich and the poor. They launched that conversation,” Harper said.

Harper said she had visited an Occupy site once and said it was “pretty darn amazing.”

“But it didn’t last, because paradise on earth cannot last,” Harper said.

Junior political science and Spanish major Ivy Quintero, whose parents emigrated from Columbia, said immigration has always been a part of her life.

“I came because I’ve always had a personal conviction to see how as Christians we’re supposed to serve and empower those that are marginalized and oppressed,” Quintero said. “I think there’s a conversation [about immigration] at APU, but it’s not a positive one.”

Young Progressives president and junior political science major Steven Howard helped organize the event and said Harper is amazing.

“People are very naive here when it comes to issues of immigration or social justice issues,” Howard said. “They just don’t seem to get it.”