Immigration/Refugee issues

Grounding Theologically the Call for Immigration Reform

[1] To begin with, I would like to express my appreciation for the kind invitation to respond to the ECLA Social Policy Resolution Toward Compassionate, Just, and Wise Immigration Reform. It is a privilege, and a somber responsibility, to speak into the tradition of Christian communities other than one’s own. The Lutheran Church has a […]

Ethics without Political Science

[1] Denominational statements such as the ELCA’s recent one on immigration are, to be honest, rarely very interesting. The constraints of the genre are simply too restrictive — one can hardly, in a half dozen pages, produce both a sophisticated statement of theological principle as well as an appropriately careful policy analysis. One hesitates, therefore, […]

Martin Luther’s Pragmatic Revision of Traditional Natural Law Theory

[1] In his 1535 Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, Martin Luther offers up the following set of judgments: For albeit that all men have a certain natural knowledge implanted in their minds (Rom. ii. 14), whereby they naturally perceive that they ought to do unto others as they would have others do […]

Moving beyond Hospitality

[1] Anyone who calls him or herself a Christian should seek compassionate, just, and wise immigration reform. Millions of undocumented aliens are forced to live in the shadows of the law hungering for someone to bring them the good news that they are more than objects of a hostile national debate. In spite of the […]

Ethical Decision Points in the History of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service

[1] Having been at the helm of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service for nearly two decades now, I’m often asked to speak about LIRS, its mission and history. In telling the story of this arm of the great Lutheran ministry of “welcoming the stranger,” I find myself drawn more and more to key decision points. […]

Human Rights and Immigration

[1] Detention-related human rights violations evoke the memory of Cold War and Latin American dictatorships — prolonged imprisonment of non-criminal defendants, unchecked executive discretion over who is detained and why, substandard conditions of confinement, midnight transfers to remote facilities, lack of access to legal counsel, etc.—such were the ugly realities of other places and another […]

Social Justice for Undocumented Immigrants

November 2008 [1] Postville, Iowa, a rural town of about 2,200 located in the rolling hills of northeast Iowa, would appear to be an unlikely epicenter for a debate over immigration control and our treatment of undocumented immigrants. However, when on May 12, 2008 Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE—formerly known as the Immigration and Naturalization […]

On Immigration and the Immigrant Other

[1] Generally speaking, we humans are what I call “narrow-minded knowers.” In our striving to put together a perspective about the world and other people, or of the world in which we live with other people, we create ideas about this world and relationships with which we can feel rather comfortable. We build knowledge about […]

Fix the Broken Immigration System by Focusing on Families

Immigration and the Kingdom on the Left Hand

[1] About twenty years ago, Joseph Carens, in a seminal article on the ethics of immigration, pointedly drew attention to the essential dilemma that it poses: “Borders have guards and the guards have guns,” he wrote. To the needy, desperate, and oppressed of the world, seeking access to a free and wealthy nation like the […]