Day 12 – Stranger Love

Ched Myers in his book, Our God Is Undocumented: Biblical Faith and Immigrant Justice, writes, “our perspectives on marginalized people are determined by our proximity to them.”

According to analysis of statistics from the 2000 census compiled by Barry Chiswick and Paul W. Miller in their discussion paper, “Where Immigrants Settle In the United States”,  immigrants are likely to live in major metropolitan areas in six states–California (LA/San Diego/Bay Area), New York (NYC), Texas (Houston/San Antonio), Florida (Miami), New Jersey (Newark/Camden) and Illinois (Chicago).  But immigrants are now settling in non-traditional places.  Between 2000 and 2013, Kentucky saw it’s immigrant population grow by 97%,  Wisconsin experienced 73% growth in immigrants, and North Carolina had an influx of over 700,000 immigrants. (Pew Research)

Questions for Reflection

Do you live in close proximity to immigrant families?  How you do think your proximity (or lack of proximity) to immigrants influences your perspective about immigration?

Proximity is necessary for personal relationships.  However, personal relationships only happen intentionally.  Do you personally know immigrants?  How has your personal knowledge influenced your perspective on immigration?

HERE is a fascinating interactive map of immigrant settlement patterns from 1880 to 2000.




  1. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that Lancaster, PA is on the map as a welcoming immigrant community. It’s such an unlikely place in the middle of Amish country. But it has a great reputation among refugees. We’ve heard stories about when they talk in the camps about where they will be resettled, Lancaster is celebrated. For the last year, I’ve volunteered with a resettlement organization and knowing refugees has enriched my life. I have not gotten to know as many of them personally as I would like, but that’s one reason we are considering a move into the city (from the sorta suburbs) so we can increase our ability to be in relationship. I wish I could bring every opponent of refugee resettlement to Lancaster to meet refugees and see how they integrate in our community. Of course, it’s not perfect. But it is so so good.

  2. An influx of immigrants to an area can be viewed as an invasion, so proximity does not necessarily create sympathy/empathy for the new residents. In fact, it can bring out all the xenophobic responses. People in states that have the highest numbers of immigrants are often the most vocal about the need for limits on immigration–and are most critical of immigrants when they don’t assimilate to American (white-dominant) cultural norms fast enough. “Why don’t they learn English?” “Why don’t their children behave better?” “Why don’t they take better care of their property?”

    It is only as we get to know immigrants and hear their stories and eat their food and listen to their music that we will grow into xenophilia. I live in a building with several first and second generation immigrants–Japanese across the hall, Indian next door, Irani right above. I’m literally surrounded. My community has a mixture of immigrants from Poland, Central America, South America and Mexico–some documented, some not. As I’ve gotten to know my neighbors, I’ve discovered they have the same dreams and goals that I have; and I’ve become much more sensitive to the struggle that immigrants face to come to this country and find acceptance. Because I have grown to care about them personally, I see immigration policy through a whole new lens.

  3. I have known many immigrants. I have known many Ph.D. candidates, mostly from Asian countries. When I was a Security Supervisor, I had daily contact with undocumented workers, mostly Mexican, as I admitted them into the building with the contractors they worked for — typically making $25.00 / day for a full (8 hour) night’s work. Both examples certainly counter the rhetoric the negative generalizations and political rhetoric we’ve been hearing.

    For myself, some degree of close proximity matters. Daily encounters with undocumented workers at my security position certainly stirred empathy, and a recognition that these individuals were hard working, and abused. However, on the job, many security officers were resentful of undocumented workers, born in part, by their own economic insecurity.

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