Thursday, July 29, 2010

Upside Down

Since today marks the date in which the controversial SB 1070 law is set to go into effect, I thought I would share some thoughts about this heated debate.

When this law was first brought to the public's attention a couple months back, I decided I better read the whole thing to see what it really said. I also read a lot of commentary on the law, from both sides of the debate. I was, and still am opposed to this law. As I read the law, I felt like I was reading something from World War 2 or even something similar to the Jim Crow Laws. I don't mean to over dramatize it, and I realize the injustice that most immigrants deal with in our country is not comparable to the Holocaust or slavery, but what is comparable is the blatant hatred for another people group. The language used in the law and also by the Arizona Governor and other officials supporting the law is plain dehumanizing. If you look or talk like an immigrant and don't have your proof of citizenship on you at all times, you are breaking the law. If you are undocumented and simply look for a job in order to feed your family, you are breaking the law. If you give a ride to an undocumented friend, you are breaking the law (If this law applied to California, I would technically be breaking this portion of the law just about every week!) I just don't think this is how God would have us handle the issue. Thankfully, most of the harsher parts of this law were blocked by a federal judge, but it still leads me to think deeply about what is happening.

As an activist for God's Kingdom, my constant thought is, "What is the Church's role in all of this?" When I look at scripture and how Christ interacted with people, I can't help but think that we can do better than this. I also find myself asking the question, "If God's Kingdom is upside down...what does this mean for us, right here, right now?"
I get it. Terrorism is scary. Unemployment is scary. Change is scary. People that don't look or talk like us can be scary. Poor neighborhoods are scary. But what if we threw out our rights as Americans and embraced the rights Christ has given to all of us: the right to live free, the right to love and be loved, the right to lay our lives down for a friend. What if we put other people before ourselves? What if we put, dare I say it, Illegal Immigrants before ourselves? I think this issue is difficult for so many people because if you look at it from a purely American perspective your conclusion will be something along the lines of, "They are breaking our laws. They are taking our jobs. They are taking our healthcare. They are taking our tax money." Very self centered, to say the least. But even if this was all true (which there are countless studies to show that these statements are not completely accurate), what would happen if we took our American glasses off and looked through a Scriptural lens. If we took serious the scripture that asks us to humble ourselves, share all we have with those in need, lose our lives in order to gain it, welcome the stranger, love ALL people as Christ loved us...then how would this change our perspective? How would we look at our tax money, our jobs, our health care? God's Kingdom is upside down. So why do we think we are entitled to more rights, opportunities and benefits than those who were born somewhere else, just because the kingdom of the world tells us we are? Some of you might be thinking, "But what about the scripture that tells us to follow the laws of the land." Yes, I think it is important to be law abiding people, when appropriate and when possible. But friends, Jesus broke the "law of the land" did Paul, Timothy, and most of the people from the New Testament. When it comes to people's survival vs. laws that do not align with God's justice, I think there is plenty of grace for those who chose to survive. I think God is calling us to extend that grace to our undocumented brothers and sisters. If you were in their place, wouldn't you want the same?

I think about a guy from the shelter I work at who was forced to smuggle drugs across the border and on his eighteenth birthday, ICE came to his foster home and arrested him. I think about my friend from my neighborhood who was brought here as a young child because his parents were desperate to make a better life for their family, and now he is an adult with virtually no rights. I think about the family who was just torn apart because of an unlawful raid that took place at a factory in Fullerton. I think about a friend who was abandoned in his home country by his parents, brought here legally to live with an adopted family, and is now out of status because his school did not file the correct form. I think about every single person who lives in the tension of should I do what is "lawful" or should I do what I have to do to survive.

Then I think about how we have responded to these people.

Church, we can do better. We can love these people better.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meet Julie and Natalie

Julie, 7, and Natalie, 3, are our neighbors that live directly behind us. For some reason, they have decided they like coming to our house. I'm not exactly sure why, we have nothing that I would consider appealing to a 3 and 7 year old, but they come...almost daily. Because of this and the history we have with the family over the past few years, we have gotten to know their story quite intimately. Natalie, Julie, and their older brother, Jose Luis, were all born here to their American citizen dad and their non-citizen, Mexican born mom.

When their parents were first married, the couple sought to legalize the status of the new bride. It seemed like a no brainer; if you marry an American citizen, you should get your papers. Unfortunately, this is not as true or as easy as it used to be. When the couple was first married, she was told to go back to her country in order to return legally. As she left the US, thinking she was doing everything right, her leave was incorrectly marked as a deportation, even though this was not what she was told. For those of you that know anything about Immigration you know that a deportation on your record basically means you are blacklisted from the US and it makes it practically impossible to ever receive residency or citizenship. In order to be with her husband and ensure her future children would have opportunities as American citizens, she crossed the border and started their family.

Fast forward to today. After thousands of dollars spent on lawyers and years of struggling through the difficult choice of "follow the laws of the land" or be with your children, the family has found themselves in a tough spot. Their mom has returned to Mexico to try and legalize her status once again, but was told she must "wait in line" at least 10 years before she can legally return to the US. 10 years. Her kids will be 13, 17, and 22. The thought of a mother being away from her children for 10 years is unfathomable. As just a friend, I personally can't imagine missing these children grow up, so to think what it must be like for their mom daily breaks my heart. The kids often talk about their mom and how much they miss her. After they leave our house, I usually have one of two responses to our time with them: I will sit and cry or I get on a soap box and begin preaching to the choir (my husband) about how injustice is alive and well...and then I sit and cry. I feel so helpless; so hopeless. All I can do is love them like crazy while they are in our home, tell their story and fight for reform.