Foreign nationals coming to the United States have been an ongoing phenomenon from our nation's earliest days. Of course, the original settlers were for nationals coming to this continent. The United States has long been viewed as a nation that welcomes foreigners and refugees into the melting pot of American culture in life.
Internationals tend to come into the United States through three primary means:
- Voluntary immigration. People around the world look to the United States as a land of opportunity. If they have the means and opportunity to do so, they make the sacrifice to leave their homeland and relatives to immigrate to the United States. The legal process usually takes a significant amount of time and money to complete the desired result of becoming a legal American citizen with all the rights and privileges thereof.
- Involuntary refugee status. While a large percentage of refugees have become refugees voluntarily, there are still many who are forced to leave their homeland because of war, persecution, natural disaster, or other major global threat. The pathway from their Home country to the United States usually has multiple stops in harsh conditions across thousands of miles. When they arrive, they may face years of challenging living conditions trying to adapt to this foreign culture, climate, and maintain any sense of dignity with regard to work and support for their families.
- Student status. There are over 1 million foreign national students studying in American colleges and universities and other post-secondary training institutions. Many nations recognize that academic programs in the United States provide a higher level of excellence and opportunity, partly because of the affluence of the holes host culture in the United States. So there are better facilities, better faculty, better laboratories and libraries, better opportunities for broader exposure to academic excellence here. A few countries have even decided that it is more cost-effective for them to give full-ride scholarships to the brightest students to study in the United States than it is to build a world-class university in their own country.
There are other significant entry pathways, for example, contractual employment with US-based companies, marriage to an American national, foreign exchange students at the high school level, adoption into an American family, simply tourism.
Strategically we think of sending missionaries to reach the unreached people groups of the world. Living in the United States today as foreign nationals are millions of internationals, many of whom originate from those unreached people groups. So it is not an overstatement to say that the world has come to our doorstep. As Christians eager to see the great commission for filled, we must pay attention to the internationals among us. It is right and proper for us to welcome them, aid them in their transition, introduce them to the Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible, and winsomely provide friendship and hospitality for the Lord's sake.
Doing these things intentionally and consistently is the role of welcoming internationals for the sake of the Gospel.