The Red Couch: Love Undocumented Discussion

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Immigration is a hot topic in news and politics. Some days it seems we are inundated with debates over border protection, narratives of immigrant violence and crime, images of refugees risking life and limb, and news about children in cages or detainees kept in holding cells for months on end.

I’ll admit, immigration––legal or otherwise––is not a topic that I’ve personally had much stake in. I was born in America, as were most, if not all, of my family members for the past couple of generations. I know this is my privilege speaking. I’ve never had to worry about my status as an American citizen. When I leave the country (which I can do so freely) I know my American citizenship and the passport that proves it are powerful tools. But I also know that as a Christian, I have a role to play in welcoming the foreigner and upholding the dignity and image of God in all people, no matter their status in our country.

I’ve just never been sure what that role is. My knowledge of immigration has been largely informed by the news and politics I consume, not necessarily by actual stories and relationships with immigrant Americans. So I eagerly picked up Sarah Quezada’s book, Love Undocumented, hoping to learn more about this important topic and wrestle with the nuances of the issue.

Love Undocumented is a rich book, weaving together the author’s own love story with a Guatemalan-American, with well-researched facts about the American immigration process and Bible stories that illustrate different aspects of immigration and community. She asks difficult but compassionate questions that wrestle with a Christian’s role in responding to the foreigners in our midst.

“Are we taught how to thoughtfully engage with people who are unfamiliar? As Christians, do we really grapple with how Scripture instructs us to welcome the stranger?” (p. 20)

Quezada delicately presents immigration as a complicated, multi-faceted issue, reminding her readers that both the process of arriving in the U.S. and the process toward legal residence are rarely the same for any two immigrants. There are myriad reasons why people seek life in America, myriad reasons why they choose to come legally or illegally, and myriad ways in which they live and participate in American life once they arrive. While news headlines and political leaders may try to paint immigration with broad strokes, Quezada resists this urge and presents examples and stories that compel us to consider our own privilege of simply being born in the U.S.

One of the most compelling questions Quezada presents in her book concerns the role of Christians in responding to immigration law. On the one hand, we are all expected to uphold the laws of our government. But what happens when those laws are outdated? Or what happens when those laws prioritize the interests of those already in power over recognizing the dignity of all people? As Christians, what is our role in showing hospitality to the foreigner or caring for the vulnerable on our doorstep?

Quezada uses example after example to illustrate how immigration is an issue that affects us all because we are all bound to each other in what Martin Luther King Jr. called the garment of destiny: “We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. . . . I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”

The image of God which we all bear cannot be fully expressed if we do not also see it in the faces of the strangers around us. Quezada calls us to overcome our fears and live out the hospitality and abundance that Jesus bestowed on every person he encountered. In the bigger story of God’s kingdom, she reminds us that love and grace cannot be contained by fences or border walls.

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Questions for Reflection:

In what ways are we all personally affected, directly or indirectly, by issues revolving around immigration?

“How do we as people of faith––who are also business owners, shoppers, and neighbors––affirm the humanity of those in the shadows of our workforce?” (p. 56-57) How can we better engage with immigrant people in our communities?

“When we turn away the victimized, the lonely, and the poor, has the United States rejected God’s laws? Can we as Christians support those actions? How do we balance respect for our governing authorities with the perspective of vulnerable parents and children being sent back into life-threatening danger?” (p. 66) What role do we have to play in changing legislation?

What struck you the most from Love Undocumented? What story or illustration stuck out the most?

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In June we’ll be reading The Heaviness of Things that Float over in our Facebook group. In July we’ll be discussing The Next Worship by Sandra Van Opstal right here. Join our Facebook group for discussions and deeper resources.

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Jamie Watkins
I am a wife, writer, film-lover, and traveler. I am a follower of Jesus and a struggling church-goer. I live in New Jersey, where my husband and I open our house to others with good food and wine. I blog at Seek.Follow.Love about wrestling with faith and church, and looking for meaning in the every day.
Jamie Watkins