Theology Crawl Discussion Guide - Immigration and Refugees

August 2, 2023

Welcome to Theology Crawl

Yes, being in a conversation with drinks is fun, but we need some guidelines as you enter into conversation with one another:

Everyone is not right, and that's a good thing.

The concepts we talk about in theology can have multiple interpretations, but that doesn't mean they're all right. A lot of theology is investigating the words we use to see if they make sense and are if they're adequate for God. Being wrong is how we improve our theology, not by having all the answers.

Pay attention to how people are using words.

We all use words like “love,” “God,” and “grace,” but the the reality is we often mean vastly different things. Try to listen to how people use words and if they're using them the same way you would.

Ask for people to define what they mean.

We can't have a good conversation if we are all talking past each other. It's not embarrassing to ask people for a definitional a new word or concept, it's just how you have a good conversation.

Make this work for you.

Have someone in the group keep an eye on the questions and try to make sure you're staying on topic. At the same time, it's fine to go down the rabbit holes. Sometimes, the rabbit holes can help us clarify something that we missed.

Have fun.

You won't solve world hunger, you probably won't even convince that person in the group you disagree with. Relax, be respectful, and when the questions run out, enjoy yourself and talk about something that isn't theological. Hanging out can actually be pretty important for good theology too!

Starting Question

  • If you are comfortable, share your family’s immigration story to the United States?


  • Immigration: Immigration refers to the process of individuals moving to a foreign country with the intention of settling there permanently or for an extended period. It can be voluntary and driven by factors like economic opportunities, family reunification, or education.
  • Refugees: Refugees are individuals who flee their home countries due to well-founded fears of persecution, conflict, or violence. They seek protection in another country and are unable or unwilling to return to their home country due to the circumstances they face.
    According to the United Nations, a refugee is someone who has been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war, or violence. In most cases, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. Many refugees are fleeing war or ethnic, tribal, and religious violence.
  • Refugees are persecuted for their: Race, Religion, Nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.
  • Asylum seeker - an asylum seeker is a person who has left their country and is seeking protection from persecution and serious human rights violations in another country, but who hasn’t yet been legally recognized as a refugee and is waiting to receive a decision on their asylum claim.  The right to seek asylum was incorporated into international law following the atrocities of World War II.  “Asylee” is the term used in the U.S. for people who have been granted asylum. Under U.S. immigration law, a person granted asylum is legally allowed to remain in the country without fear of deportation. They qualify to work, travel abroad and apply for their spouse or children under the age of 21 to join them. Asylees have the opportunity to become permanent residents, and eventually, citizens, provided that they meet all other requirements.
  • 108.4 million people were forcibly displaced worldwide at the end of 2022 as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.
  • 62.5 million are internally displaced people
    35.3 million are refugees
    5.4 million are asylum-seekers
    5.2 million are other people in need of international protection
  • Almost 90 million people have been displaced by ongoing conflict and disaster in countries such as Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Venezuela. Not included are the more than 7 million internally displaced people within Ukraine and the more than 6 million refugees who have left Ukraine since the conflict began in early 2022. Overall, the number of displaced persons has more than doubled in the last ten years alone.
  • 52% of refugees originate from just three countries - Syrian Arab Republic, Ukraine, and Afghanistan
    38% of refugees were hosted in five countries - Türkiye, Islamic Republic of Iran, Colombia, Germany, and Pakistan  
  • Low- and middle-income countries host 76 percent of the world’s refugees and other people in need of international protection. The Least Developed Countries provide asylum to 20 per cent of the total. Only 24% of refugees are hosted by high-income countries.
  • Massachusetts has been home to refugees for more than four hundred years. Since the arrival of the Pilgrims fleeing religious persecution, oppressed people from across the globe have been seeking refuge in America. But the origins and treatment of refugees has changed significantly over time. Although the United States has embraced refugees as part of its democratic and humanitarian principles, its policies toward them have also been shaped by larger geopolitical concerns and a desire to advance America’s national interests.
  • When economic panic swept the US in the 1870s, White citizens scapegoated Chinese immigrants for taking away jobs. In 1882, The Chinese Exclusion Act blocked Chinese workers from coming legally to the country, and blocked Chinese immigrants who were already living here from becoming US citizens. The Library of Congress calls it the “first significant restriction on free immigration in U.S. history.  The law and other related measures were repealed in 1943
  • For an array of reasons, including licensing obstacles, language issues and discrimination, many migrants are unable to put their skills to use in their new homes, and wind up in lower-paid, lower-skilled roles than the ones they previously held. This phenomenon, sometimes known as ‘brain waste’, is a lose-lose situation for them and their new countries, as their potential isn’t being put to full use.
  • There, “anywhere from 20 to 25% of college-educated immigrants are severely underemployed”, says Jeanne Batalova, who analyzes migration data at the Migration Policy Institute (MPI). “So, they’re either unemployed or working in jobs that require no more than high school”, for instance as nannies, cashiers and drivers.
  • Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) is defined as services that are respectful of and responsive to individual cultural health beliefs, practices, preferred languages, health literacy levels and communication needs.
  • During the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy, the Justice Department began to prosecute all migrants suspected of illegally crossing the border. Those who arrived with children were separated from their kids, who were placed initially in DHS detention centers, then transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services and later sent throughout the country to live with foster families or relatives. The policy sparked strong backlash both in the United States and around the world, especially because the administration struggled to track the children. Under pressure, Trump abandoned the policy in June 2019. Soon after, a federal judge blocked the practice and ordered the government to reunite the children with their families.
    It’s been one month since a law went into effect letting those without legal status in Massachusetts apply for a driver’s license. The state has already received roughly 100,000 requests for learner’s permit appointments.
    A: Immigration law forbids working in this country without legal authorization and a Social Security Number (SSN).  The benefits of having a SSN are obtaining credit, opening a bank account, obtaining government benefits or private insurance, and buying a home or a car, among many other pursuits.
  • A 2015 LifeWay Research poll found that 90 percent of all evangelicals say that “the Scripture has no impact on their views toward immigration reform.”
  • Migrant aid groups across the state said they are working at or beyond their capacity to help thousands of Latin Americans and Haitians who have reached Massachusetts penniless after leaving home countries that are riven by political strife and street violence and where local economies have collapsed.  As of July 10, 4,790 households are in shelters or hotel rooms through the Massachusett shelter system. An additional 54 households are staying in a temporary shelter at Joint Base Cape Cod. Demand for shelter has risen sharply over the past year, given the high cost of housing and an increase in the number of families arriving in the state from other countries.

Discussion Questions

  • Are you or do you know anyone who is a recent immigrant or refugee?
  • What are some of the messages you’ve received regarding immigrants and refugees?
  • If you’ve ever traveled where English is not the native language or been to a space or community where you are the minority, how did you feel in that environment?
  • Compare and contrast the hurdles and challenges between immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers.
  • Review the Important Scripture section below.  Why do you think God specifically commands his people to care for the foreigner and the immigrant?  How does remembering our story (Leviticus 19:34) compel us to show compassion to others?
  • How would you define culturally appropriate supports?  Why is this important and where is it necessary?
    What are some potential paths forward for immigrants and refugees?
    Here are some organizations that support immigrants and refugees in the Boston area:
  1. Catie’s Closet
  2. Rian Immigrant Center
  3. Catholic Charities of Boston

How are these organizations addressing the needs of people?


  • The issue of immigration is actually a very common theme in Scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. The Hebrew word gare—which most English translations render “foreigner,” “sojourner,” or “alien,” but which is best translated as “immigrant”—appears in one form or another 92 times in the Old Testament.
  • 34 You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. // Leviticus 19:34
  • 14 “You shall not oppress a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether he is one of your brothers or one of the sojourners who are in your land within your towns. // Deuteronomy 24:14
  • 9  The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin. // Psalm 146:9
  • 19 Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt. // Deuteronomy 10:19
  • 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. // Hebrews 13:2

Further Readings and Resources

The Reunion Team

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