Immigration

Luke 15:11-32, Migration, and our Prodigal Public

Father and son, Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com
Father and son, Suzanne Tucker / Shutterstock.com

The human community exists in perpetual motion; migration is a constant feature of our local and global reality. According to the International Organization for Migration, the total of international migrants increased from an estimated 150 million in 2000 to about 214 million in 2010, and the number of internal migrants (those who move within the borders of a given country) is about 750 million. These relocations are often related to the harsh consequences of war, environmental destruction, and economic downturn. As a result, those engaged in migration often do so for the sake of safety and opportunity, yet these potential rewards are sought in spite of deep personal and financial risk.

While the rates appear to be on the rise, the phenomenon as a whole is by no means exclusive to the present. The New Testament passage often known as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son” includes some of the harsh realities that are often associated with migration. One can examine this well-known parable through the lenses of migration, and in doing so, we are given insights in how to more faithfully extend hospitality to such strangers.  

As Luke’s Gospel (15:11-32) reminds us, the youngest of two sons asked for an early inheritance from his father, received it, and then traveled to a “distant country” where he “… squandered his property in dissolute living.” As the term “dissolute” typically intends to describe degenerate and/or sinful behavior, we often conclude that the youngest son was deeply immersed in immorality, thus we find it difficult to feel sympathy when he later falls into the depths of poverty. We tend to perceive the prodigal son as someone who got what he deserved, for as the parable seems to illustrate, not only did he waste the inheritance received from his father, but he did so through sinful choices that brought deep dishonor to his family.

Of Liberation and 'Imaginative Love:' Rev. Ramirez-Eve and Immigrant Communities in North Carolina

"The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao" by Junot Diaz. Photo courtesy North Carolina Council of Churches.

After taking my seat in a comfortably worn wingback chair, I immediately noticed a copy of Junot Diaz’s novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. My eyes lit up. Having just picked it up the week prior, I suddenly felt an imagined literary kinship with him. Appropriately, Diaz’s novel leaned up against a worn collection of liberation theology.

“How do you like Diaz’s writing?” I asked, hoping a moment of shared appreciation for words and stories would calm my nerves a bit.

Jim Wallis and Lisa Sharon Harper Discuss Working with Others on Immigration Reform

Over the past two years, an alliance of faith, law enforcement, and business leadership has come together to forge a new consensus on immigrants and America. These relationships have been built through outreach in the evangelical community; the development of state compacts in Texas, Indiana, Utah, and Iowa; and regional summits in the Mountain West, Midwest and Southeast, where faith, law enforcement and business constituencies are strongest and support for immigration needs a boost.

Sojourners has been an active partner in this new alliance. As a founding member of the Evangelical Immigration Table, we have worked to lift up faith voices in the immigration debate and drive a new immigration discussion based on moral values. 

In order to build momentum and increase collaboration, we’ve launched "Bibles, Badges and Business for Immigration Reform" (BBB) as a national network of faith, law enforcement and business leaders working together to educate and support members of Congress. 2013 presents a major opportunity for immigration reform, and this rising network of allies will become a driving force in the renewed effort.

In the video below, Sojourners’ Jim Wallis and Lisa Sharon Harper discuss the importance of working with other constituencies to enact commonsense immigration reform.

Congress Must Address Real Roots of Immigration

RNS photo courtesy Bread for the World
The Rev. David Beckmann, president of the ecumenical hunger group Bread for the World. RNS photo courtesy Bread for the World

“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

WASHINGTON — This passage from the Gospel of Matthew inviting us to welcome strangers into our midst could not be more salient than it is now, as our lawmakers embark on the long-awaited debate over immigration reform.

Senate hearings recently began after both President Obama and Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida made a strong call for comprehensive immigration reform during and after the State of the Union address. Their statements were encouraging, but lawmakers have their work cut out for them in the coming months — and millions of lives depend on reform.

Here’s the missing piece: Any discussion of immigration reform must recognize the international causes that drive unauthorized migration to the United States: hunger, poverty, lack of economic opportunity and inequality. Without addressing the root causes, the numbers of unauthorized immigrants in the United States will continue to rise.

Increase in Border Enforcement Detrimental to Women and Children

Migration Policy Institute (MPI) released its “Immigration Enforcement in the United States” report last month that reveals an increase in spending for the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) due to the “enforcement first” approach to immigration.   

The report's findings are shocking. The U.S. government now spends more on immigration enforcement than on all other major federal criminal law enforcement agencies combined and immigration enforcement is the federal government's highest criminal law enforcement priority. Surprisingly, at a time when our government must be fiscally conservative and unauthorized immigration has abated, the call to increase spending on border enforcement is as loud as ever.

This increase in spending should guarantee better trained officers and ensure that the basic human rights of all people respected. However, according to various reports families are separated, victims of domestic violence do not receive the protection that they need, pregnant asylum seekers do not receive the prenatal care that they need, and children are held in detention centers with adults. Read here for more. 

John McCain Gets Tough on Immigration

Photo credit: Alan Freed / Shutterstock.com

One angry constituent asked repeatedly where the “dang fence” that McCain had promised was. The senator turned to a chart illustrating how much fence had been constructed (hint: it’s a lot), and the man shot back that it was not a fence. “Oh, it’s not a fence?” McCain challenged. “OK, it’s a banana. We put up a banana with about $600 million of appropriations.”

Wow. Talk about laying down the law.

McCain even alluded to the work of the faith community on changing the message on immigration. Why are we not going to deport immigrants who have been living in the country for over 40 years? “Because we are a Judeo-Christian nation,” McCain affirmed. Mass deportation is contrary to our values.

On Scripture: We'll Walk Hand in Hand?

Interlocking hands, Praisaeng / Shutterstock.com
Interlocking hands, Praisaeng / Shutterstock.com

"The old avocations by which colored men obtained a livelihood are rapidly, unceasingly and inevitably passing into other hands; every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived emigrant, whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place."

-Frederick Douglass
“Learn Trades or Starve” (1853)

The Obama Administration and a bipartisan group in the Senate are making serious turns to tackle immigration reform. In addition to declaring that as citizens “our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others,” the president’s State of the Union address spoke of securing borders and decreasing the wait timeframe for the American residential legalizing process. Some 12 million women, men, and children across these United States await with bated breath to see what political deals will be made to construct either a pathway to citizenship or pave a road to deportation hell.

What is intriguing about the immigration conversation is that pundits tend to frame the argument in an "Us-versus-Them" fashion. Using rhetorical scare tactics, proponents for and against are not shy about disrobing a “more of them means less for us” stratagem. While much of this ploy has centered on how the massive number of “non-citizens” will subtract resources from persons of European descent, there is now a political stream that avers even sending “border breakers” to the back of the citizenship line will still reduce jobs among African-American low-wage earners. Words from Booker T. Washington, W.E.B DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and the quote from Frederick Douglass, among many others, are now resurfacing as a clarion call for African-Americans to think long and hard about getting on the “brown” bandwagon. Yet, none of the language from the aforementioned historical figures specially addresses Latino immigration.

Shackles, Operation Streamline, and Spokes in the Wheel

Handcuffs and money, Siarhei Fedarenka /Shutterstock.com
Handcuffs and money, Siarhei Fedarenka /Shutterstock.com

Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. — Hebrews 13:3

Where are defendants, who have committed no atrocious crimes, denied due process, shackled en masse before a judge, and sentenced during a trial of assembly-line justice? The answer: the daily proceedings in the federal courthouses of Tucson, Ariz., and a few other border locations. But anti-immigrant masterminds in Arizona did not think up this “zero tolerance” program. It is the result of powerful lobbying by private prison companies and our political willingness to harshly criminalize unauthorized migration.

Operation Streamline began in 2005 in Texas and 2008 in Arizona as part of the deterrence strategy of border enforcement. Instead of the typical civil violation, it charges people who cross the border without authorization with criminal misdemeanors (punishable by up to six months in federal prison) and then felonies (punishable 20 years) to those who return after a past deportation. Sen. John McCain, (R - Ariz.) has proposed an expansion of the program as part of immigration reform. 

But according to a recent report, the federal government already has spent an estimated $5.5 billion incarcerating undocumented immigrants in the criminal justice system for unauthorized entry and re-entry since 2005. Unauthorized entry/re-entry have recently become the two most prosecuted crimes in the entire federal judicial system. Consequently, Latinos now represent more than 50 percent of all those sentenced to federal prison despite making up only 16 percent of the U.S. population.

My Promise to Congressman Rohrabacher

 spirit of america / Shutterstock.com
Immigration rally in Los Angeles, spirit of america / Shutterstock.com

During the House Judiciary Committee hearing on immigration reform last week, many of the committee members described the creation of a roadmap to citizenship for aspiring Americans as a topic too “toxic” to even discuss. As a DREAMer, a Californian, and a civically engaged college student, I have painfully discovered that a major source of toxicity comes from members of Congress themselves.

Since learning in high school that I was undocumented, I’ve known that people struggled with the idea of undocumented Americans living and working alongside them. But I have never before experienced the kind of naked hostility I did when I attended a meeting in Washington to discuss citizenship legislation with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who represents my hometown in California’s 48th district.  

I have lived in Costa Mesa since my parents brought our family here when I was 3 years old, and it is the only home I have ever known. I played in TeWinkle Park with my brothers and cheered for the Mustangs at Costa Mesa High School. I was a part of the Business Academy team that placed 5th in the nation my senior year. Now I am 18 years old, working and going to college full time. Last November I went door to door to encourage people who could vote to support more funding for our schools, and because of our civic engagement we showed that Californians care about education.

I work hard, I study hard, I pay taxes, and I have applied for the deferred action program that President Barack Obama instituted last year for young undocumented Americans like me. 

SOTU: Time for Common Ground for Common Good

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call
President Barack Obama in the House Chamber during his State of the Union Address. Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

There was truth tonight in the president’s State of the Union message.

There was truth that the rising costs of health care must indeed be addressed by serious reforms in our Medicare and healthcare system — but  that it’s wrong to put most of that burden on vulnerable seniors, while protecting the most powerful special interests. Truth that you should not reduce the deficit by cuts in crucial investments in education, infrastructure, science, clean energy, or programs for the most vulnerable — but leave billions of dollars in tax loopholes and deductions for the wealthy and well-connected. 

Truth in the compassionate and committed words about “poverty” and “poor” children and families who deserve our attention to find ladders up from poverty. Truth that no one who works full time in the wealthiest nation on earth should have to live in poverty but have a living wage. That quality pre-school should be available to every child in America to create stable and successful families. 

Pages

Subscribe