Two days ago, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the President is rescinding #DACA, a program that granted temporary, renewable benefits to some 800,000 undocumented immigrants who came to this country as young children and are now productive young adults.
As a church, we just started a Sunday series called HOME, which is timely given the truly heartbreaking potential that hundreds of thousands of young people, our neighbors, will lose the only home they've ever known by getting deported to their legal "home." Over 220,000 of the Dreamers live in California, and many of them haven't known any other home. Is a place your home if you don't even remember it? Or if you can't speak the language? Is it morally conscionable to force someone to return to such a "home"?
Home, with all of it's connotations of familiarity, family, culture, cuisine and comfort, is fundamentally about belonging. It's the place about which you can say, "I belong here." Many Americans have a legalistic, nationalistic, and consumeristic sense of belonging. They would say, "If you don't have papers, you don't belong. If you weren't born here, you have to 'earn' your place. If your presence could potentially hamper my personal wealth or well-being in any way, you don't belong."
As I see it, this belief, that belonging is fundamentally about birth into a particular community, legal status, or benefit to the existing group runs into at least two enormous problems for me. First, it is completely unable to deal with the historical reality that present day America is a result of illegal immigration onto Native American land that brought unspeakable harm to the existing community. Secondly, while it might comport well with nationalistic sentiment, it absolutely flies in the face of my Christian conceptions of belonging and home.
For the Christian, the very deepest understanding of true home is in the presence of God. The Garden of Eden was truly home, not because of the pretty trees, but because of God's presence. When Cain was banished to become a "homeless wanderer" he laments that he's banished from God's presence. At the end of time, in the vision of John in Revelation, God makes his home finally and fully with human beings.
You want to know the crazy thing? God doesn't restrict his presence, our true home, to people born into a particular community, or people with the appropriate legal documents, or people who will boost the economy (though the Dreamers do, in fact, benefit the economy). In fact, according to traditional Christian teaching, Jesus' life, death and resurrection opened the way for people who weren't part of a 'the right' ethnic group or nation to belong in his people. It opened the way for people who had broken the law to legally enter his presence. Jesus invited people in, not based on their potential to benefit the existing group, but because they were loved.
For those of us who are Christian, this is our story. For Christians in America, this story is more fundamental to who we are than any version of the American story, nationalist or otherwise. We are people who are welcomed home, not because we deserved it, not because we were born in the right geography or clan, not because we were "legal"...but because we were loved. May we allow this story to shape our responses to beloved immigrants in this country. May we welcome others home in the same way we have been welcomed home.