At some point Sofia revealed to me that she was undocumented. If you could have seen the look in her eyes: the shame, the guilt. Sofia came to the United States when she was 9 years old. She was brought to this country by her mother. She now has a teenage daughter who has spent her entire life in the United States. Sofia has also spent the majority of her life as an American. She has no experience living in Mexico. I know some shout, “Go back!” I know Sofia’s heart would respond, “Go back to what? America is where I have built my life; it is my home, my country.”
When I think of Sofia, I think of a quote I once heard: “We didn’t cross the borders, the borders crossed us.” Sofia’s mom, like many immigrants, came to the United States for better opportunities. They came for a chance to provide for their families. What would you do if you were desperate?
While it may be difficult to know how I would respond in that situation, I am firmly convinced that I am obligated to love and welcome the stranger. As a servant who spends a lot of my time participating in local and foreign missions, I have been obsessed with Matthew 25. However, I must admit I have never focused on the “welcome the stranger” portion of the scripture. In this passage, Jesus was pretty clear that we are to invite the stranger in. Jesus explained that when we invite the stranger in, we are truly inviting him in. The way we treat the stranger is a clear indication of whether we are his true followers. It is imperative to point out that Jesus didn’t say “documented stranger.” He said “stranger,” period, just as he didn’t advocate visiting only those who didn’t deserve to be in prison. People of God, we can’t pick and choose what issues we want to view through the lens of the Bible. Shouldn’t we view everything through the filter of the Scriptures?
In Exodus 23:9, God warned the Israelites not to oppress the stranger. He entreated them to remember the time when they were strangers. He reminded them that they, of all people, should remember what it feels like to be a stranger, to be an outsider.
The United States is a nation of immigrants. As an African American, I know how it feels to be treated as a second-class citizen. So my heart breaks when I hear African Americans making derogatory comments about Hispanic people. Have we all forgotten that this land “belonged” to the Native Americans? Have we all forgotten that we are all immigrants whether we came voluntarily or involuntarily? Do we really have the moral platform to say “do things the right way?” I think we would all agree that Native Americans would say no, we don’t.