Over 150 Florida Faith Leaders Urge Legislators to Stop Anti-Immigrant Legislation
Clergy Statement on Immigration & Work
No Human Being Is Illegal
In South Florida, our neighbors are very likely of diverse races, countries of origin, language groups, and cultures. We depend on our immigrant neighbors who work the farmland and perform a wide range of service work for our comfort and convenience in condominium complexes, retail stores and supermarkets, hospitals and nursing homes, and countless other places. Our community needs to reflect on how we, each of us, support our neighbors. One way is to enact comprehensive immigration reform legislation that establishes a safe and humane immigration system consistent with our values. However, a change in law will not by itself produce a brighter future. We need to value the immigrant working family as we value life itself.
Our diverse faith traditions teach us to welcome our brothers and sisters with love and compassion. The Hebrew Bible tells us: "The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Leviticus 19:33-34). In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to "welcome the stranger," for "what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me" (Matthew 25:35, 40). The Qur'an tells us that we "shall give to the needy who immigrated. They were evicted from their homes and deprived of their properties because they sought God's grace" (59:8).
Too many of our poor are immigrants considered “lucky just to have a job." While we commiserate with the suffering of immigrant families who have lost loved ones to death in the desert or immigrants themselves who have experienced exploitation in the workplace or abuse at the hands of unscrupulous smugglers and others, we stigmatize them by calling them aliens or “illegals.”
As religious leaders, we will earnestly educate our community on the benefits of immigration and strengthen public opinion about the positive contributions of our current as well as previous immigrants. The net benefit of immigration to the U.S. is nearly $10 billion annually. As Alan Greenspan points out, 70% of immigrants arrive in prime working age. That means we have not spent a penny on their education, yet they are transplanted into our workforce and will contribute $500 billion toward our social security system over the next 20 years. Many will never see a penny of this money if we do not have immigration reform.
As in Leviticus 23:22 - "When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God." The poor and the alien have always been related in our faith traditions. It seems that the poor as well as the aliens among us are the un-enfranchised. That is why the faith community needs to "speak for the poor and needy" (Proverbs 31:9).
As religious leaders we advocate for the application and improvement of our federal labor laws so that ALL workers' rights for ALL workers are respected, including their right to organize, and that our local labor standards reflect the need to have family sustainable employment. ALL workers have rights and it is up to the community to make sure that they are respected. While we look to our political leadership to redress the wrongs of keeping many millions of valuable immigrant workers and their families in a parallel universe, we have to look to ourselves and our own actions to see God in everyone and honor his creation by acknowledging work as holy.