Experience Matters

Another article I wrote for the Undocumented blog has now been posted.

“Many church members are too afraid to come to church anymore.”  I was attending a meeting of ministry leaders when the well-respected Hispanic pastor stood to share.  He told us how the police had begun parking near their church building on Sunday mornings, watching as church members came to the service.  “Some of our members have been deported,” the pastor said plainly.  Others, regardless of their immigration status, were afraid to risk an encounter with law enforcement and had begun skipping Sunday worship.

The debate about immigration reform is confusing and there is much about the technicalities that escapes me.  Here’s what was not confusing as I listened to this man grieve over those he has been called to pastor: experience matters.  The way he thinks about immigration is strongly shaped by his real life experience with it.  And if experience has shaped his perspective then it has no less shaped yours and mine.

Read the rest at Undocumented.tv.

Deportation Places Thousands of Children in Foster Care

Not that it was needed, but a report yesterday from the Applied Research Center provides yet more evidence of the devastation caused by our country’s deportation policy.  This time the focus is on the children of those deported, over 5,000 who are now housed in the foster care system with no clear pathway to reunite with their parents.

These children, many of whom should never have been separated from their parents in the first place, face often insurmountable obstacles to reunifying with their mothers and fathers. Though child welfare departments are required by federal law to reunify children with any parents who are able to provide for the basic safety of their children, detention makes this all but impossible. Then, once parents are deported, families are often separated for long periods. Ultimately, child welfare departments and juvenile courts too often move to terminate the parental rights of deportees and put children up for adoption, rather than attempt to unify the family as they would in other circumstances.

The current presidential administration has been incredibly aggressive when it comes to deportation and the rhetoric from most of the Republican candidates is equally ugly (see Michelle Bachmann and Herman Cain).  Those of us whose faith compels us to side with the immigrant (with or without papers) are left wondering what courses of action outside of politics we can pursue that best serve the dignity of the voiceless.

How do you think about this issue?  Will immigration and deportation policy affect how you vote in the next presidential election?  In addition to advocating for policy change – a critical need – are there other actions that can be taken?

Sacrificing Their Lives to Work

At 17 he went to look for another future. He left his friends from the Instituto Nuevo Amanecer, where he was a junior, behind in Honduras. He left his passion for soccer, the evangelical church where he used to sing, his siblings—Wilfredo, 25, and Iris, 19—and he left Juana, his mother. He took with him the 1,000 Honduran Lempiras that he had saved to make the monthly payment on the piece of land and left with his cousin José Giovanni Gonzalez, who was 22 years old.

Yesterday, to commemorate Labor Day, The New York Review of Books translated five of the stories of 72 migrant workers who were killed last August as they attempted to cross the border into the United States.

The Sabbath, the Stranger, and Commodification

An article I wrote about the Sabbath and undocumented immigrants is now up at UnDocumented.tv.

Does anyone keep the Sabbath anymore? I’ve come to the conclusion that the fourth commandment is the most ignored of the Ten Commandments. If we did keep Sabbath, I wonder how our thoughts about our undocumented neighbors might change.

The Old Testament books of Exodus and Deuteronomy each contain the Ten Commandments. In both books the forth commandment is relatively the same – Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. – but the rationale for a weekly day of rest and worship is different. In Exodus (20:8-11) the people’s work is to cease because God ceased the work of creation on the seventh day. In Deuteronomy (5:12-15) work ceases as a testimony to the people’s new identity; they once were slaves in Egypt but had been rescued by God’s “mighty hand and an outstretched arm.”

In these two versions of the fourth commandment we find two profound reasons for stopping our work for weekly rest and worship. First, we are reminded of the character of the God in whose image we are made. Second, we are reminded of our former identity as slaves and our new identity as the people of God.

Read the rest on the UnDocumented.tv site.

Weekend Reading

  • The Atlantic has compiled a list of online resources to track developments from the Japanese earthquake.
  • If the allegations are even mostly true, it’s infuriating to know that people live in fear in America of this sort of scenarioAccording to congregants’ legal testimonies gathered by the coalition, agents banged against the side of the vans and shouted at the passengers. Some of the agents reportedly handcuffed the men and placed them in squad cars. Other agents slid into the drivers’ seats of the church vans—while the children sobbed and the women tried to calm them—and drove them to the CBP Port of Entry headquarters in Lake Charles.
  • Gregory Rodriguez had an interesting opinion piece in the Los Angeles Times leading up to Representative King’s hearings this week.  Spotlighting ethnic or racial “leaders” has long been a preoccupation of Anglo journalists, academics and politicians. Call it the “Take Me to Your Leader” game. It is predicated on the false assumption that ethnic, racial or religious groups — the usual “minority” categories — function as organized entities whose members take their moral and political cues from group leaders.
  • The Guaridain has a really terrific article about Werner Herzog who, apparently, is far less dour than the interviewer expected him to be.  To see Herzog chuckling about his fondness for Baywatch seems even more improbable than the famous scene in his 1982 film Fitzcarraldo when a ship is dragged up the mountain – which, infamously, Herzog insisted on doing for real due to his distaste for artifice.