WHAT IS A REFUGEE?
An immigrant generally comes to the U.S. because:
they are joining family members who already live in this country
they are “economic immigrants” seeking work and a better life for themselves and their families
they were granted a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). This program allowed Iraqis and Afghans to receive a visa if they were employed by the U.S. Government and experienced serious threats as a consequence of that employment.
According to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) which administers the refugee program, a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.
Two-thirds of all refugees worldwide come from just five countries:
Are refugees here legally?
Yes. A refugee has had their case investigated and a determination has been made that they have a reasonable fear which prevents them from returning to their home country. They have been admitted to the United States by the agreement of the United States and have official legal status which entitles them to work and gives them a path to citizenship. This is different from an asylum seeker who is someone who has applied for protection but has not yet had their case adjudicated.
WHAT DOES THE BIBLE SAY ABOUT IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES?
The Old Testament is filled with God’s commands for justice and compassion on behalf of the strangers, the poor, the aliens, and the sojourners in Israel’s midst. In the New Testament, particularly Matthew 25, Jesus underscores these commands and reveals a new factor that should motivate us. When we serve the refugee and the immigrant, we are ultimately serving God Himself.
The four principles below are derived from Biblical texts concerning the poor; of which refugees are often the most vulnerable without a country, home, resources, social network, and often without hope.
1. GOD LOVES, PROTECTS, AND PROVIDES FOR REFUGEES
• He “watches over the alien.” (Ps. 146:9)
• He provides “refuge for the oppressed,” a “shelter from the storm, and shade from the heat.” (Ps. 9:9; Is. 25:4)
• He “defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” (Deut. 10:18)
2. GOD ENCOURAGES COMPASSIONATE GIVING TO REFUGEES
• “Love him [the alien] as yourself.”(Lev. 19:34; Deut. 10:16-19)
• Share your food, clothing, and shelter with them. (Is. 58:6-11; Mt. 25:31-46)
• Set aside part of your harvest/income to help them. (Lev. 19, 23; Deut. 14, 24, 26)
3. GOD CALLS FOR JUSTICE IN REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT
• Rescue and “do not betray the refugee” to persecuting nations. (Is. 16:3)
• Treat refugees fairly and stand up for them when others mistreat them. (Ps.82:4; Ex. 22:21; Lev. 19:33; Zech. 7:9-10)
• Treat the alien “as one of your native-born” and “have the same law[s]” towards them. (Lev. 19:34, 24:22; Num. 15:16)
4. GOD BLESSES THOSE WHO TAKE CARE OF REFUGEES
• He blesses them and the “work of their hands.” (Deut. 24:19-21)
• He protects and strengthens them. (Is. 58:6-11; Ps. 41:1-3)
• He satisfies their needs. (Prov. 28:27; Is. 58:6-11)
• Whoever “is kind to the needy honors God.” (Prov. 14:31)
• “Then the King will say to those on the right, ‘Come you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me… whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” -Matthew 25:34-36, 40