A Church Welcome for the Tired, the Poor
Image: Jon Krause

The global refugee crisis reveals not only the dangerous plight of millions of men and women, boys and girls, but also the troubling moral plight of America. It also provides an opportunity for Christians to shine the light of Christ’s love brighter than ever.

As for our country’s moral plight: We once prided ourselves on endorsing the words of poet Emma Lazarus, who wrote the famous sonnet inscribed on the Statue of Liberty: “Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp! . . . 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, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

Yet the more we learn about our history, the more we recognize this is more hope than reality. Examples abound, but here are two: the Oriental Exclusion Act (1924), which prohibited most immigration from Asia, including foreign-born wives and the children of American citizens of Chinese ancestry; and United States vs. Bhaghat Singh Thind (1923), in which the Supreme Court ruled that Indians from the Asian subcontinent cannot become US citizens.

The entire picture is complex, to be sure: For example, nearly 6 million immigrants were welcomed between 1911 and 1920.

Unfortunately, US immigration policy today grants only about 1 million permanent visas a year (with about 70,000 for refugees). This might sound like a lot, but it represents but 0.3 percent of our population of 321 million. Between 1911 and 1920, when the total population hovered around 100 million, the United States welcomed an average of 600,000 immigrants each year. This means that over the past 100 years, immigrants and refugees have become a declining portion ...

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A Church Welcome for the Tired, the Poor
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November 2015

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