THE REV. OWEN ROSS (WITH THE CLERGY COLLAR) AND THE REV. ERIC FOLKERTH (RIGHT) AT A PRAYER VIGIL LAST YEAR
Somehow it seems appropriate, in the wake of fallout over President Obama’s bold executive order of legislation affecting young immigrants, to re-publish a blog posting yours truly had here almost a year ago.
I’m glad Obama dropped the hammer on this as it was simply the right and moral and Christian thing, in the humble opinion of yours truly, to do.
And by the way–American Catholic Bishops who are without sin and who are always on the right side of, well, everything American to hear Fox News tell it in recent weeks–are among those behind President Obama on this. (You have to wonder where Fox outrage was back years ago when the Boston Globe, our own Dallas Morning News and a few other newspapers were courageously calling attention the seemingly never-ending problem the Church of Rome has with its pedophile predator priests. Outrage from Fox and the Rushes of the world is always selective, and they inevitably select to ally with anyone who hates Obama at any given time or all the time. And you do have to credit the Bishops for applauding Obama on this immigration issue. But that’s another story for another day.)
Many very conservative, Protestant, Christian evangelicals view it as the right thing also. There has been a broad coalition of Christians of all stripes–from the ultra-conservatives to the liberal and typically politically neutral churches and leaders, calling on the nation to honor the dignity of the so-called “illegal aliens” among us and come up with sensible immigration reform.
(And for the record, the more appropriate term is “undocumented workers,” since an alien, a child of God like you and me, can’t really be “illegal.”)
Anyway, below you’ll find legislation that a lot of us in the faith community of Christ worked hard to defeat last year–and it was ultimately defeated despite Gov. Rick Perry’s attempt to ramrod it to build up his political chops for his run for President. It went down to defeat largely because, indeed, churches and church leaders of all stripes and types and political and theological persuasions see how wrong and often draconian our immigration laws and proposed laws are. I mentioned in the posting below last year that agriculture in states like Georgia had suffered immense losses because of their own overly punitive laws against undocumented workers, but that was nothing compared to the mess that Alabama has since gotten itself into because of ludicrously punitive laws aimed at immigrants.
I’ve said it before and will say it again–there are ways, sensible and reasonable and more economic ways, to deal with the very real problem of immigrants pouring across our borders. But somehow and some way at some point, ultra-conservative political interests decided that the only solution was to impose utterly harsh measures on people crossing our borders out of desperation and outright starvation in Mexico and other Latin countries.
At any rate, whatever one thinks of immigrants and immigration laws, undocumented workers among us, for the most part, are honest, hard working, crime-free people deserving of dignity. The Bible is full of verses of God admonishing his chosen people to treat aliens with dignity and hospitality and to remember that they were aliens in Egypt themselves.
Click here, in fact, for some of those scriptures compiled by my clergy colleague here in North Texas, the Rev. Owen Ross, who was out front fighting the proposed Texas legislation last year.
Owen’s congregation, btw, has since seen the completion of its new church building and it’s a great and thriving Casa of God.
*The following was originally posted June 14, 2011, here at the blog that is saving the world with its wit, wisdom, provocations and stimulations while possible (probably!) alienating whole towns, nations, cities and states–our blog motto.)
One of my brothers in United Methodist ministry here in greater Dallas, the Rev. Owen Ross, leads a thriving and dynamic congregation of immigrants at Christ Foundry Mission. See the video for more about that.
On his Facebook page recently, Owen wrote:
“We had to cancel children’s choir because immigration was making raids in our neighborhood, and persons were afraid to leave their houses. One mother told me they knocked on her door, but out of fear for her children, she did not answer. What country are we living in that a government inflicts such fear on children?”
Owen, who is no flame-throwing radical but a forceful and Christ-like advocate for undocumented immigrants, also wrote: “Jesus was an immigrant, and Pontius Pilate was the governor.”
It seems that Governors like our own Rick Perry (who like Owen is a Texas Aggie out of the so conservative and fine and mighty fine Texas A&M University) are working overtime–or in Perry’s case in a special session of our state lawmakers–to look tough on undocumented immigrants.
We’re talking immigrants (there’s no such thing as an “illegal alien” since no child of God can be an illegal human being) who would much prefer to be living in their own countries, most of them. But they came here, at great cost and great risk to their lives, out of desperation to work and feed their families back home. And now that they are here they provide us cheap food with their work in scorching hot crop fields. They put the roofs roofs on our houses, swelter on our highways and building sites doing construction work, and clean the toilets in our homes, corporate offices and . . . well, name a work place in Texas and it will very likely have immigrants laboring away on the cheap.
They also do housework or raise the children of the wealthy as nannies in some of the most exclusive neighborhoods inhabited by, by and large, politically conservative people. And yet our own ultra-conservative Texas Legislature is pushing through a bill, aimed at making Texans more secure from violent criminals, that will be counter-productive. It’s a bill that could hurt immigrant families and, economically, hurt us all.
Click here for more on the bill in the (yes, very librul) Texas Observer, which gives a good overview of it librul or not. (The Observer has a long and mighty long tradition of good and serious journalism, especially in coverage of Texas government.) The vote on the aforementioned bill in the Legislature, which had been scheduled for tomorrow (Friday), has been delayed until Monday. We can only hope our Texas leaders will find the sort of wisdom that a lot of Texas Christians like myself have been praying for God to infuse them with.
My friend Owen, who makes it his business to know immigration issues inside and out, also posted this the other day on his FB:
“Although Sheriffs and Police departments from throughout the state asked Rick Perry not to entertain SB9 in the special session to make all undocumented afraid of them and add additional work that does not make our communities safer, the governor went ahead and did it anyway.”
Owen and other clergy–the theologically conservative and librul alike–have been to Austin to try to stem this draconian measure. Today I joined Owen and about three dozen other clergy, church members, teachers and concerned citizens for a prayer vigil at the office one of the main proponents of the bill, Burt Solomon of the Dallas suburb Carrollton. We prayed that Solomon and other Texas leaders will open their eyes and hearts to the damage this kind of legislation will do to immigrants–and to Texas residents pulled over for DWH (Driving While Hispanic) as well.
I hear horror stories all the time from Owen and other clergy leading Hispanic churches about full-fledged Texas citizens–some of them pastors–who have been shaken down by federal or local enforcement officials because of the color of their skin. Hard to imagine how much unconstitutional you can get, but if this SB9 bill passes, we ain’t seen nothing in Texas yet.
States laws like this in Arizona and Georgia and other states have actually had the unintended consequences of heavily damaging those state’s economies. Crops worth hundreds of millions of dollars have rotted in the fields that used to be worked by Hispanic immigrants in those states. But that pales in comparison to the further human damage that will be done to good and hard working immigrants and their families who, BTW, worship faithfully in churches all over this great Texas state. If I may make a sweeping generalization here–Caucasion Christians should be so faithful and deep in their faith as so many Hispanic Christians are.)
Remember the story at the top of this posting about about the choir kids in Owen’s church locked up in their houses in fear of the immigration sweep? What country are we living in that a government inflicts such fear on children, Owen asked in his Facebook posting. And what kind of country are we living in indeed–that is a question that bears thinking about and discussing, especially among all people of faith.
We need real and serious and level-headed immigration reforms and laws and polices in this country, but the kind we need will take some serious political will. As it stands, all we have is political one-upsmanship among a lot of Southern and Western governors who don’t seem to get that people like God’s chosen people were once, if you will, “illegal aliens.”
And anyway, in the good Lord’s eyes, we’re all aliens.
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