December, 2020

A Sense of Permanency

Published December 21, 2020

“Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God”
   Leviticus 19:33-34

Every year over a million people from all over the world seek to immigrate to the United States and call a new and foreign land, home.

Each one has a story and a reason for leaving their nation of origin behind to begin a new life here. Some come in pursuit of a career. Others are escaping poverty and persecution. And still others are longing to be reunited with family. Whatever the reason, the transition to a new life in a new land, however longed-for, is never an easy one. In many cases, it means that, in addition to leaving a familiar world behind, that individual must learn a new language, navigate a foreign culture, and build an entirely new community.

In order to immigrate to the United States, the government requires that an individual apply for an obtain a Lawful Permanent Residence Card, commonly referred to as a “Green Card.” Many individuals seeking to visit to the United States can obtain temporary visas to travel or study in the United States, but only those with a Green Card can remain permanently and call the U.S. home.

Although lawful permanent residence is not citizenship, it does come with important rights and responsibilities including the right to reside permanently in the United States, join and serve in the U.S. Armed Forces, work anywhere in the United States, be protected equally by the law, travel freely outside the United States for up to one year, and petition for certain family members to immigrate to the United States as lawful permanent residents.

The responsibilities of lawful permanent residence include the responsibility to obey all law of the United States, file income tax returns, and for men to register with the Selective Service at the age of 18 years old. Each one of these rights and responsibilities solidifies their senses of belonging in this new life in this new land.

One such client seeking permanent residency was *Hussein, a refugee from Somalia.

He had fled civil war in his own country, lived in refugee camps for over ten years before realizing he would not be able to return to his own country, and then had been accepted into the United States in 2004 under refugee status. He lived for years with this status, not able to visit family members who had been displaced around the world, and unable to petition for his children to join him, as they had were still living in refugee camps in a different country.

When he came to CIAC, we were able to apply for his legal permanent residence, which now allows him to apply for certain family members to join him here in the United States.
*name changed, image representative for security

You may have never noticed, but much of the Bible is an immigration story!

The Israelites, God’s chosen people, were enslaved by the Egyptians and lived in foreign land. God delivered them from their captors and brought them to the land of Canaan. Although it was a land that God had promised to them generations before, it was entirely new to the Jewish people.

Centuries later, Mary and Joseph would make an immigrant journey as they fled Bethlehem seeking to protect Jesus from violent hand of Herod. They were refugees, much like the hundreds of thousands of men and women seeking peace and safety in the United States today.

Then, the greatest story of all, that Jesus Christ came not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it, dying in our place so that we who were once foreigners and exiles, sinners and strangers, could share in the riches of Heaven. And through faith in him, we receive the promise of eternity with him. Our home is no longer this world, but rather in heaven!

Just as our faith in Jesus affords us “boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph. 3:12), a green card offers a hopeful immigrant the privilege to not only live in the United States, but boldly access our nation’s many benefits with confidence and a sense of belonging.

As you begin the journey of filing the Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, whether it be for yourself, a family member or friend, or a client, take a moment to consider this word from the Lord to His people, “Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God” Leviticus 19:33-34.

As Americans, let us welcome the stranger and help them to establish a sense of permanency, just as God welcomes us into his heavenly home through faith in Jesus.