Saturday, May 8, 2010

Viva Los Suns...and Our Immigrant Neighbors

I'm against it. I think that this is a bill that really damages our civil liberties and it opens up the potential for racism and racial profiling. I think it is a bad precedent for young people and I think it represents our state poorly in the eyes of our country and the world.
Steve Nash, Los Suns, immigrant

Why aren't these legislators up in arms that we have this huge Latino population going to prison and not to higher education? They should be outraged about that. They should be saying, "What can we do to fix that? But they're not.
Sean Arce, program director of Tuscan USD's Xicano

I’m here in the Congress of the United States. I see families being ripped apart. In the last year, I’ve visited 40 cities. I’ve been to Bridgeport, Conn,, Salinas, Calif., I’ve been down to Iowa, the meat packing plants there, I’ve been to sweatshops in Miami. I’ve visited and run the gambit and I know the trials and tribulations, I know the suffering that exists. I’ve seen the exploitation. I’ve seen women abused and exploited both financially and physically and I think the president knows it too and he should act on it. Yeah, I’m a bit disillusioned that he hasn’t acted more on the issue and I think that someone needs to speak loudly and clearly about that.
Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL)

Increased enforcement and reduced low-skilled immigration have a significant negative impact on the income of U.S. households. In contrast, legalization of low-skilled immigrant workers would yield significant income gains for American workers and households. It would also allow immigrants to have higher productivity and create more openings for Americans in higher-skilled occupations.
Cato Institute, Illegal Immigrant Study 2009

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
Leviticus 19:33-34

Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house...

Isaiah 58:6-7a

These days, Arizona is getting a lot of attention. Their NBA team is actually playing defense and that may give the Lakers migranes in the Western Conference finals next round. And their Legislature is turning to an fast-break offense because the federal government is playing horrific border defense. Just 10 days ago, the Governor signed into law (SB 1070) a trifecta of weapons that would attack the illegal immigration "epidemic" head-on: (1) police would be obligated to check immigration papers during any routine stops; (2) all hiring from a vehicle will be banned (think "day laborers"); and (3) all sheltering of illegal immigrants will be banned (think "Anne Frank"). In addition, a bill is pending in the Legislature that would ban any courses that promote "ethnic chauvinism" (think "Chicano") in elementary, middle and high schools throughout Arizona.

The brutal murder of soft-spoken Arizona rancher Robert Krentz on March 27, just 20-miles from the Mexico border, was the spark that lit this inferno. Years (decades?) of frustration over a border left "porous" by the federal government and a two-year recession has had Arizonites simmering over the growing population of illegal immigrants. Of course, the Krentz investigation continues with speculation that the footprints to the Mexican border could be those of an illegal immigrant, a Mexican national, a resident alien, or, get this, an American citizen, and studies show that Arizona's illegal immigrant population dropped 18% last year (well before the new law was conceived).

The newly minted AZ law and her sibling combating ethnic chauvanism are designed to be punitive. These are simply a continuation of a historical trend: humanity will always find scapegoats during frustrating economic downturns. Surely, the federal government (Congress + Obama Administration) must bear some of the blame. They have shelved comprehensive immigration reform for other priorities while continuing the Bush Administration focus on workplace raids and deportation. Big Business, too, is a extremely reasonable target. After all, the risky behavior of financial institutions was the key factor in setting off our current economic crisis, leading to the loss of more than 8 million jobs, and corporations consistently increase profit margins with the low wages they "offer" illegals who risk their lives and labor in fear of deportation and scapegoating from the same white Americans who benefit from their hard cheap work which drives down costs and drives up stock prices. Ironically, financial institutions are back to making profit with the same risky "investments."

However, Arizona should not be the scapegoat of the other 32% of the United States who disagree with SB 1070. Arizonites should not be called "rascists" for their overwhelming support of this law. Surely, race plays a factor, but mostly they are dealing with a complex form of social and economic anger and desperation. And they are not alone. We've got plenty of this blend of anger and anymosity all over the rest of this great nation in all sorts of mysterious forms. With that said, boycotting Arizona (similiar to the global boycott of South Africa during the apartheid days of the 1980s) may not be a bad nonviolent strategy. Ditch the Grand Canyon for the Grand Tetons and host your business convention in Tahoe instead of Phoenix.

As a movement bearing the label "Christian," EasyYolk is committed to both a substance and tone that confronts these social and economic challenges with love, empathy and justice. The same God who called the nation of Israel to shower resident aliens with hospitality calls 21st century citizens of the kingdom of God to the very same standard. The same God who called the early church to transcend ethnic identities ("neither Jew nor Greek...all one in Christ Jesus") calls American Christians to place humanitarian concern over patriotism (at least until the World Cup in June). It is written that Jesus, the Jew from Nazareth, crossed in the boat to "the other side" (Mark 5:1, 21) to heal demon-possessed and diseased Gentiles. He discerned the systems that plagued all of humanity, not just his people.

Federal legislation that combines just economic policies (American agriculture subsidies inject US farmers with economic steroids to outdo Third World farmers in the global marketplace), a much stronger presence at the border, and a path to legal residency (and eventually citizenship) for undocumented workers is a winning formula: humanitarian, economic and homeland secure. The children of illegal immigrants that I talk to (my students) tell me that their parents would jump at the chance to pay a fine, undergo a criminal background check and learn English in order to step out of the shadows of fear. They would finally be officially counted (taxed and represented) as vibrant contributors to our culture, economy and society at large.

We should follow Steve Nash and Los Suns and wear our support on our chest. Let's put heat on Arizona to backtrack and on the Obama Administration to bring real immigration reform to our entire country (the Gutierrez bill in the House is a good start). We should embrace our immigrant brothers and sisters, a vast multitude who contribute greatly to our country. Every ethnic group has their criminal element and each group should never be defined by the few bad apples that give them a bad name (after all, Brazilian President de Lula pointed out a year ago that this current global financial crisis was "caused by white men with blue eyes"). Viva Los Suns and may the works of our immigrant, unseen neighbors be illuminated...finally.

--Theological Autopilot


  1. Thank you, Tom, for helping me put a kingdom perspective on all this!!!

  2. Tom, it wasn't clear to me what your position on agricultural subsidies is here:

    "Federal legislation that combines just economic policies (American agriculture subsidies inject US farmers with economic steroids to outdo Third World farmers in the global marketplace)... is a winning formula"

    I'm confused because I don't see what makes these subsidies just. Are you supporting these subsidies?