The Demonization of Immigrants, Refugees, and Foreigners – Part 1

An inmate serving a jail sentence rests his hand on a fence at Maricopa County's Tent City jail in PhoenixThrough an event you had absolutely nothing to do with – your birth – you were given a place in a country with tremendous blessing. To live in the United States is to be blessed – period.  You do not have to do anything to enjoy the blessings of being an American. Blessings such as freedom, opportunity, and protection are ours simply by location.

Americans enjoy freedom. We have the freedom to live where we want, own a home, wear what we want, speak out against our government when we feel it has acted unjustly, travel with very little restriction, work or not work, and marry whomever we choose. We have the freedom to own as many cars as we choose, to assemble, protect ourselves, make career choices, and live life virtually unhindered.

Americans enjoy opportunity. Let me say something here I believe to be critical. Opportunity does not equal success. Opportunity is the chance to be successful. It is the possibility to be better, do better, and live better. This is the crux of the matter at hand. We can attend school and earn an education to provide for ourselves and families. We can search for a job that not only yields a paycheck but brings personal fulfillment and satisfaction. We can start our own business. We can secure loans and financing to begin these businesses. We can participate in our government: voting, running for office, campaigning, and holding our elected officials accountable. Opportunity exists for us to worship however and wherever we choose, or not to worship at all. There is a reason why, for over 200 years, the United States has been regarded by those outside as, “the land of opportunity.”

As Americans we enjoy protection. We enjoy an imperfect justice system dedicated to holding lawbreakers accountable for their actions. We enjoy laws designed to regulate and promote a civil society. We are protected by the greatest military in the world who protect American interests abroad and ensure threats from the outside do us no harm. We enjoy protections against unfair labor practices: ensuring safe working conditions and a minimum wage. We enjoy the protection of law enforcement officers who ensure our safety from those disinterested in our safety.

Now, imagine for a moment you do not have any of these blessings.

Through an event you had absolutely nothing to do with – your birth – you were given a place in a country of limited to little blessing. Imagine you were born into a country where the blessings described above do not flow freely or easily. Imagine for a moment living in limited freedom. You suffer the inability to speak out against a government who may be acting unjustly, the inability to worship however and wherever you choose, and the inability to enjoy life unhindered.

Imagine for a moment living in limited to no opportunity. Jobs are scarce, and wages do not allow for adequate care of your family. Disposable income is inconceivable. Imagine living in a country where corruption makes owning your own business, attending college, and participating in government almost impossible. Imagine waking up each day with no hope of a better future – not even a chance.

Think about what it must be like to live with little or no protection. Employers can take advantage of their employees for personal gain. No guaranteed minimum wage. No one to ensure that your work environment is safe. Imagine no protection from street gangs, drug cartels, and human traffickers. Imagine living in fear every day of your life – no hope, no chance, and no prospect for a better tomorrow. This is the reality of many who live outside the borders of the United States. Being an American does not make you superior. Being an American makes you envied. Imagine how those outside the United States must feel when they see Americans taking their blessing for granted and squandering their freedom, opportunity, and protection – the three things which are the envy of the world. On the matter of why immigrants make their way to the United States, Michael Soerens, U.S. Director of Church Mobilization for World Relief, in his book, Welcoming the Stranger wrote”

Immigrants today, whatever their manner of entry, come primarily for the same reasons that immigrants have always come to our country. Though immigration policies have changed quite drastically over the last two centuries, immigrants themselves are still pushed out of their countries of origin by poverty, war, and persecution, and are still drawn to the United States by promises of jobs and economic advancement, freedom, and family reunification. These push-and-pull factors explain most, if not all, of immigration to the United States from the time of the first settlers to today.

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