Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A tribute to Joaquin Luna by Senator Richard Durbin

... on the  floor of the United States Senate. Thanks to the Senator for these kind and supportive words.




If you need help, you can get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1-800/273-TALK (8255). Ask your friends, your school counsellor, your pastor. There is help.

Someday, we will do better as a country on the issue of immigration. Many have gone before you and there is hope.  My thoughts  and prayers are with Joaquin's family.

We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

The Justice Conference this February 24+25, 2012 in Portland

An Invitation To Justice from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.

Join renowned Hebrew Testament scholar, Dr. Walter Brueggemann, at The Justice Conference this February 24+25, 2012 in Portland, Oregon. thejusticeconference.com 

We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Tragic Suicide of “Dreamer” Joaquin Luna



We have all suffered a tragic loss this week in the untimely passing of  “Dreamer”  Joaquin Luna.   Joaquin was an 18-year old senior at Juarez Lincoln High School in Mission, Texas.  He had aspirations of going to college and becoming an engineer so that he could improve his family’s life.  Because of the failure of the Dream Act to pass in Congress almost one year ago, Joaquin had lost hope.  On Friday, November 25 around 9 p.m., he dressed up in a suit and tie, kissed his family, and shot himself in the restroom with a small handgun.   Joaquin left suicide letters indicating that he was troubled by his immigration status.  In the words of his mother, Santa Lerma Mendoza, “He was saying he was going to do this because he wasn’t going to be able to continue with his college.” 

May we all pause to reflect upon this terrible tragedy and ask God for ways that we can support the Luna-Mendoza family and dignify the memory of Joaquin Luna. 


Robert Chao Romero
Assistant Professor
UCLA Chavez Department of Chicana/o Studies and Asian American Studies


 






We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”



We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

If Justice and Injustice were in the flesh, what would they say to us? Which would commend, which would rebuke—and whose voice would be most familiar?


The Voice of Justice from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.


This short film was shown on the first night of The Justice Conference 2011.
The Voice of Justice from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.

The next Justice Conference is a 2-day conference on February 24+25, 2012 in Portland, Oregon sponsored by World Relief and Kilns College.

We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Saturday, November 26, 2011

More about Shattering Families

From Colorlines, the national magazine on race and politics: "As parents are detained and deported, an increasing number of kids are stuck in the foster care system, with little hope of reuniting with their mothers and fathers. It's an injustice that hurts everyone."



See Juan Martinez on this topic here.

We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A society that does not believe in the family




On November 3, 2011 a report on the status of U.S.-born children whose parents have been detained or deported by immigration agents was released (Shattered Families). According to this study, there are more than 5,000 American children who are in foster care and are unable to be reunited with their detained or deported parents. Of course, this figure does not include children who have been left in the custody of relatives due to deportations and detentions. This situation has become increasingly more problematic, because the U.S. Government has increased the number of deportations and detentions to record-breaking levels.

These children are U.S. citizens, so they cannot be deported. However, the system is practically turning them into orphans. The anti-immigrant argument of some is that these children are “anchor babies”, an attempt by their parents to guarantee that they can permanently stay in the country. However, the “anchors” are clearly not working—the children’s undocumented parents are unable to stay. What this situation is doing is leaving these children adrift. According to congressman Jose Serrano, New York representative, if this situation is not corrected, these children may have to be adopted by other families. 

The immigration system also has a lot of undocumented minors detained. These children crossed the border without their parents, often with the goal of being reunited with their parents who are living in this country. These children are being detained, without the possibility of meeting up with their parents. Some of them are in a legal state of limbo, as their undocumented parents are afraid of trying to come claim them.

This situation is particularly painful for me personally, because many of the people who are against fair and comprehensive immigration reform claim to be in favor of  “family values.” However, they don’t want exceptions to exist to the deportation policy that would take into consideration the situation of children born here in the United States. It’s even more sad that many of these people are Christians who get angry when the political and social policies of this country attack the family. But it’s clear that their perspective only applies to certain families…not to poor or immigrant families.

It’s time to call our sisters and brothers who support policies that separate families and leaves children at the mercy of government systems to repentance. If we really are pro-family, it’s time for us to show this at all times, in all circumstances. It’s time for us to look for a fair solution to the issue of undocumented people and their children who have been born or raised in this country. If we are not prepared to work for them, then it’s time for us to recognize that we are not pro-family, to recognize that our politics are more important to us than our family values. 

Dr. Juan Martinez  is associate provost for diversity and international programs and associate professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership at Fuller Seminary. Since coming to Fuller in 2001, Dr. Martínez has also served as director of the Center for the Study of Hispanic Church and Community. Among other topics, his current research focuses on the history of Latino Protestantism, Latino Protestant identity, ministry in Latino Protestant churches, and Latino and Latin American Anabaptists.  

This article was originally posted at Caminando con el Pueblo, Protestant Digital and is cross posted at Sojourners' God's Politics Blog. Translation by Loving the Stranger blogger David Schmidt. 
We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Una sociadad que no cree en la familia

El día 3 de noviembre salió un reporte sobre el estado de niños nacidos en los Estados Unidos cuyos padres han sido detenidos o deportados por los agentes de migración (Shattered Families). Según este estudio hay más de 5000 niños estadounidenses en cuidado temporal sin poder unirse con sus padres detenidos o deportados. Por supuesto que este número no un incluye a los niños han quedado bajo la tutela de familiares por causa de las deportaciones y detenciones. Esta situación se ha hecho cada vez más problemática porque el gobierno estadounidense ha incrementado la deportación y detención, rompiendo récords de deportaciones.

Estos niños son ciudadanos estadounidenses, así que no pueden ser deportados. Pero el sistema los está haciendo prácticamente huérfanos. El argumento anti-inmigrante de algunas personas es que estos niños son “niños ancla”, un intento de parte de los padres de garantizar su permanencia en el país. Pero claramente la situación no le está sirviendo de “ancla” a los padres indocumentados. Lo que sí está haciendo es que está dejando a los niños a la deriva. Según el congresista José Serrano, representante de Nueva York, si esta situación no se corrige es posible que estos niños tengan que ser adoptados por otras familias.

El sistema de migración también tiene detenidos a muchos menores de edad indocumentados. Estos niños cruzaron la frontera sin sus padres, muchas veces con la intención de reunificarse con sus padres que están en este país. Los niños están detenidos sin posibilidad de unirse con sus padres. Algunos están en un limbo legal porque sus padres indocumentados no se atreven a tratar de reclamarlos.

Personalmente esta situación es particularmente dolorosa porque muchos de los están en contra de una reforma migratoria justa e integral se declaran “pro-familia”. Sin embargo, no quieren que existan excepciones a la política de deportaciones que tomen en cuenta la realidad de los niños nacidos en los Estados Unidos. Más triste aun es que muchas de esas personas son cristianas y se enojan cuando las posturas políticas y sociales del país atacan a la familia. Pero es claro que su perspectiva sólo se aplica a ciertas familias, no a las familias pobres e inmigrantes.

Es tiempo de llamar al arrepentimiento a mis hermanas y hermanos que apoyan una política que separa a familias y que deja a niños a la merced de sistemas gubernamentales. Sí en verdad somos pro-familia es tiempo que lo mostremos en toda situación. Es tiempo que busquemos una solución justa a la problemática de los indocumentados y de sus hijos nacidos o criados en este país. Si no estamos dispuestos a trabajar a su favor es tiempo de que reconozcamos que no somos pro-familia o que nuestra política vale más que nuestros valores familiares.

Dr. Juan Martinez  is associate provost for diversity and international programs and associate professor of Hispanic studies and pastoral leadership at Fuller Seminary. Since coming to Fuller in 2001, Dr. Martínez has also served as director of the Center for the Study of Hispanic Church and Community. Among other topics, his current research focuses on the history of Latino Protestantism, Latino Protestant identity, ministry in Latino Protestant churches, and Latino and Latin American Anabaptists.  

This article was originally posted at Caminando con el Pueblo, Protestant Digital and is cross posted at Sojourners' God's Politics Blog and Undocumented.tv.

We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Love is a Thread

In the garment of justice, your love is an irreplaceable thread. The Justice Conference is February 24+25 in Portland, Oregon. 

Love Is A Thread from The Justice Conference on Vimeo.
 





The Justice Conference. February 24+25, 2012. Portland, Oregon. Follow them on Twitter: thejusticeconf

We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Arizona Voters Consider Recall of Russel Pearce

Voters in Arizona will consider the recall of Republican Russell Pearce who has devastated human rights in that state through anti immigrant legislation such as AB 1070. Some bits from emails this morning:

From a youth pastor in Phoenix: "We will be out canvassing again today and reminding folks about the election. It will be our last day for awhile. Students are excited and energized still after all this work! A lady told me yesterday as I spoke at her door that she has been watching students walk up and down her street all year. She said she was thankful for them and proud youth in her community care and are trying to help. With Promise Arizona we have registered now over 14,000 low propensity Latino voters.

Pray that people who try to suppress voters will themselves be suppressed. Pray that everybody who wants to vote is allowed to vote. Pray that people remember the elections and are not confused by all the tricks and lies Pearce has used. He put a fake candidate with a Hispanic surname on the ballot to split the vote. He sent out 20 different mailers claiming he supports public education when he has cut more from K-12 budgets as Senate President and Appropriations Chair than any legislator in history. He is down in the polls but within the margin of error. It's going to be close.  Pray with us."

From the news: "Russell Pearce, the Republican Arizona state senate president whose SB 1070 anti-illegal immigration law continues to inspire similarly strict immigration laws in other states, could lose his seat to a recall Tuesday."

See more news here:  http://multiamerican.scpr.org/2011/11/the-russell-pearce-recall-election-a-referendum-on-arizonas-immigration-politics/

A prayer from the Hebrew Scriptures: 

Psalm 94 (Common English Bible)
1 LORD, avenging God—
avenging God, show yourself!
2 Rise up, judge of the earth!
Pay back the arrogant
exactly what they deserve!
3 How long will the wicked—oh, LORD!—
how long will the wicked win?
4 They spew arrogant words;
all the evildoers are bragging.
5 They crush your own people, LORD!
They abuse your very own possession.
6 They kill widows and immigrants;
they murder orphans,
7 saying all the while,
“The LORD can’t see it;
Jacob’s God doesn’t know
what’s going on!”

8 You ignorant people better learn quickly.
You fools—
when will you get some sense?
9 The one who made the ear,
can’t he hear?
The one who formed the eye,
can’t he see?
10 The one who disciplines nations,
can’t he punish?
The one who teaches humans,
doesn’t he know?
11 The LORD does indeed
know human thoughts,
knows that they are nothing
but a puff of air.

12 The people you discipline, LORD,
are truly happy—
the ones you teach
from your Instruction—
13 giving them relief from troubling times
until a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 The LORD will not reject his people;
he will not abandon
his very own possession.
15 No, but justice will once again
meet up with righteousness,
and all whose heart is right
will follow after.

16 Who will stand up for me
against the wicked?
Who will help me against evildoers?
17 If the LORD hadn’t helped me,
I would live instantly
in total silence.
18 Whenever I feel my foot slipping,
your faithful love steadies me, LORD.
19 When my anxieties multiply,
your comforting calms me down.

20 Can a wicked ruler be your ally;
one who wreaks havoc
by means of the law?
21 The wicked gang up
against the lives of the righteous.
They condemn innocent blood.
22 But the LORD is my fortress;
my God is my rock of refuge.
23 He will repay them
for their wickedness,
completely destroy them
because of their evil.
Yes, the LORD our God
will completely destroy them.



We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Profits, Slavery and the Law

 A woman came to our job program office and said she risked everything to be there that day. She was not allowed to leave her job in a sewing factory south of downtown. She was given a place to sleep inside the factory. She worked when she was awake.

An ICE officer tells a group of students on a tour of downtown that the neighborhood they are in is notorious because of the immigrants who are forced to work to pay for the services provided to get them to this country when they were brought here with the offer of a job. Law enforcement has few or no tools to change what is going on.

A teen in a church youth group tells one of the leaders that he was offered a job in the United States by another youth in his Costa Rican hometown if he would just go with him north--a trip that included riding on top of trains and being smuggled across multiple international borders. When he arrived in the United States he was given a package of drugs to sell. If you refused, the penalty would be death.

Slavery in the US exists and is fueled by a lack of reasonable laws to protect the vulnerable. What intellectual capital do you bring to help the situation?


Solutions to this will come with reasonable laws and structures that will make slavery less profitable and value people regardless of their origin. What can you do to stand up for the most vulnerable?

HT to Jubilee a nonprofit band for posting the video.

We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Seeing the One Who Sees

There is something powerful in seeing. In the moment we begin to understand we say, “my eyes were opened,” as if we had been walking around blind before. When the Apostle Paul began to live in the light of Christ, something like scales fell off his eyes and he could see. Last year I took a trip with the Christian Community Development Association board to the Arizona/Mexico border. It felt like a collective eye opening moment. When it came to concern for undocumented immigrants, some of us had never looked before, some of us had our eyes down on other things, and some of us were seeing the situation in a new light. Whatever the case, after our trip together, we all see the issue of immigration differently than we did before.

On the bus ride back from the border we watched the movie, “Crossing Arizona”. There is a scene where a Minuteman rally takes place in a hotel ballroom. As the speaker rants about immigrants taking away jobs and ruining our society, the immigrant hotel workers are cleaning up and serving those in attendance. As the viewers watching the scene we were left asking, “How can they not see that the people serving them are the ones they are railing against?” How can they not see?

How can we not see? How can we not see that thousands of people have died in the desert trying to reach a better life for their families? How can we not see the complexity and hypocrisy of a system that on one hand invites people in and on the other provides no way to come? How can we not see the millions of undocumented neighbors who work and live among us every day contributing to our communities?

Often when we talk about Comprehensive Immigration Reform we say we need a way for people to “come out of the shadows”, a way for people to be seen, to have their presence acknowledged and accounted for. As we drove through the desert I thought of a migrant woman who went out to the desert feeling used by people that didn’t acknowledge her or her contributions. In Genesis, Hagar encountered God in the desert and she gave Him a name, “You are the God who see me,” she called Him. The God who sees. It seems like such an obvious recognition and yet profound when I think of how often we walk through life not seeing what is really going on.

God sees. He sees the poverty and circumstances that prompt immigrants to come here. He sees their fear and courage. He knows the dreams and hopes that motivate them to press on. And He sees our confusion, concerns and questions as we seek to sort through the mess we are in as a nation. He sees our tension between law and compassion, protection and generosity. He is the God who sees.

Next Monday, November 7 at 6pm we are gathering in an attempt to see our immigrant neighbors, to voice our non-immigrant questions and pray together that the God who sees would see us in our good intentions and wrestling and lead us to unity and justice. And we trust that in coming together and seeing one another we, like Hagar, will not only be seen by God but can look and say, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

If you are in the Southern California area join us for the Immigration Prayer Vigil- Monday November 7 at Newsong Church in Irvine- 18842 Teller Ave. We are fasting during the day and breaking the fast with a simple meal at 6pm. The prayer vigil will start at 6:30pm. Hope to see you there!


We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Friday, October 14, 2011

My DREAM for Change, part 2

My life has most fully been lived on a little street in Fullerton, CA.

This neighborhood means so much to me. It's where I fell in love with my husband. It's where I discovered who I truly am. It's where I have experienced Jesus in the deepest way. It's where I learned to dream BIG dreams for those I love, even if they are not able to dream them for themselves.

My neighborhood is far from "beautiful". There is trash everywhere, gangsters hanging out on the corner, worn down apartments, and I have broken up a fight or two. But it's not this physical place, full of imperfections, that has so deeply impacted me. It's the perfect God I have experienced through my neighbors that is what brings me to a deep place of reflection.

In the countless meals I have shared, walks to Target I have taken, and conversations had at the food trucks, I have come to realize how connected I am to my neighbors. We are not all that different. We all want to be safe, provide for and protect our families. We all want to be valued.

We all want to dream.

As similar and connected as we are. There is a stark difference between me and my neighbors: I have been given the right to dream. In fact, I have almost been forced to dream. I grew up with the idea that I could do anything. I was free and even entitled to follow my dreams, whatever they may be.

My neighbors? Sure they can dream, in theory. They can imagine being doctors, engineers, teachers, artists, musicians, lawyers, politicians...but the reality of their circumstances often crushes those thoughts before they even fully play out in their heads.

When I first moved into my neighborhood I was an idealistic 19 year old. I thought with a little love and imagination this neighborhood could transform. What I have come to realize over the last 7 years is that love and imagination will only take you so far. I pray everyday not to lose my idealism, but I have accepted the reality that transformation takes time. It takes work and it is often times very difficult. When it comes to the reality of my neighborhood, there is just so much we have to overcome. We have systemic poverty, slum lords, a broken education system, and too many kids who don't know how to dream. We have generations of people who can't see past the corner of Garnet and Placentia and the second they do they are quickly reminded that for them, there is no point. Over the years I have also come to realized how deeply connected these issues are with the fact that so many of my neighbors are undocumented. When you don't belong, you have no rights, and you are treated like a second class citizen, what's the point of dreaming? I fear our lack of just Immigration policy is robbing our neighbors of their God given right to dream.

I think, as the Church, we need to acknowledge this as a viable possibility.

We also need to begin repairing the damage we have caused by allowing our big corporations to cause systemic poverty in our neighboring countries, taking advantage of cheap labor, creating a demand for drugs, weapons and prostitution, and allowing years of outdated and unjust laws go unchanged. Too many people want to criminalize the acts of those who came here unlawfully, but I think we need to take responsibility for our role in this mess.

We were so busy asserting our American right to dream for power and prosperity that we forgot about the dreams of our neighbors.

I know that changing our immigration laws will not instantly make everything better. There will always be poverty, corruption and injustice. But for my neighborhood, and countless other Immigrant communities across the nation, we will not see our dreams of transformation fully come to fruition without it. What Comprehensive Immigration Reform would do is restore my neighbor's ability to dream...something we had no business destroying in the first place.


We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

Perry Wastes Opportunity in Presidential Debate



By Steve Arredondo

Rather than articulate a well thought common sense response for supporting in state tuition in Texas for undocumented students, Rick Perry chose the path of inarticulate emotionalism, which has plagued much of the immigration reform debate.  To be sure, immigration is an extremely complex issue that does not readily lend itself to sound bites, however, there are some common sense arguments to be made that should give even the reddest of tea partiers pause (okay not likely but one can hope). After all these are the same people who talk about wanting small government, except for those small exceptions for Social Security and Medicare.

For one, as baby boomers life expectancy increases you will need more high-wage earners to prop up the Social Security program. Undocumented students that qualify for entry into Texas universities would fit the bill as potential high-wage earners.  It makes no sense to take promising students who have the potential to earn high wages and relegate them into the underground economy jobs that pay minimum or subminimum wages.  In the long run such short sighted public policy decreases the tax base which supports the public infrastructure.  Second, the number of Texas undocumented students eligible under the Texas in-state tuition law in fiscal year 2010 was fewer than one percentof all Texas college students. Thus, the argument that undocumented students are taking up space of documented students or would bust the budgets of Texas universities does not hold water.

While these two simple arguments may not be sound bite worthy, they at least more thoughtful and analytical response than simply stating that opponents of in state tuition “have no heart”.  Of greater concern is the lost opportunity to elevate the immigration debate beyond xenophobic rants.


Steve Arredondo is daddy to Rafael II and Emma.  He is also the Supervising Housing Attorney at the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice, a non-profit legal service agency in East Los Angeles.  A member of Whittier Area Community Church, Steve serves on the community outreach team.  Steve also serves on the boards of the Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance and the Interfaith Food Center of Whittier.



We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Friday, October 7, 2011

Prayer Vigil November 7



Join the Christian community as One Church with our immigrant brothers and sisters for our second annual fasting and prayer vigil for immigration on November 7. We will share stories of compassion, struggle and transformation to learn what is like to be the stranger and how God's word compels us to listen and be active agents of His love with the immigrant in our midst.

We will be sharing a communal meal to break the fast at 6pm followed by a prayer vigil. More information to come soon!
 


We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

AM I A SAINT?

by David J. Schmidt

Before I came down to southern Mexico to volunteer with Fair Trade coffee coops in Chiapas and Oaxaca, I was chatting online with a friend from Russia who praised “all the altruistic work” (her words) that I’m involved in. As her comments became more gushing, I tried to deflect her adulation a bit. “Well…um…you know, Ksyusha,” I said, “not everybody is as well-off as we are. And if we see that we can do something to change things, we should try to help out.”

I kicked myself immediately after making that comment. I realized (a second too late) that it only served to reinforce my own faux-sainthood. And Ksyusha responded in kind: “Well you must be a very giving person, David. Because if I spent all my time thinking about all the people who are suffering in the world, I’d go crazy. I mean, there’s always someone out there who is hungry or sick or suffering, I can’t spend the whole day thinking about them…”

The conversation petered off at that point: Ksyusha went off to work in Russia, and I went to bed in California. I kept thinking about our conversation after I had turned off the lights, though.  Is Ksyusha right? Am I some sort of modern-day saint who has a supernatural capacity to feel compassion for others? The conclusion I reached was: no, I am not a holy person. (I think anyone who has spent an evening with me would agree.)

The work I do is not about sainthood, or even altruism for that matter.

It’s about justice. Setting things right.

Of course, all Christians are called to have compassion on those who suffer, to stand in solidarity with them, to welcome all of the suffering and downtrodden into the loving arms of the human family. But Ksyusha had a point…it is physically, psychologically, spiritually, emotionally and humanly impossible to always keep human suffering at the forefront of our minds.

If you think about it, at any given moment, there is someone out there who is having a hard time. And if you really think about it in a statistical way, during any waking second of our existence someone on this planet is experiencing something truly horrific and unspeakable. If we were to always keep ourselves mindful of all the pestilence, disease, senseless death, car accidents, cancer, rape, inexplicable illnesses, infant mortality and physical pain that exist on this planet, we truly would go crazy.

A good part of the reason we would go crazy is that the vast majority of this suffering is far away, disconnected from us. I call it the evening news mentality. In his excellent book Amusing Ourselves to Death, author Neil Postman writes about how television changed the way we think about “news”, bringing us sound bites and news stories about events taking place in communities disconnected from our own. Someone killed her infant child in Cincinnati. A drunk driver hit someone in Las Vegas. A teenage girl went missing in Orlando.

These are all horrible things that happen…but they have nothing to do with me. I don’t live in Orlando, or Cincinnati, or Las Vegas. I don’t know any of the families affected by these things to be able to offer them comfort. These events aren’t happening to anybody who might be the cousin or friend or grandparent of my neighbors. I once heard an anecdotal story of an elderly church lady who would regularly ask the members of her congregation to pray for the characters on the favorite soap opera. I wonder sometimes, is this so different from our obsession with the “tragic news case of the week”? I have no connection to these people and communities…so what is the point in my losing sleep over them?

But when it comes to issues like the labor rights of women who work in assembly line sweatshops of Tijuana, the coffee farmers of Nicaragua, the children harvesting cocoa in West Africa, or the plight of immigrants living in our country without papers, we are talking about an entirely different sort of beast. These are all plights directly related to our lives.

The children who work as virtual, and often literal, slaves in Ghana are doing so, not because of the cruelty of some distant despot who has nothing to do with us. They are doing this so that we can have cheaper chocolate. Our companies and our economy keep them in that place.

The coffee farmer trying to feed his wife and children and find enough money to send his kids to school and pay the bills is not a case of “random bad luck” in some distant corner of the globe. That coffee farmer who tries to survive when the world market price of coffee is a roller coaster that goes up and down unpredictably, the coffee farmer who never knows how much he will be paid for his harvest—his precarious situation was created by those who control the world coffee market. So that you and I could have predictable access to cheap coffee.

The woman whose working-class suburb of Tijuana was polluted with chemicals that the U.S.-based factories dumped into her neighborhood, whose child was born with birth defects just like most of her neighbors’ children…

…her neighbor who works 12 hour days on the assembly line just to pay rent…

…her other neighbor who lost part of his arm in the factory and was never paid indemnity…

…their lives are no regrettable accident. Those factories set up shop in their neighborhood because it was cheaper to do so. Because they are part of this big, glorious, global economy that brings us the cheap consumer goods that we find in Target, Wal-Mart and K-Mart.

And when people flee these conditions—the world that was created by the soulless corporations and companies that bring us those consumer goods, a union-free, rights-free world that is kept that way by our military when countries challenge it—when people flee and come here in search of a better life, they get treated like criminals.

When people come to the United States following the natural flow of money and profits that are being bled from their homelands into the coffers of Phillip Morris, Nestle and Coca-Cola, when they follow that vast river of wealth flowing out of the South and into the North…they get treated like criminals, because they don’t have immigration papers. Papers which are practically impossible for poor people in their position to ever obtain in the first place.

These people are not strangers. They are not accidents. They are not distant, unfortunate circumstances. They are intimately, directly connected to our prosperity, our lifestyles, our wellbeing. Our opulence is their despair.

To be sure, there is plenty of suffering on this earth that is random, unpredictable, uncontrollable and senseless. And yes, the Church is called to heal that suffering and bring comfort to our sisters and brothers who are afflicted by it.

But let us not mistake immigrants’ rights, fair trade and social justice for such charity. These movements are about righting the wrongs committed by those who went before us. If we fail to do so, we run the risk of jumping into bed with Pharaoh, Caesar, Baal and Babylon. We engage in complicity with the empires of our broken world. Challenging the exploitative systems that dehumanize our fellow humans is not saintly compassion or altruism…

…it’s the least we could do.

David Schmidt is a freelance writer and multi-lingual translator in San Diego, CA. He is a proponent of immigrants' rights and fair trade, and works with worker-owned coops in Mexico to help them develop alternative, fair sources of income.”


We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bernard's Story

The first time I heard about Bernard Pastor and his story was from Troy Jackson, a pastor in Cincinnati, Ohio. Bernard was in custody at that time and there were very few precedents of these stories turning out well. The narrative did turn out well in this situation. But the whole story has not has not yet played out. I share this because of its similarity to hundreds of youth who I have known in the last 20 years. It illustrates the need for justice, compassion, the DREAM Act, and Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

This is the story of how one community changed a young man's life. You can learn more about what happened with Bernard, his faith community and his larger community at this website and video. What follows here is a short introduction.

Bernard's Story from Bernard's Story on Vimeo.


We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Monday, September 12, 2011

OPEN LETTER TO STATE SENATOR STEVE SMITH (R-AZ)

Dear State Senator Steve Smith,

I realize you have a lot on your plate, and I’m sorry to bother you with this little matter. But you see, it appears that you have access to some exclusive information that could really help out some of my friends, so I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind sharing some of this insider’s info with us.

I heard your interview on NPR a couple months ago, and you sure seem to know a lot about how privileged immigrants are in the United States. More so, in fact, than many immigrants themselves. See, I have quite a few friends who are immigrants from Mexico and other countries, and apparently they have never been told about the great amenities and services available to them!

First things first—could you please direct my attention to the  open door in the U.S.-Mexico border through which people are able to walk through with ease and convenience, with or without papers? You see, a lot of folks I know were unlucky enough to make the cut for the Green Card lottery, and not patient enough to wait the average 182 years that it takes for a working class person to get any kind of permit. They couldn’t survive in their hometowns, thanks to all the U.S. companies that bled them of their wealth, and thanks to treaties like NAFTA that stack the cards against Mexico’s poor.

So they came here without papers.

Thing is, everyone I know was foolish enough to risk their lives crossing through the desert! Can you imagine that? Now apparently there is an open door somewhere in the border, but for whatever reason, none of my friends have heard of it. Could you help a brother out and let me know where this door is located? It would really help people avoid a life-endangering trek.

In addition, you refer to large groups of immigrants who “don’t want to change” and are forcing Americans to change and accommodate them instead. Now, my buddy José works 12 hours a day, busting his ass to earn a little money for his family, and on top of that he’s been taking night classes to learn English. This is because he lives in a part of the U.S. where most people speak English, and he doesn’t have access to a lot of services because of his limited ability with the language. In fact, he was having trouble ordering at McDonald’s the other day, and somebody behind him shouted, “It’s America, learn English or go home”.

Evidently, José is not aware that everybody in this country has secretly gone to the trouble of learning Spanish! Why have you all been holding out on him for so long? No seas sangrón, compa.

You also refer to enormous groups of people who “don’t want to change”. Could you tell my friend Wang Liu that? He’s been studying hard to take the driver’s test and learn the rules of the road here in the States. But apparently he doesn’t have to, according to you! Could you please direct him to the neighborhood where people are allowed to drive according to China’s laws without getting pulled over? I think it would really save him some time.

In fact, I’d love to put my friends in touch with these groups of anti-American immigrants who are taking from this country without giving anything back. See, my friends have foolishly been paying more in taxes than any services they can hope to benefit from! They pay sales tax, gas tax, property tax, rental tax, and the folks who use a false Social Security number have been paying thousands into our Social Security system without ever using any of this money! In addition, they’ve been wasting their time stimulating the U.S. economy by pumping cheap labor into our companies—the very companies that made a mess out of the job market in their own countries of origin! Man, are they going to be disappointed when they find out that they could have avoided pouring all this money into U.S. corporate and government coffers.

At the very least, you could be a champ and point them in the direction of the immigrant-friendly gangs that you referred to. The only gangs my friends have encountered are U.S.-based gangs made up of mostly U.S. citizens who rob them every now and then. In addition, some of these immigrants have had the bad luck of running into white supremacist gangs who beat them up (or worse) because of the way they look. Could you please shoot off an email to the 800-plus white supremacist organizations in the U.S. and let them know that “gang warfare” is for people from other countries? They seem not to have gotten the memo.

Last but not least, I can’t help but notice that you claim to be a devout Christian. Now this poses a problem for many of my friends who have come here from Latin America, because most of them consider themselves devout Christians as well, of both Catholic and Evangelical Protestant varieties. Evidently, however, there is no room in your Church for these people who do not share your cultural background. Could you please recommend a different religion for them to join? Do you know if Neo-Paganism or Zoroastrianism are still accepting new applicants?

Of course, I hate to ask my friends to change religions, since many of them are very attached to their faith in Jesus Christ. But evidently, this is the faith of xenophobia, bigotry and a U.S.-centric world view. So I’m afraid these folks will just have no choice. (You know what, on second thought, never mind the last part. Assuming that this vast apparatus exists that gives preferential treatment to undocumented immigrants, I’m sure there must be a program out there that helps folks get out of your church and into something more comfortable.)

Thanks for all your help!

Sincerely,
Confused in California

Friday, September 9, 2011

"TRUST Act 2.0" to be unveiled in January as Ammiano urges State officials to step up leadership

For immediate release: September 8, 2011



As ICE shreds state contracts, Ammiano bill to protect California from failed S-Comm program moves forward

Sacramento - As the controversy surrounding the "Secure" Communities or S-Comm deportation program reaches a national boiling point, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D - SF) announced today that after a 4-month process of consultation with community leaders and legal experts, the TRUST Act (AB 1081) will be re-tooled in early January and then continue to move through the State Senate.

“Regardless of the Obama Administration’s blatant on-going deception about S-Comm, every day Californians are being unfairly deported leading to tragic consequences for communities both here and across the country.  Now more than ever we need to restore trust and I urge that our state leaders take a more active role on this critical issue as we continue to work towards suspending this damaging program. Together we need to do what is right for California," said Assemblymember Ammiano.

AB 1081 passed the Assembly (47-26) and the Senate Public Safety Committee (5-2) earlier this year before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) stunned the public and legislators by shredding all S-Comm agreements <http://arcof72.com/?p=919&preview=true>  on August 5. DHS and ICE then declared by fiat the program would be "mandatory" without any mechanism for local oversight. ICE provided no sound legal basis for the move, which California leaders slammed as "an affront to democratic governance" and "a stunning display of bad faith."

The bill's goal is to reform California's participation in the troubled S-Comm program, which has come under fire from law enforcement leaders and civil rights advocates for deporting large numbers of innocent community members, including victims of domestic violence and street vendors arrested for nothing more than selling food without a permit. Originally, the bill would have ensured Californians were protected from the program by amending the state’s Memorandum of Agreement with ICE that the agency has now unilaterally shredded.

The bad faith move to take away state’s role in the process and conscript local police into the federal scheme is just one more legally dubious maneuver by ICE. We’re exploring every legal option available to hold the agency accountable and continue to protect California residents,” said Angela Chan of the Asian Law Caucus.

Chan and a team of attorneys are currently conducting a new, in-depth analysis, to be released in the coming days, of internal ICE documents unearthed earlier this year through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The new analysis will provide documented proof that ICE repeatedly conveyed to state officials that California's approval was required for fingerprints to be shared with ICE under S-Comm. A preview of the analysis is available by contacting Chan.

The recent doubling down by the White House in defense of the program has only inflamed nationwide opposition with walk outs and peaceful civil disobedience occurring at S-Comm hearings across the country and localities passing new legislation in protest of the program and to protect the community policing initiatives which S-Comm threatens.  Just yesterday, in a decision with national implications, Cook County, IL (where Chicago is located) voted to refuse to comply <http://www.chicagonewscoop.org/cook-county-ends-automatic-compliance-with-federal-immigration-detention-requests/> with ICE requests to hold immigrants needlessly in jail unless the county receives full reimbursement from the Federal Government.

Chris Newman, Legal Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network added, “The need for the TRUST Act is greater now more than ever. Californians are stronger and more united in our determination to keep our communities safe, prevent the destruction of civil liberties, and end the dragnet separation of families.”

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We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Thursday, September 1, 2011

What's so wrong about "Secure Communities?"

By Robert Chao Romero

Since the horrific terrorist attacks of 9/11, the United States government has continually criminalized undocumented immigrants as scapegoats for the "war on terror."  ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) was created in 2003 through a merger of the Immigration and Naturalization Service and sections of the U.S. Customs Service, and it's stated mission is to "promote homeland security and public safety through the criminal and civil enforcement of federal laws governing border control, customs, trade, and immigration."  Even though none of the perpetrators of 9/11 were undocumented, ICE has systematically targeted undocumented immigrants and their families for deportation over the past decade.  In the past two years alone, nearly 800,000 undocumented immigrants have been deported.  Latino, Asian, and other immigrant groups have become scapegoats in the war on terror. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

DREAM Sabbath • September 16th to October 9th

Be a Voice for Undocumented Students!

From September 16th to October 9th, congregations across the United States will lift up the lives of DREAM students in prayers, readings, reflection and education during at least one Sabbath service as a way to help educate and spread awareness of DREAM students and their hopes to attain full recognition of their contributions to this country.  The large showing of support by faith groups will hopefully continue to build momentum for the DREAM Act in Congress.

Would your congregation consider doing any of the following this fall?               

  • Inviting a DREAM student (which we can help coordinate) to share his/her testimony at a service
  • Showing a video of a DREAM student (sample videos will be available in the near future)
  • Praying as a congregation for the DREAM student and if comfortable, praying for our elected officials to have the courage to support and pass the DREAM Act
  • A call to action for members to pray and fast for the DREAM student who shared his/her testimony and the thousands in our country
  • Passing out a bulletin insert with prayer points about DREAM youth so folks can be reminded to pray throughout the week

Please note the service doesn’t have to be called DREAM Sabbath nor does the whole service have to be dedicated to the DREAM student.  Also, congregations do not necessarily have to tie the hardships that many undocumented students face to a piece of legislation, but to just highlight their stories which in and of itself is very impactful.  This will give congregants an opportunity for prayer and reflection about a very real issue of pain happening within own communities.

This packet of information <http://www.interfaithimmigration.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/sabbath_packet.pdf>  contains a plethora of resources to help a congregation with their DREAM Sabbath, including stories of DREAM students, bulletin inserts, theological reflections, sermon starters, myths and facts about the DREAM Act, a sample agenda for a DREAM Sabbath event, and much more.


In order to register your event, please click
here <>

For more information or any questions, please check out
www.interfaithimmigration.org or contact advocacy@wr.org


We append the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”

Monday, August 22, 2011

World Relief Commends the Administration’s Recent Announcement of the Review of Cases in Deportation Proceedings

August 22, 2011

World Relief Commends the Administration’s Recent Announcement of the Review
of Cases in Deportation Proceedings

August 22, 2011- Baltimore, MD- World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National
Association of Evangelicals, applauds the Administration’s August 18th announcement
regarding an interagency process to review the 300,000 plus cases in deportation
proceedings. This process will identify low-priority non-criminal cases that should not
be prosecuted under an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, as well as cases that may be
eligible for actual immigration benefits. The process will focus the Administration’s
resources on the removal of high-priority cases, such as convicted felons and individuals
who pose a serious threat to national security.

“This is a tremendous step towards a fair and effective immigration system,” said
Stephan Bauman, President and CEO of World Relief. “We urge the Administration to
dedicate the necessary resources to ensure that this process is quick, efficient, and
comprehensive. We trust that immigrants who are hard-working, contributing members
of our society, mothers and fathers of U.S. citizens, students, and many who served in the
military will not be prosecuted and, when eligible, will have the ability to receive legal
status and fully integrate into our society.”

This administrative review ensures that during a time of fiscal constraint, our resources
are being used as effectively as possible to enhance our national security by targeting
those who pose the greatest risk to the United States. For years, the deportation of noncriminal
aliens has torn families apart and misplaced limited government resources on
those in our country who are working hard and supporting their families. This new
Administrative process ensures that the priorities the Administration set in place of
deporting those who are most harmful to our country are actually reflected in our
immigration processing.

“This is the right step forward toward ensuring that many immigrants who are
contributing to our communities are not deported, often back to a country they no longer
know, leaving their jobs and families behind,” said Dan Kosten, Senior Vice President of
U.S. Programs at World Relief. “While the consideration of relief under this policy will
only be applied to cases actually in removal proceedings, the existence of a majority of
immigrants who would not benefit from such relief highlights the urgent need for
Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform. Only by reforming our
immigration laws will the root problems of immigration be addressed to strengthen our
country’s heritage of welcoming those who are willing to work hard and contribute to our
country.”

We applaud this action taken to ameliorate some of the current injustices of the
immigration system by identifying and granting relief to meritorious cases, and World
Relief remains committed to continuing our work with the local church to provide
immigration legal services and assistance as this process moves forward.



Jenny Yang
Director of Advocacy and Policy
 


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World Relief, the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals, is a
faith-based international relief and development organization committed to serving the
most vulnerable populations through the local church. World Relief currently works on
five continents, in some of the most impoverished areas of the world. In the United
States, World Relief focuses on serving the foreign-born, including providing
immigration legal services to refugees, asylees, parolees, victims of trafficking and other
vulnerable immigrants in twenty-four cities around the country. World Relief also
supports churches in developing immigration legal services programs. Since 1979,
World Relief has resettled over 236,000 refugees in the United States.

Loving the Stranger Network Blog appends the following disclaimer on all posts: “Please note that the views expressed by guest bloggers represent their own personal views, and not necessarily those of everyone associated with Loving the Stranger or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.”