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Human migration has been present since the beginning of humanity. Human beings have been known to migrate in an effort to realize enhanced lives for themselves and their kin. Modern day migration is precipitated by changes that have come about because of globalization. Modern day man migrates more than his descendants did, with statistics showing that over 200 million people live away from their homelands.
Illegal immigration in the U.S. continues to be a thorny issue that the government struggles to curb. In particular, there is an influx of illegal immigrants entering the U.S. from Mexico. The desire to search for a dignified life is so strong among these people that they expose themselves to precarious situations to cross the border into U.S. Unfortunately, getting into the U.S. does not guarantee them dignity either because they are forced to work hard with a measly pay. They also lack access to essential services because they are not legally recognized, and they have to pay for them. Furthermore, they live in constant fear of being deported back home, which makes their lives more difficult. Regrettably, the Americans are not welcoming either; they discriminate the immigrants, accusing them of taking jobs meant for them.
Some researchers have undertaken studies on religion and migration from a sociological angle, but there is virtually very little on the area from a theological perspective. This paper will analyze the problem that is immigration of Mexicans into the U.S. It will further discuss the causes of this problem. The paper will conclude with a theological warrant for adjusting the problem and a theological response.
Way before the enactment of NAFTA agreements between Mexico and America, Mexicans still migrated to the U.S. in thousands to search for greater dignity brought about by better wages. They believed that they could get better wages in the U.S., which would empower them economically. They would be able to provide for themselves and their kin. The NAFTA agreements were drafted with the aim of improving the Mexican economy to provide employment and better opportunities for its people (Portes, 2006). Both governments believed that this would be in the best of citizens from both countries, arguing that the Mexicans would have no reason to migrate to the U.S.; hence, the Americans’ jobs and resources would be safeguarded. This was not to be because instead of curtailing Mexican migration into the U.S., the numbers of Mexicans heading to the U.S. have increased significantly since the implementation of the NAFTA Treaty. Uchitelle (2007) reported that there were about 500,000 Mexicans relocating to the U.S. yearly, up from less than 400,000 before the Treaty.
Researchers argue that the NAFTA Treaty failed to resolve the migration problem because it was drafted based on assumptions that the market, people, and governments would act rationally at all times. Based on this assumption, importation of cheap corn among other consumer goods from the U.S. led to unhealthy competition in Mexico, making Mexican products costly. Consequently, there was a high demand for imported commodities, leading to the collapse of local industries that were operating at a loss. What followed was a mass exit from Mexico to the U.S. as masses sought for employment opportunities. It has also been argued that the Mexican government failed to deliver the infrastructure to draw investors to establish operations in the country because of the 1994 peso crisis that resulted in a recession. As a result, industries shied away from the country, and even the ones that began operations closed upon realizing the costs were too high to realize any profitable business. This further added to the number of unemployed Mexicans who were living in deplorable conditions, and were desperate to change this; hence, the exodus into the U.S.
Lately, there have been concerns about the inhumane treatment towards immigrants in the U.S. Various groups are advocating for immigration reforms to give migrants access to justice, humane treatment, freedom, among other basic rights. These concerns have led to the development of migration theology, which seeks to study how migrants should be treated according to the Bible. Scholars posit that migrants can be likened with ‘strangers among us’ in the Bible (Groody, 2009). Scholars argue that understanding the Bible’s teachings about emigrants will ensure that emigrants are not exposed to unfair environments that result in exploitation of any sort.
In Leviticus 19: 33-34, the Bible says, “When a stranger lives with you in your territory, do not maltreat him. The foreigner living with you ought to be treated as one of the native-born. Love the foreigner as yourself remembering you were foreigners in Egypt.” This verse underscores the need to treat other people as our own, being different notwithstanding. This means that humanity should welcome everyone who is amongst them, and especially if he or she needs assistance of any kind. It further underpins the need to treat others with compassion because every human being desires to be accepted in a new place, particularly if he is not among the people who know and love him. Everybody has a spiritual obligation to accept and help migrants in order to press forth with the teachings of Jesus, and build a unified church that has no racial boundaries. However, this is only possible if believers are ready to repent, and allow their souls to be liberated.
Groody (2009) observed that human migration tends to be focused on upward mobility. He posits that Christians are supposed to be different; hence, they should strive to attain divine migration, which tends to have downward mobility. This means that a true Christian should be ready to endure all kinds of indignities for the sake of the Gospel. Essentially, it is crucial that the church leads the pack to fight for proper treatment of emigrants; first, by accepting them in their churches, and then, by advocating for a change to a system that will treat them in a humane manner.
Matthew 25:35 says that, “For I was a stranger, and you invited me in”. This is an affirmation that God expects humanity to treat strangers with kindness, rather than alienate them. The teaching from this verse is that Christians should be kind to strangers because in doing so; they will be glorifying God, and they will be rewarded in heaven. In another context, scholars argue that great things came out of emigrants in the Old and New Testament because God was always with them. For instance, Abraham and Sarah were commanded to move to Canaan, and Abraham became a great father in a foreign land. Joseph was sold into slavery in Egypt, where God made him a great person.
Scholars also posit that a right to migrate is a God-given one if it is exercised in accordance to His teachings. God gave parents the responsibility of fending for their children, and parents are obligated to exercise their God-given rights to ensure they meet their responsibilities in accordance with the Bible (Kerwin & Gerschutz, 2009). This being the case, nations should have laws that allow genuine migrants to enjoy their rights including the right to migrate because majorities of immigrants from Mexico go to the U.S. to find means to improve their family’s lives, which is part of their Christian responsibility.
In order to give human beings an opportunity to meet their responsibilities, authorities should strive to remove the hurdles that limit the free flow of law-abiding individuals across borders, and ratify immigration policies that echo the economic realities that motivate most migration. Entrenching such reforms will enable authorities to check the specific persons coming into the country, and protect genuine immigrants from the criminal assumptions that exploit them. Such reforms should also aim at assisting them settle and adapt to their new life. In addition, nations should work together to repair the international inequality as far as wealth and economic development are concerned.
In conclusion, challenges, surrounding migration, continue to raise attention around the world and there are concerns that if the migration issues are not resolved, nations may experience crisis. The U.S. suffers a major challenge trying to curb illegal entry of Mexicans, escaping from poverty in their homeland. Researchers argue that some of the procedures that have been enforced to manage the problem have been ineffective. Of particular interest is the NAFTA Treaty that was signed in order to improve the economic status of impoverished Mexico by creating employment for Mexicans in their own homeland. It was expected that this move would deter them from seeking to migrate to other countries. However, the Treaty did not achieve its objectives because it led to an influx of cheaper consumer goods from the U.S., which ultimately killed the local industries, and pushed people out of employment. As a result, they started migrating to the U.S. in thousands than before.
The church has raised concerns that emigrants are subjected to unfair treatment, which interferes with their responsibility to meet their God-given rights of providing for their children. They argue that the Bible advocates for humane treatment of emigrants or strangers, and doing so will be rewarded in heaven. Furthermore, the Bible asserts that God always makes something good out of strangers, which is proof that strangers deserve proper treatment like any other human being.