You of the Jitterbug cult will recall that this time last week we had a posting here about some draconian, counter-productive, immoral anti-immigration legislation that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was trying to ram through a special session of the Texas Legislature.
It was proposed law that brought together a broad coalition of groups opposed to it, including both liberal and conservative evangelical Christians, clergy and churches; sheriffs and police chiefs and other law enforcement agencies that testified against its passage in hearings; businesses and various others.
Yours truly felt so strongly about it that he made six phone calls to legislators in Austin on the committee that was working overtime to push it through because Gov. Perry, who is looking at a presidential run, wanted to look as tough on undocumented immigrants as governors in Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and other states that would like to take the country back to the glorious 1950s or maybe the 19th century.
Yours truly also joined in a prayer vigil last Thursday led by fellow United Methodist clergy and other ministers outside a Dallas area’s legislator’s office. While there we presented one of the lawmaker’s aides with a letter expressing the reasons for our opposition to the severe immigration bill.
I don’t think even WE figured the bill would fail despite our prayers and actions and hopes that it would die, especially since time was of the essence with the clock running on the legislative special session. It looked like it was greased for sure passage in spite of the opposition, which gained momentum to the end.
(NOTE: It didn’t help that Gov. Perry wanted the bills to pass without any state funding for the local law enforcement types who would have had to pony up $$$ for it. Perry–he who squawks to the high heavens about unfunded government mandates. Perry, who used Obama’s federal stimulus money to balance the Texas budget knowing that nobody would remember he vowed way back when that Texas wouldn’t accept any of that Obama stimulus money. It’s always a challenge to discern which side of the mouth a politician is speaking from on any given day, and Texas politicians have some Texas-sized mouths from which they doublespeak and deceive.)
But anyway—good news, Jitterbuggers–the anti-immigration legislation failed, proving once again that there is a God and He/She is so good that He/She heard some Texas prayers. (God is surely a Texan anyway.)
Unfortunately, Gov. Perry and the state lawmakers passed a two-year budget that is going to be hell on a lot of Texas people who are the poorest and most vulnerable of Texans. And teachers and other educators in Texas are being laid off in droves because, well . . . in Texas, football facilities and programs come first.
We have our priorities, God help us.
Below is a re-posting of last Thursday’s posting in which I laid out why I and my brother in United Methodist ministry Owen Ross and others were so against this bill which, happily, we have seen the end of–at least for a couple of years.
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.