The Common Good

Evangelicals on the Border: Steps Forward and Back for Immigrants

From the borderlands perspective, it has been a week of momentous steps both forward and back for immigrants. We applaud the evangelical leadership that recently vocalized the importance of immigration reform this year, with backing from the National Association of Evangelicals, World Relief, and the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, among others.

In Arizona, we are shocked and devastated by the recent state and federal policies. The legislation SB1070 creates an aggressive Arizona immigration enforcement system. This is not the answer to the slow and desperately needed federal reform. As Christians, we know from the deepest roots of our faith that we must care for our neighbors, not turn our backs on them -- nor turn them in.

Compounding the shock came one of the biggest enforcement raids in Arizona history. As the news reported, eight hundred agents descended upon Nogales, Phoenix, and cities in between, to allegedly bust a smuggling ring, but this was not entirely true on the ground. The scene was horrific. Agents with full masks, large gun, and bullet-proof vests pounded on apartment doors at early morning hours, they raided city buses and pulled off students, and they set up "checkpoints" on major roads through immigrant neighborhoods. Nearby, 4-year-olds in a pre-K class cried for fear that their parents might not come to pick them up. These strategies of massive detainment and deportation directly conflict with support of family values, and we see it ripping away at the fabric of our community.

At this moment, Jesus calls us to walk with the immigrant, quite literally, in accompaniment to school or the grocery store, when our neighbors could be considered "suspicious" and removed. Fear-based legislation and the panic in response entrap all of us. As communities of faith and courage, we plan to respond to this past week with even more strength, reminding one another of the incarnate message, Fear not, I am with you.

Maryada Vallet works with No More Deaths, a humanitarian initiative on the U.S.-Mexico border that promotes faith-based principles for immigration reform.

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