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Clearing the Air: Even Undocumented Immigrants are a Blessing

Did you know that 70% of all US agricultural workers are undocumented? 1 in 15 children have at least one parent without legal status. In total, there are 11 million undocumented people in the United States. Polls demonstrate that over 50% of white evangelicals believe that immigrants are an economic drain and threat to American values. These statistics show that we have a broken immigration system and that our society's attitudes do not recognize the blessings and dignity of immigrants.

The Immigrants are a Blessing Not a Burden campaign empowers Christians to change the conversation about immigrants. So many of us have this message in our hearts and know this truth, but how often do we publicly speak out? Right now, more than ever in recent history, we have an opportunity to stand in solidarity with our immigrant brothers and sisters and proclaim the message that immigrants are a gift to our communities, congregations, local economies, and families.

Since the launch of the Blessing Not Burden campaign, many people have wondered, which kind of immigrant are you talking about?

The Blessing Not Burden campaign acknowledges and affirms the contributions of all immigrants, regardless of legal status. Myths surrounding who immigrants are, what they take, and the process through which they come too often inform our attitudes and policy, rather than the facts, relationships, and our faith.

Beyond the gifts immigrants bring, we believe immigrants are made in the image of God. Stories of immigration and guidance on how to treat the immigrant in our midst are woven throughout the entire Bible (see just a few examples from our Immigration Preaching Challenge here). Because of this, even if immigrants did take more than they contributed, we’d still work against the negative, scapegoating rhetoric. We’d still welcome the stranger. But the truth is that immigrants do create jobs, they do contribute to the economy, and they do make our communities safer.

The facts tell a story that we are stronger together and that we need each other. Economists across party lines claim that both legal and illegal immigration benefits the economy. Undocumented immigrants paid $11.8 billion in state and local taxes 2012. In Michigan, the state where I live, immigrants also have a huge positive impact on the economy. Undocumented immigrants pay $125.9 million in Michigan taxes. If all undocumented people were removed from Michigan, the state would lose $3.8 billion in economic activity and approximately 20,339 jobs. This is information that needs to be shared.

I believe that the gifts immigrants give are far beyond their economic contributions, however it is important to acknowledge these facts because myths about the immigrants and the economy is one of the greatest misunderstandings that hold our country back from enacting a more just and modernized immigration system. Therefore, once we know the truth about immigrants’ impact on the economy, we can be confident and bold to speak about all that immigrants add and contribute to the US.

I have seen the way immigrants have used this campaign as an opportunity to speak out for themselves and their families—it’s powerful. As allies, it is critical that we help provide spaces for immigrants to share their stories so their message can be further elevated and amplified. I am continuously inspired by my friend Vanessa for bravely sharing her story and using it to mobilize people to advocate and change the conversation. She is a recipient of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and knows first hand the brokenness of our immigration system. She is grateful for the Blessing Not Burden campaign because it affirms her contributions as an immigrant and gives her a platform to share her story and speak out for the need of a new immigration system.

Allies, I challenge us to listen and truly follow the lead of our immigrant brothers and sisters.

There are three main ways you can be involved with this campaign this week—you can sign a pledge committing to change the conversation when you hear immigrants being talked about as burdens and send a message to Congress sharing why you believe immigrants are a blessing or wear a shirt or tote bag with this message on it. Get ready for some interesting conversations and an opportunity for you share why you think this message is important. You can also like us on Facebook and share important messages on social media  about all that immigrants add to our country and communities.

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