Immigration

Immigration: Joel Osteen Gets Political

Joel Osteen brought his evangelistic revival to Nationals Park in Washington, DC last month. Photo by Getty Images.

In an uncharacteristic move, televangelist and bestselling author Joel Osteen, senior pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas, stepped into the political arena briefly to talk about Alabama's House Bill 56, the strictest anti-illegal immigration legislation in the nation.

Osteen, who unlike many of his television compatriots, normally eschews entering into the political fray,  was in Alabama last week for an event and during an interview with a local television station, a reporter asked him about having to choose between faith and breaking civil laws, in the context of HB56, which would make it illegal for undocumental immigrants to receive any public benefits at the state or local level, attend publicly-owned colleges or universities, transport, harbor, employ or rent property to undocumented immigrants in Alabama.

 

 

The 'Field of Panties': Sexual Violence and Immigrant Farmworkers

Field image by eurospiders/Shutterstock.
Field image by eurospiders/Shutterstock.

They call it the field de calzon — the "field of panties" —because so many rapes happen there.

On Wednesday, the organization Human Rights Watch released the report Cultivating Fear: The Vulnerability of Immigrant Farmworkers in the US to Sexual Violence and Sexual Harassment. It’s filled with tales that would make Jeremiah, or Amos, or Micah weep: stories of some of the most marginalized, exploited, and impoverished people in the country.

HRW talked to 160 farmworkers, growers, law enforcement officials, attorneys and other experts in agricultural workplace issues in 8 different states, finding that most women working in agriculture have been — or know someone who has been — victimized sexually at work; confirming the findings of a 2010 survey of California Central Valley workers in which 80 percent reported having experienced sexual harassment or abuse on the job.

It’s common enough that some women farm workers see it as “an unavoidable condition of agricultural work.”

Violence Against Women Doesn't Discriminate

 Stop Violence Against Women word cloud, mypokcik / Shutterstock.com
Stop Violence Against Women word cloud, mypokcik / Shutterstock.com

The House of Representatives passed on Wednesday a version of the Violence Against Women Act that would limit protections to immigrant, LGBT and American Indian abuse victims. House Republicans argue that Democrats are politicizing a non-issue, but stating fact is not partisan politics. 

The new version of the bill not only deletes new protections that received bipartisan support in the Senate, but also eliminates ones that existed in previous versions of the Act. For instance, the new version could make it more difficult for immigrants married to abusive U.S. citizens come forward for fear of losing their residency. 

Church Leaders Speak Out on VAWA

For CNN, Leith Anderson and Lynne Hybels on the new version of the Violence Against Women Act being debated by Congress:

This week the House of Representatives is considering a proposal to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, first enacted in 1994, but in a new version that would significantly undermine the same U visa program that provided Nicole with safety and permanency in the United States. The U.S. government estimates that as many as 17,500 foreign-born victims are illegally trafficked in from abroad each year, and academic estimates suggest that at least 100,000 victims of human trafficking live in the United States today. By force, fraud or coercion, traffickers keep victims enslaved in prostitution or forced labor.

Read their full article here

Violence Against Women Act Faces Congressional Threat

Photo by Jonathan Pattee, LIRS
Protestor holds aloft sign urging Congress not to pass H.R. 4970, Washington, D.C, on May 15. Photo by Jonathan Pattee

Some victims, it seems, are more worthy than other victims. This is the clear message sent by a deeply flawed version of the Violence Against Women Act that is headed for a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

But our faith dictates that such a dichotomy—worthy and unworthy—cannot be allowed. 

VAWA, as the act has been known since it was first passed in 1994, represents years of progress and bipartisan commitment on the part of Congress to protect victims of violence. But the version up for reauthorization in the House of Representatives, H.R. 4970, would roll back VAWA’s existing protections for battered immigrants leaving them more vulnerable —and in some cases, endangering their lives.

Unable to Work, Indian Immigrant Women Turn to Spiritual Practices for Comfort

A woman chanting at Bharat Soka Gakkai. Image by The India Today Group/Getty Ima
A woman chanting at Bharat Soka Gakkai. Image by The India Today Group/Getty Images.

LOS ANGELES -- Even though she met her husband through an arranged marriage, Pooja Sindhwani considers herself a modern woman. She worked in interior design in her native India for four years, and she and her husband spent a year getting to know each other before their wedding. When she followed her husband to Houston, she wasn't worried about adjusting to life in the United States.

"You feel you're going to a country that offers opportunities," Sindhwani said, "you expect that things will work out."  

Except when they don't.  

Unable to land a job in Houston, Sindhwani slipped into depression. Like thousands of Indian women, she was issued an H-4 "dependent spouse" visa that did not allow her to work.  

Sindhwani's husband was a highly skilled foreign worker, sponsored by a U.S. company on an H-1B visa. The Indian women who marry highly skilled workers also tend to be well-educated professionals. Many think it will be easy to transfer from a dependent spouse visa to a work visa.  

The constant rejections from companies that couldn't sponsor her work visa took a toll on Sindhwani. 

As a Nation of Immigrants, What Do We Value?

Our friends at the National Immigration Forum started a new campaign today to advocate for Citizenship and Integration grant funding. Last year, Congress cut all funding forthese important programs that help welcome new Americans to our country. The Department of Homeland Security budget does not reflect the biblical commandment to welcome the stranger. We must once again remind congress, budgets are moral documents.

Check out their website to learn more. 

 

Called to Welcome the Stranger

Isaac Villegas, photo courtesy NC Council of Churches
Isaac Villegas, photo courtesy NC Council of Churches

Many people in our country say that their Christian faith is a significant force in their lives. I am one of those people. As I listen to my sisters and brothers in the church discuss immigration legislation, I wonder why our faith hasn’t lead us into a way of life that defuses this contentious debate. 

If, as Christians claims, the story of the Bible is important to us, then we shouldn’t be so worried about foreigners; we shouldn’t be so afraid of immigrants.

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