On Tuesday, former President George W. Bush encouraged lawmakers to engage in debate on immigration reform with a benevolent spirit (The Dallas Morning News, article by Tom Benning, republished in The Columbian titled “Bush Urges New Approach to Immigration” on Wednesday, Dec. 5, A7). The former President had hoped to bring about widespread immigration reform during his tenure in the Oval Office. Still, his remarks could and should spur Republican lawmakers on to consider bi-partisan work with the Democrats in overhauling the country’s stance on immigration. This is an area where I hope Mr. Bush will have an enduring impact on his party. He has been known to lead his party in the past on building ties with the Hispanic community. While my larger concern is simply care for the alien in our midst rather than strategic demographic connections for either party, nonetheless, it can only help our nation if both major parties are building strong ties with various ethnic communities.
Mr. Bush noted that new immigrants benefit our society in a variety of ways. Going beyond Mr. Bush’s remarks, I hope Christians would not base our welcome primarily on the ways in which the new immigrants benefit our society economically, but rather on their shared humanity and their need. The Bible makes very clear that God’s people were and are to care for the alien in their midst as equals regardless of how they benefit a GNP or a political party: “The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 19:34). I believe Mr. Bush would share this conviction. Emma Lazarus certainly did. As her poem “The New Colossus” makes clear, she envisioned America as the gracious and welcoming host to the least fortunate souls of other lands. A benevolent spirit concerning the alien is not alien to Mr. Bush, Ms. Lazarus, or to the God of the Bible who rules over all lands and is not limited by any nation’s borders.