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About the book

Immigration is one of the most complicated issues of our time. Voices on all sides argue strongly for action and change. Christians find themselves torn between the desire to uphold laws and the call to minister to the vulnerable. In this book World Relief staffers Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang move beyond the rhetoric to offer a Christian response. Interwoven throughout are true stories of immigrants' experiences in and out of the system. With careful historical understanding and thoughtful policy analysis, they debunk myths and misconceptions about immigration and show the limitations of the current immigration system. Ultimately they point toward immigration reform that is compassionate, sensible, and just as they offer concrete ways for you and your church to welcome and minister to your immigrant neighbors.

This revised edition includes new material on refugees and updates in light of changes in political realities.

Book Excerpt

Nearly everyone seems to agree that we have an immigration problem in the United States. The exact nature of the problem, though, is heatedly disputed. From one perspective, our nation is facing an unprecedented invasion of “illegal aliens,” who violate our laws upon entry and then become a drain on social services and public education systems, depress wages and displace native-born American workers, and then contribute to increases in poverty, crime rates, and even terrorism...Others see the current state of immigration as a problem for very different reasons. They see millions of people who have, usually for economic reasons, accepted displacement from their home countries to pursue a better life for themselves and their families in the United States, just as generations of immigrants have done before them. Tragically, from this perspective, these people are not welcomed into our society, but are scapegoated and forced into a shadowy existence by broken immigration laws, even though they contribute to our nation’s economy by performing a host of jobs, most of which few native-born Americans would be willing to do.

Since the first edition of Welcoming the Stranger, another category of “stranger” has become particularly controversial: refugees, who have long come to the United States with legal status at the invitation of our federal government, have joined immigrants without legal status as a uniquely suspect category of “foreigner” in the minds of many Americans. As with the debate over illegal immigration, the refugee debate seems frustratingly simple to those on either side: to some, it is foolhardy to admit anyone into our country from nations plagued by terrorism, lest we welcome terrorists themselves. To others, welcoming the persecuted and oppressed is an unqualified good, integral to our national character. The two sides have a hard time understanding the other, as evidenced by harsh words shared over social media and even over family dinners and church potlucks.

Those of us who seek to follow Christ, in particular, face a challenge in sorting through the rhetoric to understand how we can reflect God’s justice as well as his love and compassion in designing a national immigration policy, and in the ways we relate individually to the immigrants in our communities. On first glance at the issue, we recognize that immigrants are people made in God’s image who should be treated with respect; at the same time, we believe God has instituted the government and the laws that it puts into place for a reason, and that as Christians we are generally bound to submit to the rule of law. Many are left convicted, unsure of what our faith requires of us on this pressing issue.

Meet the Authors


Matthew Soerens

Matthew Soerens is the Vice President of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief, where he provides oversight for all advocacy initiatives and policy positions of World Relief. He also serves as the National Coordinator for the Evangelical Immigration Table, a coalition that advocates for immigration reforms consistent with biblical values.

Matthew previously served as US Director of Church Mobilization, where he helped evangelical churches understand the realities of refugees and immigration and to respond in ways guided by biblical values. His World Relief journey began as a Department of Justice-accredited legal counselor at World Relief’s local office in Wheaton, Illinois and, before that, with World Relief’s partner organization in Managua, Nicaragua. He’s also the co-author of Seeking Refuge: On the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis (Moody Publishers, 2016).


Jenny Yang

Jenny Yang served as the Vice President of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief until 2023. She has worked in the Resettlement section of World Relief as the Senior Case Manager and East Asia Program Officer, where she focused on advocacy for refugees in the East Asia region and managed the entire refugee caseload for World Relief. Prior to World Relief, she worked at one of the largest political fundraising firms in Maryland managing fundraising and campaigning for local politicians. She is co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion and Truth in the Immigration Debate, serves as Chair of the Refugee Council USA (RCUSA) Africa Work Group, and was named one of the “50 Women to Watch” by Christianity Today.

More Ways to Act


"Here is a book for every Christian and every church leadership team interested in one of the greatest mercy/justice issues of our time: how will the church care for immigrants in our midst? The authors write with sensitivity concerning the volatile emotions on all sides of the debates as they offer essential information designed to help us formulate responses to this very complex issue. Welcoming the Stranger inspired me to expand my heart of compassion and take action."

— Paul Borthwick, author of Great Commission, Great Compassion

"Soerens and Hwang have injected justice, compassion, and truth into what needs to become a new conversation on immigration--values that are often in short supply in this debate."

— Glen Peterson, Sojourners, June 2009

"Matthew Soerens and Jenny Yang have put the 'rubber to the road' for Christians when it comes to the topic of immigration and refugee policy. Welcoming the Stranger has become a widely read explanation of a biblical response to immigration. It's refreshing to read Christian authors address a global crisis in a decidedly Christ-like manner. Soerens and Yang lead the reader through a logical argument for a compassionate policy shift on this volatile topic. I can genuinely say after reading this book, that maybe there is hope that the church will once again welcome the stranger."

— Reid Ribble, former member of Congress representing Wisconsin's eighth congressional district

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