Last week a group of my friends participated in a synchroblog on Immigration Reform. I would have loved to be a part of the conversation but was in Chicago for the week & was not able to take the time. However the issue has been much on my mind as it was one of the hot topic items for the CCDA conference I was attending then as I raced through email and facebook entries to try to catch up this morning I came across this shocking news story: Where Is the Outrage at Immigrant Slayings in Mexico forwarded by Jude Tiersma which really shocked and saddened me.
I am an immigrant. I travelled the world for many years not sure quite where I belonged before coming to the US – arriving as a non resident alient. After Tom and I were married I very easily became a resident (alien though I was still considered) and eventually a citizen. But in all my travels I have never once been denied entry to a country because of my race, colour or nationality. In fact I have never even been questioned about my entry. After all I am white. I am educated and though I may speak with a strange accent I do speak English as my native language.
I first became aware of my privilege when I worked in the refugee camps on the Thai Cambodian border. Hundreds of thousands of refugees sat in camps for years hoping to be accepted as immigrants by one of the many Western countries vying for their skills. That is if they had any skills or if they had the papers to prove they had the skills. Those that were uneducated or undocumented sat on the border for many years unwanted by any country. Their children grew up or died in the camps – penniless and still uneducated. Eventually they were sent back to their homes in Cambodia, citizens of a country they had never called home and without the skills they needed to improve their position.
This story is repeated all around the world where people are displaced because of economic, political or other turmoil. Those in power have always picked and chosen who they want – accepting the brightest and the best, discriminating against the poor and the vulnerable or else taking advantage of them when we needed their bodies to pick our fruit or sweep our houses.
When I first came to the US I was appalled to find out how much farm labour was done by illegal immigrants. As I scratched the surface I was shocked to hear that the whole agricultural and restaurant industries to name but a few depended on the use of undocumented labourers – slave labourers in a day in which we pretend there is no slavery. Now we want to turn our backs on them. It seems to me, and I am sure that this view is a little naive and simplistic, unemployment in the US has risen sharply in the last couple of years and there are some Americans desperate enough to want the jobs they once despised. We no longer need to turn a blind eye to those that are undocumented. We can throw them out.
Unfortunately the issues of immigration have become entwined with our fears about terrorism and our paranoia about attack from those who are different. The unwanted have become anyone who doesn’t look, speak or act like us.
Tom and I travelled to Canada recently with our good friend and colleague Eliacin Rosario Cruz. He too is an American citizen, and has been all his life, but he is from Puerto Rico. His skin is brown and he speaks English as a second language. We were hauled out of our car and grilled by the customs people for 20 minutes before being allowed to enter Canada.
The story of God is a story of God’s concern for the Israelites, a despised and rejected people – a people who were taken advantage of and abused by those in power. Jesus constantly showed his care and concern for those at the margins and when he was asked “Who is my neighbour?” basically he answered – “The one towards whom you show mercy.” In other words the field is wide open. We can embrace all the world’s people as our neighbours and willingly reach out to them with compassion and love or we can close our doors and leave them to their plight.
To me from a Christian perspective this is not an issue of law and order, it is an issue of love and concern winning out over fear and distrust as so many of the synchroblog posts below suggest. So rather than repeating what so many have expressed far more eloquently than I can let me finish with the beautiful little prayer/poem by Australian cartoonist Michael Leunig
There are only two feelings
Love and fear
There are only two languages
Love and fear
there are only tow activities
Love and fear
There are only two motives,
two procedures, two frameworks,
Love and fear
Love and fear
Entries in the synchroblog can be found here:
Jonathan Brink – Immigration Synchroblog
Mike Victorino at Still A Night Owl – Being the Flag
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – Together We Can Make Dreams Come True
Sonnie Swentson-Forbes at Hey Sonnie – Immigration Stories
Matt Stone at Glocal Christianity – Is Xenophobia Ever Christlike?
Kathy Escobar at the carnival in my head – it’s a lot easier to be against immigration when you have papers
Steve Hayes at Khanya – Christians and the Immigration Issue
Ellen Haroutunian – Give Me Your Tired
Bethany Stedman – Choosing Love Instead of Fear
Joshua Seek – Loving Our Immigrant Brother
Amanda MacInnis at Cheese Wearing Theology – Christians and Immigration
Sonja Andrews at Calacirian – You’re Absolutely Right
Peter Walker – Synchroblog – Immigration Reform
Steven Calascione at Eirenikos – The Jealousy of Migration
George Elerick at The Love Revolution – We’re Not Kings or Gods
Beth Patterson at Virtual Tea House – What we resist not only persists but will eventually become our landlord
K. W. Leslie at The Evening of Kent – On American Immigration
Jeff Goins at Pilgrimage Of The Heart – When The Immigration Issue Gets Personal
Kathy Baldock at CanyonWalker Connections – My Visit To A Mosque, Now What?