For the last 27 years, Pastor Bob Hake’s diverse congregation at Orangewood Church of the Nazarene has ministered to one of Phoenix’s most underserved communities. There, he applies a holistic approach to lifting up his hundreds of followers, including immigration services. Certified by the Bureau of Immigration Appeals, the church team advocates for immigrants “as they try to walk that brutal pathway towards citizenship, helping to make sure that they don’t get taken advantage of along the way.”
Not every pastor would get quite so involved, but that’s a trademark of Hake’s fierce dedication to his community. He views current U.S. policy on immigration as overly complex. “I’ve tried to read through the applications, and I’m an intelligent, educated man who is 53 years old,” he says. “Most of this stuff I can’t even understand. It’s really a completely broken system in so many ways. It’s so frustrating. We have two signs on our borders: one says welcome, come to work and the other says keep out.”
For Hake, treating immigrants well is about basic human decency as much as it is about faith. “You cannot deny the fact that God has a heart for the immigrant, for the alien,” he says. “We’re commanded in scripture to give special focus and care to the alien or immigrant among us. Some could say, well that’s an old testament principle, but Jesus himself was an illegal alien, he was an immigrant. So it cannot be denied. There’s just no possible way that a person could call themselves a follower of Jesus and turn their back on an immigrant or on a broken immigration system that absolutely demands reform. Every day that we kick the can down the road, there are families that remain at risk.”
It’s really a completely broken system in so many ways. It’s so frustrating. We have two signs on our borders: one says welcome, come to work and the other says keep out.
The idea that some people see immigrants as leaches, irks Hake to no end. “They’re not taking, taking, taking, taking,” he says. “In fact, we know they’re not even eligible to take. People born and raised in the United States who are American citizens are more a drain on the system, so to speak, then our undocumented friends.” Hake says that the many immigrants who attend his church and live in his city “have become contributing members of this community,” he explains. “They pay taxes, they’re trustworthy, they’re wonderful people, they’re very quiet people. They just kind of live in the shadows and do their thing, not creating any problems. But they’re making a contribution to the neighborhood and to the community in which they live. They would be able to contribute even more if they were allowed to do so as citizens, I’m convinced of that.”
Hake has brought his concerns to elected officials in Arizona, repeatedly meeting with Congressman Trent Franks. “I told him, I want to invite you to my campus, I want to invite you to come and sit, I want you to hear the stories, meet the people, rub shoulders, with these wonderful people,” he says. That’s in service to the idea of having immigrants become full-fledged human beings to politicians, instead of just talking points of statistics. “If we could get the members of Congress up off their butts, out of the Hill, down into the real world and the streets where things are happening, and let them hang out with us for 24 hours in the places that we serve and meet these people, then I guarantee that many of them would have a different perspective,” Hake says. “They would get lit up with passion to fix the problem because they would see the struggle and the real people.”