Today’s Washington Times breaks the story that Paul Weyrich and other Religious Right leaders are calling for amnesty, not for undocumented immigrants, but for Border Patrol agents who shoot them:
In a letter that was delivered today to the White House, 31 major conservative petitioners joined a campaign led by Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and presidential candidate, asking President Bush to pardon [Border Patrol agents] Ignacio Ramos and Jose Alonso Compean before Thanksgiving…
The letter comes on the heels of the arrest of admitted drug smuggler Osvaldo Aldrete-Davila on charges of trafficking marijuana while he was profiting from the federal immunity deal as the star witness in the shooting case against the agents.
“History has proven that the mere words and deeds of a president can change the course of history and profoundly affect both the tone and direction of the nation’s moral character for generations to come,” said the letter signed by 31 petitioners, mostly from Christian conservative groups and national-security organizations.
If you cross the border illegally but otherwise obey the law, get a job, pay your taxes, feed your family, you are a criminal unworthy of the opportunity to earn citizenship.
Border Patrol agents:
If you shoot an unarmed man in the behind, cover it up, and get convicted of a violent felony in federal court, you are a victim of a grave miscarriage of justice and deserving of a presidential pardon.
The statement’s signers say that presidents can “profoundly affect both the tone and direction of the nation’s moral character for generations to come,” and they are right. What they’re wrong about is what it would do to the nation’s moral character to pardon people who shoot unarmed migrants while denying marginalized, hardworking, otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants the opportunity to earn legal status in their adoptive homeland.
Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform, a coalition of Christian organizations, churches, and leaders from across the theological and political spectrum, united in support of responsible immigration reform, will release a report “A House Divided: Why Americans of Faith Are Concerned About Undocumented Immigrants.” This report documents the increasing prevalence of the un-Christian treatment of immigrants. It focuses on three areas of humanitarian concern for the faith community, including the increases in hate speech and hate groups linked to the anti-immigrant movement, the upswing of harshly anti-immigrant local and state ordinances and the impact of raids on immigrant families living in our country’s shadows.
Speakers include: Rev. Jim Wallis, Founder and CEO of Sojourners; with the Most Reverend John Wester, Bishop of Salt Lake City, Chairman, United States Catholic Conference of Bishops Committee on Migration; and Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference; and James Winkler, General Secretary of the United Methodist Church, General Board of Church & Society
Most interesting is the report’s assessment of the public debate:
It is clear that the anti-immigrant effort is very successful at several of its most critical goals: moving public opinion, generating activism, effecting public policy, and hiding its origins. But the speech that they incite is disturbingly reminiscent of a part of America’s past we thought we had moved beyond. All of us, Christians and non-Christians alike, must stand up and reclaim our national dialogue. If the media will not make everyone aware of how extreme our national conversation has become, then we have the obligation to stand in the gap and do it for them.
As I have been traveling around the states organizing religious coalitions to speak out on progressive values and issues in the 2008 election, I have found a tremendous wealth of intellectual clarity and moral passion for this work. Butch Montoya’s letter below that he just sent out to his pastor’s network, H.S. Power and Light ministries in Colorado, is a good example of that. His letter calls all of us in the faith community to speak out against the bigotry in the immigration debate, and was written in response to a very good NYT Editorial that exposes the use of the word “illegal” as code for racism and hatred in this debate. It’s worth reading, and as Butch suggests, praying about as we consider how we can draw on our spiritual traditions to help civilize this debate a little . .
Please take some time to prayerfully read the following New York Times editorial. Prayerfully because I feel it is essential that we understand the true ramifications of the immigration debate which has taken on a dreadful and hateful tone.
As Christians, we follow the values and beliefs that we can substantiate through scripture and Biblical teaching. Yet, it is so easy for us to ignore the teachings of Christ when they do not fit the political or social mold we have created for ourselves.
We proclaim to stand for justice and righteousness, to stand against injustice and against the evils of the day, yet we find it easy and more convenient to allow emotion, hate, racism, and bigotry lead the discussion on immigration.
Rarely do we see pastors stand and deplore the despicable hate and racism that we know our members of our churches feel toward the lowly class of people we call “illegal immigrants.” It is as if we are incapable of ‘leading’ the discussion and proclaiming the truth from the Bible about what our spiritual posture should be about ‘those people the government chooses to harass, detain, and deport.’
It is shameful that we cannot proclaim the justice and righteousness that Christ set as our example. Instead, it seems we choose the easy path to take is to ignore the chants and ravings of our congregations as they yell out their racist and disgusting calls for deportation because these illegal people speak Spanish, want to work, raise a family in a better land, and because our government leaders continue to treat them as criminals.
Yes, we can all tell stories of how our ancestors came over and passed by the hallowed stature of Lady Liberty, with tears in their eyes, with hope in their hearts, and with an expectation that hard work would reward their efforts on behalf of their families.
Yet, we conveniently forget that for a mere $20 dollars, the fee to cross the border at the time, immigration ‘officers’ would look the other way and allow the European immigrant to enter the Land of the Free even if they didn’t have the proper papers or the $20 dollars.
Yes, we forget that many entered our country without documentation and official papers. Yes, we forget that many left the ‘old country’ because they were wanted by the law or had committed crimes against humanity, but still this country opened it arms to them. Our country even gave political amnesty to Nazi missile scientists who joined our country’s efforts to create the perfect war weapon.
Today, because many of the immigrants are the children of the Conquistadors and Native people, and because they still love their culture and their language, and still want to hold on to those cultural values and customs, and to pass those valuable beliefs on to their children, and because these people are Brown, these new immigrants take on a new identity of being ‘illegal and criminal’.
I have raised my voice against the apathy and slow response of the Church against the sin of racism and bigotry, only to be branded as “outspoken, activist, and extremist.” I have only done what the Bible has asked us to do. We have all read Leviticus 19: 33 -34, Deuteronomy 10: 18 – 20, and Proverbs 31:8.
I know that many are quick to point out other scripture, particularly Romans 13: 1 – 5 about submitting to the authorities and conforming to the governing authorities as reason for our strong stand against undocumented immigrants.
If one were to read Deuteronomy 28 about the blessings of obedience and curses for disobedience toward God, it is easy to see what I believe how disobedience has brought about what we can see demonstrated in country today.
I plead with each of you to seek spiritual direction as our country faces serious and divisive issues concerning human rights and justice. As spiritual leaders, we must address the reasons we are seeing a greater manifestation and increase in hate, racism, bigotry, and the liberty so many people feel they have to publicly share their hatred and disregard toward other human beings.
“Si Se Puede!â€ was the common theme at the rally on June 2nd at the Nation’s Capitol — a rally for compassionate, humane and comprehensive immigration reform. The rally, sponsored by the National Capital Immigrant Coalition drew a mostly-Latino/a crowd of at least a thousand activists on a hot Saturday afternoon.
The goals of the rally were clear and sloganeered to fit neatly on bumper stickers and rally signs: Keep the Family Immigration System! Protect Due Process! Integrate Immigrants! And others were the general calls to President Bush and to Congress regarding the S.1348, the Immigration bill in the Senate. The protesters cried out: “Bush! Escucha!â€
One disappointment was what could be described as a general lack of support from the non-Latino/a populous regarding humane immigration policies. Looking around during the rally, one could count the number of Caucasian supporters on their hands, and support from non-Latino immigrant communities was also limited. The event was largely in Spanish, but hopefully the multicultural coalitions that have worked together so effectively so far on immigration will continue that trend in the future.
There was a significantly high religious tone to the rally. A Catholic priest led a prayer blessing immigrants for their hard work and labor in their effort to make America great. He mentioned that it is immigrants who do the dirty work in this country: housekeeping, maintenance, restaurant workers, child care — but that immigrants are also doctors, and lawyers, and teachers, and academics. And that all who have come to America, have given of themselves and should be blessed.
A friend asked me later why I attended a rally to give rights to “illegal immigrantsâ€ rights. I responded with Audre Lorde’s famed statement that “there is no hierarchy of oppression.â€ There should be no “me first-ismsâ€ in the fight for equal rights and justice for all. Can we divide the pie of equality into enough slices for everyone? Si Se Puede! Yes we can!