Back to Top

The Top 5 Reasons the Christian Reformed Church Cares about Immigration

In a world with a litany of societal injustices, it’s fair to ask why the Christian Reformed Church in North America (CRC) - through the help of the Office of Social Justice (OSJ) - focuses so much energy on supporting churches to understand and work towards just immigration policies. There are certainly plenty of justice concerns we could choose to focus on, so why immigration? 

It didn’t start with the OSJ - it started with CRC churches building community with their immigrant neighbors. In response to a report submitted to Synod (the CRC’s governing body) 2007 by Michigan CRC churches concerning how churches should engage with undocumented congregants, Synod created a committee “to study the issue of the migration of workers as it relates to the church’s ministries of inclusion, compassion, and hospitality, and to propose ways for the church to advocate on behalf of those who are marginalized.” 

This committee submitted a report of its findings to Synod 2010, which led Synod to adopt 13 recommendations for congregations on areas including education and awareness, ministry of mercy and compassion, and justice and advocacy. In these recommendations, Synod reaffirmed that the church should treat all individuals as image bearers of God regardless of ethnicity, background, or legal status, and that God’s Word consistently directs Christians to welcome the strangers in their midst and to extend special care to the most vulnerable in society. The ministry tasked with equipping churches to fulfill these Synod recommendations was the Office of Social Justice. 

Let’s unpack in greater detail why Synod, the OSJ, and the CRC at large have been so compelled to welcome and advocate with immigrants in the US.

1. Welcoming the stranger and protecting the vulnerable is an important theme throughout the Bible

God explicitly commands us to welcome the stranger in Hebrews 13:2; in fact, it is the second most repeated command in the Old Testament, so it certainly isn’t just a modern concept. When scripture repeats phrases and ideas, we can take that to mean that God takes those ideas seriously. 

The command to “welcome the stranger” has no condition: it doesn’t say “welcome the stranger if you believe that it’s ok for them to be in your country;” it doesn’t say “welcome the stranger if they are an asset to your economy.”  Deuteronomy 10:19 simply says, “And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” Aside from the command to welcome the stranger, it’s important to remember that all people were created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and we should talk to and about all people in a way that honors their identity as image-bearers. 

God also commands us to care for the vulnerable in Deuteronomy 10:17-18: “The LORD your God . . . executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and . . . loves the strangers, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Many refugees and asylum seekers are children, some of them unaccompanied (without adult caregivers). We are called to care for the vulnerable that come to our doorstep.

We are being told that immigrants are a burden to us, but scripture says they are a blessing and that we have a responsibility to them. 

2. A Biblical perspective can and should influence policy-making

It breaks our hearts to hear people talk about immigrants like they are not quite human, not quite deserving of dignity, not quite made in the image of God. As Christians, we are called to remember and share what God says about immigrants, especially vulnerable immigrants like refugees and asylum-seekers. 

When discussing immigration, we often forget that we are talking about human beings - not merely a political issue that can be used to win points or evoke fear. It is not uncommon in the political sphere for the conversation to devolve into speaking about immigrants as economic drains or assets, as security threats or helpless victims. As people of faith, we can and we must bring the conversation back to talking about immigrants as people with inherent dignity and self-determination - image-bearers - calling our elected officials to create and support immigration policies that promote human flourishing and tell the truth about immigrants. 

There are a lot of lies circulating about immigrants: who they are, why they come to the US, and what they intend to do here. We as people of faith have an opportunity and obligation to inform public policy by being justice-seekers and truth-tellers about immigrants.

3. Immigrants started and continue to grow the CRC denomination 

The CRC was established in 1857 by Dutch immigrants who came to the US and Canada in the mid-1800s, seeking greater economic opportunity and religious freedom. As more and more Dutch immigrants came to North America, CRC congregations sponsored and supported these new arrivals as they adjusted to a new life (want to know more about this history? Check out our Immigration Is Our Story audio series!).

Today, our congregations have grown in diversity, now including Native Americans, African Americans, and immigrant congregations of predominantly Chinese, Korean, Vienamese, Latin American, French-Canadian, and African immigrants and their families. Immigration was and is our story. It is our hope that in remembering our largely immigrant identity, we will be encouraged to welcome the stranger, pursue justice for the immigrant, and create a compassionate story - both inter-personally and systemically - that future generations can be proud of.

4. The US immigration system is broken and unjust

Many do not realize the complexities and dead-ends of our immigration system today. Given the denomination’s Dutch roots, many CRC members have heard about (or have themselves experienced) stories of ancestors coming to the US from the Netherlands by boat, often taking no more than a day to be processed and permitted to enter the US. 

However, Ellis Island closed a long time ago, and legal pathways to citizenship today - though possible for some - are extremely difficult to navigate. Today, the immigration process is much more complicated. Many of our ancestors would not have qualified to immigrate under today’s stringent standards, which require immigrants to be closely related to a US citizen or permanent resident, have a job offer in the US, be educated and financially stable, or meet the increasingly strict qualifications for asylum seekers or refugees. The US has more immigrants than any other country in the world, but the number in proportion to our population is actually smaller than other developed countries

Today’s immigration system is based on policy changes that were created over 50 years ago, and it has not been adapted holistically since then to adjust to today’s economic, familial, and humanitarian needs. The system is severely backlogged, so those who do have a path to legal immigration often face decades-long wait times. Many industries that rely on immigrant labor face a chronic shortage of visas, which fuels undocumented labor. Many immigrants simply don’t have a pathway to legal status - especially those who are poor.

Perhaps most importantly, our immigration system is increasingly inhumane. In many ways, immigration has become criminalized and families are too often separated by detention and deportation. With little to no worker protections and the constant fear of deportation, undocumented immigrants in particular must live in the shadows and often struggle in poverty. Asylum-seeking children and their families are put in detention centers and denied a safe place to flee from violence. There is much work to be done so that immigration policy will provide justice and safety for vulnerable immigrants. 

5. Despite the myths, we claim that immigrants are a blessing

We often hear a negative narrative about our immigrant neighbors (especially those from poorer and/or predominantly non-white countries). We hear that immigrants are violent and dangerous, that they’re taking our jobs, that they are a drain on our economy and social safety nets, and that they bring disease. 

During times of economic downturn, the US has had a history of viewing immigrants in an especially negative light, blaming them for taking American jobs and resources. In times of economic prosperity, immigrants have been more welcome, often viewed as good, cheap labor during a time of building and growth. You can read through our Immigration timeline from our Church Between Borders workshop to look for these patterns yourself.  

We must hold onto and speak about the reality that immigrants are a blessing, not a burden.

The truth is that higher immigration levels actually correspond to higher employment rates for all. Immigrants are less likely to use need-based welfare benefits than their native counterparts, and they contribute more to these benefits than they will ever receive in their lifetimes. Additionally, immigrants have lower crime rates than native-born Americans. Check out this page to see more reasons why immigrants are a blessing, not a burden. 

We’re working hard to tell the truth about immigrants. Will you join us?

Check out our Blessing Not Burden page to learn more, and fill out our partner form to commit to telling the truth with us! 


The Reformed family is a diverse family with a diverse range of opinions. Not all perspectives expressed on the blog represent the official positions of the Christian Reformed Church. Learn more about this blog, Reformed doctrines, and our diversity policy on our About page.

In order to steward ministry shares well, commenting isn’t available on Do Justice itself because we engage with comments and dialogue in other spaces. To comment on this post, please visit the Christian Reformed Centre for Public Dialogue’s Facebook page (for Canada-specific articles) or the Office of Social Justice’s Facebook page. Alternatively, please email us. We want to hear from you!

Read more about our comment policy.