When the Stranger Knocks

The influx of immigrants to the U.S. means a new mission field for churches, says World Relief's Jenny Hwang.

When Jenny Hwang first began working at World Relief in Baltimore, she wasn't sure she even believed what the relief arm of the National Association of Evangelicals was teaching about domestic immigration policy. "I had a lot of concern, because these immigrants broke the rule of law," she says. "How come they couldn't come the legal way? If I'm going to be advocating for immigration reform, I need to believe in it."

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University, Hwang had studied immigration laws in Spain (with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees) and Costa Rica. But she didn't delve into U.S. immigration policy until becoming WR's director for advocacy and policy for the refugee and immigration program in 2006. Now her book (with Matthew Soerens), Welcoming the Stranger, tells what she's learned in the position and the stories she's heard. She recently spoke with CT assistant editor Katelyn Beaty.

Why have World Relief and the National Association of Evangelicals been more outspoken on domestic immigration reform in recent years?

We recognize first and foremost that this is not just about policies but about individual people, people who are [often] part of the body of Christ. At World Relief, we get calls almost every day, not just from immigrants themselves (whom we serve in our 22 offices), but also from pastors who are dealing with a significant number of undocumented immigrants in their congregations. They can meet their spiritual needs, but sometimes can't meet physical needs or social needs because the immigrants are stuck in a system where they can't become legal in our country.

A lot of these immigrants are actually legal immigrants who are having problems with the current immigration system. For example, their parents ...

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When the Stranger Knocks
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