Misconceptions about Undocumented Migrants

Samuel Lee: Undocumented Migrants


(Photo (c) Samuel Lee) / This is the English version of Magazine de Nieuwe Koers September Edition (only printed version) Rev. Samuel Wells and I have both a column page in de Nieuwe Koers called (Samuel & Samuel).


I do hope that despite the pandemic and the corona crisis, you still had a chance to rest and enjoy the summer. However, before and during this pandemic, there is a group of people in our mid that is invisible but not indispensable, silent unnoticed yet crucial: the undocumented immigrants. They are everywhere, from U.S.A until Iran and for sure in the Netherlands as well. As a pastor and human rights activist, I have been working with this group, nationally as internationally for the past twenty-five years.

The systematic arrest of undocumented migrants worldwide violates the various articles within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. These include freedom of movement and freedom to life. It is estimated that there are approximately somewhere between fifty to seventy-five million undocumented migrants in the world. It is unfair to believe that these undocumented migrants are problems for society. In fact, not only are they not, but our society also benefits from them in one way or another. Basically, the middle class and upper-class population enjoy the services and skills offered by the undocumented migrants. By undocumented migrants, I do not mean the stateless persons or refugees who are rejected asylum. There is another group that is falling out from these two categories, they are neither refugees nor stateless people. Here are some misconceptions about these undocumented migrants:

Misconception #1 Undocumented migrants are a burden for society. This is very wrong. Undocumented migrants know how to care for themselves; they earn money by offering services and skills for the native population. More or less, ambassadors, politicians, artists, high ranked businessmen have been benefitting from the services of the undocumented migrants.

Misconception #2 Undocumented migrants work, but don't pay taxes! This statement is half true. First of all, basically, most undocumented migrants I have known were wholeheartedly willing to pay taxes. In fact, there was a group of migrants in an EU nation, who even organized themselves and challenged the tax authorities by willing to pay taxes. Secondly, undocumented migrants have their necessary daily needs; they buy food, drinks, clothing, etc. Thus, they indirectly pay taxes over the products they buy.

Misconception #3 Undocumented migrants are criminals! Undocumented migrants are economically productive people; they do not have time to commit crimes. They work very hard and bless their hosting nations. They do heavy labor, cleaning jobs, or domestic work. I never forget the tears of an undocumented migrant who was promised to get paid after he had finished painting the whole house. Yet, after doing so, instead of getting his wage, he was threatened by his so-called client that he will be calling police. This is what I call criminal and not the undocumented immigrant who had to work so hard to pay the hospital bills for his ill father back home.

Misconception #4 Undocumented migrants take our jobs. This is another misconception. In fact, undocumented migrants do the jobs that the ordinary people do not want to do, simply because they do not have time for such work. That is where the undocumented migrant plays a role by filling the gap.

Undocumented migrants are people with heart, feeling, and emotion. They are people just like you and me. They have left their countries out of necessity: be it political or economic. They left their homes hoping for a better life, not only for themselves but also for their family members back home. Undocumented migrants remind us that every human being deserves happiness. Every person on earth migrates for the sake of improvement of life. Undocumented migrants tell us of the unjust systems that are ruling the world. Think about the growing gap between the poor and the rich, environmental disasters due to the economy of greed or wars that feed the weapon industries. As a Christian, I feel an urgency within my soul to stand up with those who are voiceless. Jesus once said, pay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God. Yes, indeed, it is the job of governments to deal with their national affairs. However, my Christian duty and obligation impress my heart to do what God asks me to do: being there for the voiceless. I hope a day will come when migration will no more be a necessity, but a choice! May God help us during these difficult times!

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© 2010-2019 by Samuel C. Lee

 

Samuel Lee (Ph.D.) is university lecturer, at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam - Faculty of Religion and Theology (FRT-VU), and director for Center for Theology of Migration, the educational program of Samen Kerk in Nederland at the FRT-VU. 

He is the founder of Foundation Academy of Amsterdam, offering higher education in liberal arts and humanities for migrants, refugees and persecuted minorities.

 

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