The cover story on immigration in this week’s Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal includes some substantive quotes by Concordia’s Dr. Bruce Corrie and provides a reasoned presentation of the value of immigrants to the Minnesota economy. This is no surprise to Bruce. I have heard him wax eloquently on this topic many times, and he is frequently called upon by state and local government, as well as the media, to offer his expertise. His research data is clear: the value of immigrant capital is vital to the interests of our State and nation.
Nevertheless, immigration is a hotly debated topic. Certainly there are matters of national security involved that need careful consideration. Certainly there are important reasons to manage our borders and also to respect the rule of law in the immigration process. But the reality seems clear to me . . . we need immigrants. Given the right opportunities, they contribute mightily to our economy and society. Though I am by no means an expert, in my simple view the public discussion should be focusing on helping greater numbers of documented immigrants into the country.
I’m hoping we can have some constructive discussion of this issue on our campus this semester. Immigration is in our wheelhouse. For many decades Concordia has been in the center of a number of migrations, including African Americans from the south in the 1950s and ’60s, Hmong, Laotian and Vietnamese from refugee camps in Thailand in the 1970s and ’80s, and the most recent arrival of African immigrants to the Midway district of St. Paul. I have seen first-hand that settling in a new country and unfamiliar culture is not easy. But we have seen amazing outcomes from our immigrant friends who have been among us now for several generations, and in just the last six years we have seen substantial progress in education, jobs, businesses, and social acclimation among our newest neighbors. Concordia has proven its capacity to dialogue around difficult issues, and the issue of immigration should be no exception.
We, too, have a rich biblical context from which to discuss immigration, particularly the Old Testament where Yahweh encourages the people of Israel to support the immigrant and the foreigner, because they too were at one time immigrants and foreigners. Let us rise to the challenge to do what we can in our small corner of the world to have civil discourse on immigration and, more importantly, to reach out to and help the newest members of our very own community, God’s people of many races, ethnicities and languages right here among us.
Grace and peace.