Welcome the Stranger

Welcome the Stranger
By Robert Scott
The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Edgefield Advertiser.


Once again we are witnessing in our country the age-old argument about immigration. We need to guard our country from outside, alien people without our American ideals, because they threaten the very fabric of our culture. Specifically, we need to reject anyone at the border who does not arrive with the ability and desire to contribute to our country but rather merely to claim a right to take from us what we ourselves have worked so hard to earn. Is that right? Or do we instead need to follow the moral injunction taught by all three Abrahamic religions? Those religions teach us to welcome the refugee and the stranger and show them hospitality, to help them to live without fear and (to the extent we can) without want. Which of these more closely reflects the America we would like our country to be?

Studying numbers can cause one’s eyes to glaze over and interest to wane if not done well. But immigration is a subject that, for America, is described well by numbers. You can see many aspects of U.S. immigration through the numbers illustrated by the Pew Research Center on the internet. Here are some of them.

The proportion of the U.S. population who are immigrants 100 years ago was around 35%; today it is around 26%. The proportion of U.S. immigrants from Asia is larger than the proportion from Latin America. The number of unauthorized immigrants increased each year of the Bush administration, topping off at 12.2 million; during the Obama administration that number decreased to around 11 million. The total number of immigrants to the U.S. each year is around 2 million, of whom one-third are undocumented on arrival or overstay their visas. That works out to be around 5,500 immigrant arrivals every day. For comparison, the number in the reported “caravan” headed north through Mexico is around 4,000.

The Episcopal Church among several others has their own answer. On their web site, the Episcopal Migration Ministries boasts that they are “proudly carrying on a century-old legacy of Episcopal ministries that welcome immigrants and refugees.” Welcoming those in need is not the same as advocating for “Open Borders”; none of the mainstream groups who care for immigrants and refugees has called for that. People who come here do so out of need, just as they did 100 years ago. The question we as a nation must face is how we should respond to that need. Should we close the door more tightly, or should we keep it open?

Our country at the beginning of the last century was poised for greatness, and as the Twentieth Century entered its first few decades our vibrant immigrant community was an important factor in that greatness. Our population has a smaller proportion of immigrants now than we did then. Immigration is not something to be feared, nor is there a reason to reduce the influx of refugees and immigrants who have responded to the ideals symbolized by the Statue of Liberty. What we need to do now, as ever, is truly to “Welcome the Stranger.”

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