Roland Kuhl, a retired pastor, sees the contributions immigrants make every day in his life, his church and in his community. His nephew’s father, born in Guatemala and living in North Carolina, created American jobs at his painting business while he was documented and continued after his visa expired and became undocumented. In Kuhl’s former 40-member congregation, North Suburban Mennonite Church in Libertyville, Illinois, immigrant congregants fuel the local economy through their work in healthcare. All around his town, Round Lake Beach, a community with a fast-growing Hispanic population, immigrants power the construction trade and other local businesses.
Kuhl, a permanent resident of the United States, has long believed in the benefits of immigrations; it’s a natural extension of the values of his home country, Canada, and the values of his Christian faith. Kuhl was born in northern British Columbia and grew up in southern Ontario, not far from Niagara Falls. When he became a pastor in Edmonton, he deepened his involvement in building multicultural communities. When he moved to the United States in 1993, he immediately saw that often non-white immigrants were treated differently. “As a Caucasian, I realized I don’t always have to carry my green card with me,” he says. “I know others don’t necessarily have that privilege because their skin color is different.”
Until last year, Kuhl served as a pastor of North Mennonite Church, which is part of a larger Anabaptist denomination that prioritizes fair immigration policies, including providing rights and a path for legalization for undocumented immigrants.
Anti-immigration policies will “only make us more isolated as a country and economy.
But as an immigrant himself, Kuhl has seen the immigration process only grow more complicated and problematic over the years. Kuhl’s most recent green card renewal process in 2013 dragged on for nine months. Previously it had been less than two months. “I see the process becoming more bureaucratic, more expensive,” he says. “Some of the questions seemed frivolous. For example, though INS already had my information, I was asked for my birth certificate with both parents’ names on it, and this request came at the last moment as one last required item.” Kuhl wants a streamlined process and an improved record-keeping system. “My birth isn’t going to change, and I know they already have that information,” he says.
Kuhl says immigration policy fails to treat people with dignity. Every 10 years, when Kuhl reapplies for his green card, he “feels like a second-class person.” It’s distressing, especially since Kuhl knows non-white immigrants generally face harsher discrimination. As a Christian, Kuhl believes this treatment is unjust.
This is a core value of Kuhl’s evangelical Anabaptist faith, and it’s a stark contrast to the support that some conservative evangelical leaders have leant to anti-immigration policies. “I am completely opposed to that demeanor and attitude when dealing with immigration issues,” Kuhl says. Instead, he says that embracing immigrants like his nephew’s father and the immigrant congregants at his church and in the community, who make important economic and cultural contributions, strengthens this country. Anti-immigration policies will “only make us more isolated as a country and economy,” he says. “We’ve got to see each other as human beings and find a way to work together.”