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Should we return the Statue of Liberty to France?  We don’t seem interested in using it or what it stands for lately.

According to the National Park service:

What does the torch represent? The torch is a symbol of enlightenment. The Statue of Liberty’s torch lights the way to freedom showing us the path to Liberty. Even the Statue’s official name represents her most important symbol “Liberty Enlightening the World”.

(Source: Click here)

Of course, I’m asking a ridiculous question in order to talk about an important issue – immigration.

Immigration has been a divisive issue since people started coming to this continent from other continents – whether by choice or by force.

Over the decades different groups of people have been looked down upon and degraded because of where they are from, what language they spoke, what they looked like, and what they believed.  And yet, people still come.

One of the reasons they keep coming is the hope for a better life that is expressed in the sonnet that has been associated with the Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

(Source: Click here)

What does it mean to give us “your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.”  This is an important question in the current immigration debate.  We hear some make the arguments that we only want wealthy, successful, and well-educated people.  Yet, how does that match up with the sonnet?  Of course the sonnet isn’t the law of the land.  And neither is the Statue of Liberty for that matter.  But it is symbolic of what we supposedly stand for.

So what about illegal immigration.  Let’s get right to it.  I don’t need to rehash all the arguments that have been made about illegal immigration.  You’ve heard and read many of them and may have even used them in arguments about immigration.

I know that facts don’t persuade people anymore, but just in case you actually care about the numbers of illegal immigrants in the country and where they are from, you can read the Pew Research information from last year.  http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/04/27/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/ It’s got lot’s of good information about how illegal immigration is changing in the US.

If facts aren’t your thing, then maybe you’ll consider stories.  The BBC ran a pretty good eight minute video on the consequences of the recent immigration enforcement.  You can watch it here.

I don’t pretend to have the answer to illegal immigration.  I see it as very complex.  It’s not a cut and dry issue for me.  It’s not just an issue of someone breaking the law, so send them back.  If you read the Pew findings, the obvious question will be – send them back where?  For many illegal immigrants, they don’t have a home anywhere else.  There isn’t a home or family just waiting for them.  Are we going to deport people to places they know nothing about?  Are we going to send people into homelessness and destitution, to places that persecute people because of religion and political identity?  Is that what our we are about?

Should we replace the Statue of Liberty and the sonnet associated with it with something else – a guy carrying a sign that says “Keep Out!”

Maybe I’m confusing things though.  Those that are opposed to illegal immigration aren’t claiming to be against all immigration – but rather that the rules be followed to enter the country.  I think there is some truth in this.  Yet, we have a problem.  We have millions of people who have entered the country illegally.  What do we do with them?  The short answer is I don’t know.

The longer answer is that if we attempt to deal with immigration as a separate concern, apart from any other issue, we will fail.  Immigration isn’t a stand alone issue.  No issue is stand alone.  It’s complex and deals with people and their lives.  While I don’t have political solution to this, I do know this much – we are called to welcome the stranger, to offer hospitality.  To be Christ’s presence in their lives.  To proclaim good news to the poor, the homeless, the lost, the widow, the orphan – the very people the sonnet offer a welcome to and call out to come to these shores for a better opportunity.

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-tost to me,

If we aren’t careful, the sonnet will be meaningless because of our own doing.