Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me…
Whenever I read a book like Little Bee (Long Way Gone, God Grew Tired of Us and The Other Side of the Sky also come to mind), I find myself wondering why we can’t just kick open America’s gates and let everyone pour in.
Welcoming the Stranger has made a wonderful follow up read for me as it addresses practically many of the issues that are heart-achingly brought to life in the stories of refugees. I read about it on the same blog where I first heard about Little Bee, Signs of Life. The blog writer did a two part interview with one of the authors back in December.
The book specifically outlines a “Christian response” to the immigration debate, but I would argue that a person of any faith would find the ideas expressed helpful.
For one, I have been amazed at all the myths about immigrants that the research from this book has debunked for me. Most of the oft-repeated (and uneducated) phrases about immigrants are simply untrue.
For example, a commonly held argument is that undocumented immigrants do not pay taxes but they receive tax payer benefits. The reverse of this statement actually has more truth to it. Over 75% of undocumented immigrants pay taxes on fraudulent social security numbers that the federal government knows they have no matches to, but they willingly accept the 6-7 million dollars in taxes anyway. However, these same numbers cannot be used to receive welfare, food stamps or any of the cash benefits our government offers low income families.
I’m still only about halfway through the book, but I think it would be a great group study book. It even comes with discussion questions. We do a class at our church twice a year called Talk it Out that focuses on race-related issues. It is a hugely helpful avenue for encouraging understanding among people who are different from one another. I could see how a class on Welcoming the Stranger would be a similar gift to our community.
Both of the authors of Welcoming the Stranger work for World Relief, an organization about which I am excited to learn more. One of the areas of their service that is fascinating to me is that they connect people and church communities to incoming refugees. My brother-in-law has been involved for a while in a program like this in Wheaton, IL. He wrote last summer on his blog about taking 13 refugee students to camp, which I know was a highlight of his summer. Diffusing statistics into relationships with individuals changes how we see the world.
World Relief does not currently have an office in the Little Rock area, but their contact person told me that we can make “relocation kits” for one of the programs in another city. Sounds like a party to me. Then maybe we could road trip to Nashville or Chicago to deliver them.