Thursday, June 30, 2011

Guest Post: Feet

Today [written May 29]  I will start a 75 mile trek through the unforgiving Sonoran desert. I'll cross over the border in Sasabe, Mexico and travel to Tucson, Arizona with a group of people.

I've been in Arizona for a few days now and the reality of what I signed up for is starting to hit me. Walking for six hours a day under the scorching sun. No shower for a week. (I'm sorry in advance for whoever I end up sitting by in the airplane.) Being surrounded by creepy crawly things in the dead of night. I should mention the heat again.

It's hot here.  


Inferno hot. Set a cup of ice out at 8am and it's melted within minutes hot. Feel the sweat slowly creep down your lower back as you're simply standing in the shade hot. 

Oh yeah, it's hot.

But then I remember. Thousands and thousands and thousands of others have made this same walk under the same sun and under worse conditions. Way worse conditions. No food, water, protection.

Oh yeah, and at the end of this journey I get to go home. I get to love on my family. I get to laugh with friends. I get to eat whatever I want.

This seven day walk is to remember and stand in solidarity with those who have crossed the same desert. Many of the feet who have plowed the road before me never made it home. Their feet never reached their friends and family. 

Precious feet of our brothers and sisters, made in the image and glory of God, are gone. Too many have needlessly died crossing this border. There is absolutely no reason anyone should perish for lack of water. Seriously. No reason. 

As I look down on my feet shuffling along in the desert I will intentionally choose to be thankful for feeling the sun burn my skin, my tired muscles ache and my dry throat cry out for rescue. Why? Because when I feel, I know I am alive. 

When you look down at your feet, what will you be thankful for?



Sarah Jackson lives in Denver, Colorado with immigrants from El  Salvador. She is striving to be the hands and feet of love, justice and  mercy as she lives with the poor and marginalized in the community.  Every day she intentionally believes in the intoxicating love which  travels beyond borders. Follow Sarah's blog, Piece of Paz or connect with her on Facebook.

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, June 29, 2011

Guest Post: How Can the Law Assure Social Order?

By Robert Chao Romero


A key biblical principal is that God has established the institution of government to maintain social order (Romans 13: 1-7).  How is the follower of Jesus to respond, however, when government knowingly violates the legal guidelines it has created for itself in order to guarantee this social order?  This is one of the central issues involved in the immigration debate in America—though not in the way that many Christians typically frame the issue. 

According to the 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case of De Canas v. Bica, “[p]ower to regulate immigration is unquestionably exclusively a federal power.”   This important case stands for a simple, and uncontested, legal principle:  it is the job of the federal government to regulate immigration.   States and local governments do not have this authority.  Only the federal government can create laws and policies which determine who gets to stay in this country and who can be forced to leave.  Only the federal government has the authority to check the immigration status of individuals and make decisions about visas, asylum, and deportation.   With limited exception, states and local governments cross the line into unconstitutional territory every time they try to engage in these types of activities.  One basic exception to this rule is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is allowed to enter into special agreements with local law enforcement agencies which authorize them to enforce immigration laws.   According to these “287(g)” agreements, ICE provides basic training to local police and then delegates to them some of its authority to regulate immigration.  Outside of these special agreements it is illegal for states and cities to engage in the regulation of immigration.   This is the current state of immigration law and it is uncontested.  It is really that simple.

Arizona Senate Bill 1070, and the 14 copycat bills which have been introduced in states such as California, Illinois, Florida, and Texas, knowingly violate existing federal law and Supreme Court precedent.   SB 1070 and its modified version, House Bill 2162, empower Arizona police to investigate a person’s immigration status as part of a "lawful stop, detention, or arrest."   This provision flagrantly violates federal law because it takes the regulation of immigration out of the hands of the federal government and places it unconstitutionally in the hands of Arizona state authorities.    It basically says, “we the state of Arizona, by our own prerogative, authorize all of our police officers to regulate immigration by checking peoples’ immigration status.”   Again, this is not contested legal territory.  Regulation of immigration is entirely a federal prerogative. 

Hazleton, Pennsylvania provides another recent example of the way in which this legal principle has been blatantly disregarded.   By passing the “Illegal Immigration Relief Act” in 2006, the city tried to take the issue of undocumented immigration into its own hands by fining landlords who rented to undocumented immigrants and suspending the business licenses of people who hired them.   In other words, as reflected in the name of this legislative act, Hazleton sought to regulate immigration through the implementation of fines and the revocation of business licenses.   As the federal District and Circuit courts have since ruled, Hazleton’s “Illegal Immigration Relief Act” represents a clear unconstitutional attempt to regulate immigration. 

How is the Christian to respond to the Arizona state legislature, the city council of Hazleton, and other government authorities who consciously violate the legal norms which the U.S. government itself has established to ensure social order? Ironically, they themselves are breaking the law.  I leave this question for you to reflect upon and decide.  It is my hope that this brief discussion has provided a different angle on the immigration debate for you to consider and that through the legal perspective offered we might all be sharpened. 


Bio:
Robert Chao Romero is an Assistant Professor in the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies.  He received his J.D. from U.C. Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Latin American History from UCLA.  He is the author of The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940 and various articles related to race in Latin America and the United States.   He is Founder and President of Christian Students of Conscience, a ministry devoted to training and mobilizing university students around issues of race and justice from a biblical perspective (cscrevolution.org).  

This article is cross posted from
UnDocumented.tv blog by permission of the author.
March 8, 2011

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, June 28, 2011

Guest Post: How Do Our Trade Policies Force People to Migrate?

By David Schmidt - Creating Alternative and Fair Enterprise (C.A.F.E.)


 Comedian Dave Chappelle featured a skit once in which he played the President of the United States. In response to the problem of millions of Americans without health insurance, Chapelle’s character offered a simple solution: since Canada offers universal health care to its citizens, he proposed Canadian identification cards for all US citizens. Americans could receive their medical treatment in Canada, free of charge!
Many people view immigration to the United States in similar terms. “Why do they have to come and use our resources, take our jobs, deplete our public services? Why don’t they just fix their own country?” Immigration reform is often couched in similar terms: legalizing undocumented immigrants is described as “amnesty”, which is, by definition, forgiving a crime that has been committed. Immigrants’ rights are often described as charity for people who have “stolen” something or “entered illegally”.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Guest Post: A Better Life [Movie Review]

Movie Review: A Better Life, by Cindi Peterson

A Better Life, PG-13, a drama released in limited theaters on June 24, 2011, is insightful, authentic, engaging, and much more than a search for a truck. My heart broke and my stomach grabbed in enough scenes to move me to a fresh appreciation of the value of life and the suffocation of certain inhumane limits.
Carlos Galindo, a father, from East L.A. works hard to provide for his son, Luis, in a story that unfolds to engage the viewer in the emotional, complicated layers of life lived as an undocumented immigrant in current times. The story communicates the heart’s cry for dignity torn apart by the hardship of reality, peppered with the fear and stress of making a living and keeping familia safe. No cliché resolutions and without fairytale endings, this is a powerful, evocative glimpse into the controversy and compelling nature of the lives of the strangers among us. Love and hope are ever present in the pain.

The film is getting some great reviews from critics, and deserves attention. Director Chris Weitz, who also directed New Moon (Twilight series) and About a Boy, brings out some subtle and powerful performances. Actor Demián Bichir, who played Fidel Castro in Che: Part 2, gives a brilliant performance in the role of the father, Carlos Galindo. His 14-year old son, Luis, is played well by actor José Julián. Father Gregory Boyle of Homeboy Industries, a business run by former gang members, contributed by working with the crew to make the film as authentic as possible. The script includes language and differentiated slang true to various Los Angeles neighborhoods. The film is set in Hispanic neighborhoods with predominantly Hispanic cast members, unusual to many Hollywood productions.

I recommend this movie for several reasons: 1) The film as art is well done; 2) If you can spend the money, support a film that shares truth on the issue of immigration from a perspective of empathy and understanding, moving past pity and prohibitive posturing; 3) Continue to learn and increase awareness about the everyday lives of real people in our communities; 4) If you reside near Los Angeles, as I do, you may also enjoy the broader exposure to local culture and appreciate the familiarity of local geography in scenes throughout the movie; 5) Find the common ground aches and angst as parents working to secure a life for family.

I sensed and emotionally engaged in the anger, desperation, strength of character, the search for respect, the fight for integrity, and the tension between parent and child to provide and protect in a difficult situation. One scene gave me chills as it paralleled for me images from other films portraying people arriving at Nazi concentration camps, and the scene was not exaggerated in A Better Life. Yet, it was an accurate, objective portrayal of the experience of an undocumented community member. There is much more to say, but I do not want to give away too much of the plot development.

A Better Life is a tribute to a group of marginalized people in our culture. If you are not marginalized, this film may break your heart in new ways and promote more compassionate insight, or it could leave you confused, at a point of disequilibrium, trying to filter what you believed hours ago with new awareness of everyday reality for some within the current limits of broken justice.

Good people, like the father in this film, with the will to contribute and provide, deserve a more dignified path to a better life. This film does not make conclusions or recommendations. It just shines a light on the struggle. The subtle communication in images and facial expressions, communicate as much as the dialog. The story will be familiar to those of you most involved with this issue, either personally or professionally. The film may help to open the minds of others who need to investigate the value of compassionate comprehensive immigration reform.

On my journey, stories in films and books have moved me into a place of inquiry and perspective, and helped me overcome my own personal prejudice and stereotypes. Along with the movie Under the Same Moon, and the book, Enrique’s Journey, this film is now part of my understanding, as I work with others to provide a gentle invitation for sincere consideration of the complexity of immigration.

Cindi is a writer, educator, and student advocate in Southern California. She is passionate about the DREAM Act, issues of human trafficking, and economic disparity. She leads Women Against Global Hunger and blogs at Seeds and Sensibility.



Saturday, June 25, 2011

Opinion: Scapegoating behind anti-immigration laws

Yet another state, populated largely by people who consider themselves Christians, has apparently criminalized Christian behavior toward illegal immigrants. At least according to the Associated Press which says in an article published in my local newspaper June 10 that Alabama’s new immigration law makes it “a crime to knowingly give an illegal immigrant a ride.”
This an excerpt from Associated Baptist Press' Travis Loller.
Several states, mostly in the South, have recently passed laws criminalizing humanitarian aid to illegal immigrants. True, some of these laws (perhaps all of them) contain exceptions for government regulated humanitarian organizations and for emergency responders. However, where does that leave the average Christian who feels called by God to reach out and help an illegal immigrant in need?
Read the whole article here

Friday, June 24, 2011

A journalist commits to asking the questions ...Let's talk.

What would you do to survive? What would you do to feed your child?

On Wednesday I heard something about this story and then a friend of mine sent me a text telling me I needed to read it. I am glad I did. Jose Antonio Vargas has selflessly gone public with his story this week in order to help many others. Jose was brought to the United States as a child without his consent or approval. He has done some amazing things. "'It's get exhausting,' he said. 'I came forward because I couldn't do it anymore. If I can't do it anymore imagine how many millions of other people out there can't do it anymore?" Vargas wrote his own story that was published in the New York Times: My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant. A more detailed story it to be published this Sunday in the New York Times.



Mr. Vargas has started a website to help tell his story, Define American.

NPR's Michele Norris interviews Vargas on All Things Considered this afternoon, Jose Antonio Vargas: 'If I Didn't Tell Those Lies ... I Couldn't Have Survived.'

Undocumented.tv's Juliana Martinez has some comments about the story here, What Will You Do Now?

I repeat the question that Jose asks all of us: What will you do? Feel free to leave some comments.

From a Birmingham Jail to Georgia and Alabama

Guest blog: Lessons from “A Letter from Birmingham Jail”
From Robert Chao Romero

“I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all’… I have traveled the length and breadth of Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern states. On sweltering summer days and crisp autumn mornings I have looked at the South's beautiful churches with their lofty spires pointing heavenward. I have beheld the impressive outlines of her massive religious-education buildings. Over and over I have found myself asking: ‘What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of Governor Barnett dripped with words of interposition and nullification? Where were they when Governor Wallace gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred? Where were their voices of support when bruised and weary Negro men and women decided to rise from the dark dungeons of complacency to the bright hills of creative protest?’… Yes, these questions are still in my mind. In deep disappointment I have wept over the laxity of the church.”
 These words, penned by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a jail in Birmingham, Alabama in 1963, still ring unfortunately true today. In his day, Dr. King was the leading Christian voice protesting the unjust Southern laws which enforced unbiblical segregation between blacks and whites.   Citing St. Augustine, Dr. King asserted that unjust laws are not really laws at all because they stand in contradiction to God’s eternal Law.   He found himself deeply disappointed with most evangelical and fundamentalist churches of the South because they failed to  publicly   challenge the southern segregation laws which stood in direct opposition to the biblical truth that all men and women, regardless of ethnic background, are made equally in the image of God.  

Many applications from “A Letter from Birmingham Jail” can be made with regards to undocumented immigration issues in the South today.   The state legislatures of Alabama and Georgia have once again penned some of the most hateful and unbiblical laws targeting ethnic minorities—in this case, undocumented immigrants from Latin America.   These laws are like Arizona SB-1070 on steroids.  The Alabama laws, passed earlier this month, bar undocumented immigrants from attending college, prohibit undocumented immigrants from applying for or soliciting work, and criminalize the rental of residential property to undocumented immigrants.  The Georgia legislation, signed by state governor Nathan Deal in May, authorizes police officers to question individuals about their immigration status in certain criminal investigations and threatens to fine undocumented immigrants $250,000, or send them to jail for 15 years, for using fake identifications in search of employment. 

This mean-spirited racist legislation from Alabama and Georgia violates both the letter and spirit of several biblical principles: 
  1. God commands that immigrants are not to be mistreated or oppressed.  Exodus 22:21
  2. God loves immigrants.  He provides for their needs.  Deuteronomy 10:18;
  3. God calls us to advocate for immigrants and to defend their rights.  Proverbs 31:8-9
  4. Jesus teaches that if we love him we will love immigrants.  When we love immigrants, we are actually loving him.  Matthew 25: 34, 35, 38, 40

 It is immoral and unjust to benefit from the labor of undocumented immigrants and simultaneously to blame them for all of our society’s social ills.   Undocumented immigrants contribute more than 2 trillion dollars to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product every year.  Our economy is entirely dependent upon them.   They pick our fields, raise our kids, and clean our homes.  They mow our lawns, fix our drywall, and renovate our homes.  They cook our food at American, Chinese, Japanese, and Italian restaurants, and when we’re done they wash our dishes as well.  They work in our factories, coffee shops, and every fast food establishment you could imagine.  They clean our workplaces and office buildings long after everyone has gone home to have dinner with the kids.

It is a sin to be ungrateful.  I think that it is especially a sin to benefit from all of the hard work and economic contributions of undocumented immigrants  and at the same time to scapegoat them for our nation’s, or our state’s, economic woes.   This is biblical mistreatment and oppression.  

It is also immoral to deny a university education to the children of undocumented immigrants.   Although this may be a popular position in Alabama, such denial of educational opportunity is utterly unbiblical and unjust.  A fundamental biblical principle is that no one should be punished for an action for which they had no control  (Deuteronomy 24:16).   To use a biblical analogy, if the parents eat sour grapes the children’s teeth should not be set on edge (Jeremiah 31:39).

In the same way, undocumented college students should not be punished for  crossing a border when they had no decision in the matter.   Most undocumented college students were brought to the United States when they were just small children or infants.  In fact, 60,000 such undocumented students graduate from high school each year in the United States.   Many of them are valedictorians and at the top of their class.  Tragically, thousands of these students are denied a college education because of state laws which bar them from the university.

As in Dr. Martin Luther King’s Day, I ask, where is the Southern Church?  “What kind of people worship here? Who is their God? Where were their voices when the lips of [Governor Deal] dripped with words of interposition and nullification” in May? “Where were they when [Governor Bentley] “gave a clarion call for defiance and hatred” less than two weeks ago?

Like Dr. King, I weep for the Southern Church.  I am a pastor and the grandson of a pastor.  I love the Church. My heart breaks, however, when I see the name of Jesus misrepresented by Christians who support or fail to challenge unbiblical laws such as those recently passed in Alabama and Georgia.

On a positive note, I am encouraged by the Southern Baptist Convention, which recently passed a resolution in support of  "a just and compassionate path to legal status, with appropriate restitutionary measures, for those undocumented immigrants already living in our country."  The resolution falls short of explicitly condemning the racist laws of Georgia and Alabama, but it is a step in the right direction.   As the largest Protestant denomination in the United States, and a prominent religious institution in the South, the Convention’s statement will hopefully prompt many Southern Christians to reconsider their perspectives on immigration in light of the biblical admonition to love immigrants and speak out on their behalf.

Robert Chao Romero is an Assistant Professor in the UCLA César E. Chávez Department of Chicana/o Studies.  He received his J.D. from U.C. Berkeley and his Ph.D. in Latin American History from UCLA.  He is the author of The Chinese in Mexico, 1882-1940 and various articles related to race in Latin America and the United States.   He is Founder and President of Christian Students of Conscience, a ministry devoted to training and mobilizing university students around issues of race and justice from a biblical perspective (cscrevolution.org).  
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, June 23, 2011

In Immigration News This Week

Ian Danley writes that We are On God's Side in Huffington Post today. He says, "Believing that youth are partners in our community development work rather than problems to be solved, we have found profound leadership capacity in our young people. Our undocumented youth, along the way, have led us all." Read the whole piece here.

Pulitzer Prize winning Jose Antonio Vargas tells his story in My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant the New York Times.
"I’ve tried. Over the past 14 years, I’ve graduated from high school and college and built a career as a journalist, interviewing some of the most famous people in the country. On the surface, I’ve created a good life. I’ve lived the American dream.

"But I am still an undocumented immigrant."

Opinion on Associated Baptist Press has a piece called Scapegoating behind anti immigrant laws:
"Jesus said that insofar as people offer a cup of cold water to one of the least of these his brethren they have done it to him and insofar as they have refused to do it for the least they have refused it to him (Matthew 24). Does anyone really think Jesus didn’t mean illegal immigrants by 'the least of these my brethren?'"

In Whittier, CA we participated in an interfaith event on immigration sponsored by the Whittier Area Interfaith Council. I gave a talk on immigration and introduced one of my friends, a graduate of UCLA, to talk about his experiences in the US after he was brought to the United States when he was only 4 years old.

The Los Angeles Times featured an article on the problem of a lack of labor in states like Georgia where state laws on immigration have made it more difficult for employers to find workers to harvest crops in New Latino South: Fewer Hands in the Field.

The Los Angeles Times has also done op-ed pieces on immigration including: Immigration: Changes to Secure Communities are for the Better. "John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, deserves credit for acknowledging that the program is in trouble and for providing a fix." Also, Help for Young Immigrants, "By some estimates, nearly a million young people in this country are living in a kind of immigration limbo. The United States is the only home many of them have known, but because they were brought here illegally as children by their parents, they live in fear of deportation."

[Update: Pastor Ian Danley's On the Underground Railroad is posted on Define American.] 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Father's Day Blues by Crissy Brooks

I ran into Bernardo on Monday. Bernardo is my neighbor. He is also an immigrant laborer, a husband, and a father. We met a few years ago when we worked on a daylaborer center together. We run into each other from time to time and this week it was apparent he was not doing well.
Bernardo’s wife is ill in Mexico. His son has dropped out of university. When things were good here and work was plentiful, he was able to support them. He was able to pay the rent, buy the medicine and pay his son’s tuition. The sacrifice and costs of being separated seemed to be worth it. But now there is little work and his wife’s health is declining. Bernardo feels like he is failing them and the added stress of being so far away was a visible burden I could see as he spoke of his family’s situation.
Families being separated because of economic hardship is not a new narrative. Some of the best Blues music of the south was born out of this harsh reality. During the Great Migration of the 1910 – 40’s, approximately 1.75 million African-Americans moved north where there was work, often separated from their families. The common theme of the Blues- “my baby’s gone and I will be soon…” wasn’t about a woman just walking out on him. It was about the socio-economic reality of being separated by necessity to find work. She (or he) left to work in the North. The music is great and telling because it gives voice to the authentic pain. The pain of being apart from those you love, the pain of making choices in desperation, the pain of the social realities that led to the situation.
I wonder what gives voice to Bernardo’s pain. Perhaps that is why I write about him here, to give the pain of his separation a voice. I understand that he had a choice. I understand that for generations many people migrating for all different reasons had choices. But I am not sure how much of a choice “starve here or leave your family and find work” really is. I have heard poverty described in terms of the availability of choices. If those are your two choices, I suppose you are quite poor.
Sunday, June 19th is Father’s Day and I can’t help but think about the thousands, even millions of fathers out there like Bernardo. Fathers separated from their families because of their lack of available choices. Fathers who are sacrificing to provide food, education, and medical care, for the ones they love. And I wonder what my response to them should be?
What would I do given those choices, what would you do? It is easy for me to judge the choices of others. I consider myself quite resourceful and creative, sure that I could come up with some solution. But I have not had to face the choices that many of my neighbors like Bernardo have faced. Though we live in the same place, our realities can be quite different. Our challenge now is to build a new shared reality together that will hopefully be plentiful in choices for all of us.

An interfaith conversation on immigration: Loving the Stranger

Tuesday, June 21 · 7:00pm
Whittier First Friends Church
13205 Philadelphia Street
Whittier, CA

The interfaith council is hosting this conversation about the immigration issue. Glen Peterson will make a presentation from a Christian perspective from Hebrew and Christian holy writings on how to treat the stranger and make some applications to the current situation.  


For more information feel free to email me at gpeterson [at] capacitypartnership [dot] com.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Guest Blog: Jar of Mayo

Sara Johnson is on a walking trip in northern Mexico near the border with the United States. This is the first in a series about her experiences there. 


Some of my most vivid childhood memories swirl around time in the water. Splashing in a pool for hours on end gave way to my nickname, "The Fish." On one particular pool day my mom packed a lunch for our family. We would be hungry after a full day of sun, sunscreen and pool time.  She packed all sorts of picnic foods. Sandwiches, chips, watermelon... and a jar of mayo? I remember seeing the jar and wondering why it was in the ice chest. It seemed so odd. 

My mom had a plan. She knew what she was doing. Time, love and energy went into packing the perfect lunch. Now here sits this jar of mayonnaise, a supposed random item to bring. But to my mom it made perfect sense. She knew someone would want it. She packed it with the hopes of satisfying someone's hunger. It was an intentional act of love. 

Now here I was, almost 20 years later, in the middle of the arid Mexico desert. This trip's focus was exploring the myriad complex sides of the immigration crisis. On a merely human level we can all see that people are dying. Moms, dads, little children, grandmas and grandpas are crossing the desert and wasting away- of thirst, starvation and medical injuries.

There are simple things we can do to prevent these deaths. One of them is providing water. That's what I was doing in the desert, filling large barrels of water for migrants to drink. (I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. Matthew 25:35)

Walking through the desert I came across a worn trail many weary travelers had used to stop, rest and eat. And then I saw it. A half-full jar of mayonnaise. 


Just a jar of mayo, right? But to me it represented a mother's love for those she cared for. I imagined a woman preparing food for the long journey ahead. Tears welled up like little pools in my eyes as I imagined a mother carefully and tenderly packing a lunch in preparation for their trek through the desert- sojourners in a foreign land. 

Someone packed this jar of mayo with the hope of it providing sustenance to those they loved. And now here it was, half-empty and abandoned.

Many half-empty, abandoned dreams are walking in the desert right now. Some are on the verge of death. There are dry, dusty mouths in the desert. Please pray they find water. And remember, humanitarian aid is never a crime.

This piece has been cross posted at Undocumented.tv/blog and piece of paz. 

Sarah Jackson lives in Denver, Colorado with immigrants from El Salvador. She is striving to be the hands and feet of love, justice and mercy as she lives with the poor and marginalized in the community. Every day she intentionally believes in the intoxicating love which travels beyond borders. Follow Sarah’s blog or connect with her on Facebook.

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, June 10, 2011

Assemblymember Roger Hernández on Immigration (CA AD 57)

California Dream Act (AB 131) Passes Assembly on May 5, 2011. It is now headed for the California Senate.

From the 57th California Assembly District's Roger Hernández web site:
(Sacramento) – Assemblymember Roger Hernández (D-East Los Angeles County) joined the rest of his fellow Democrats in the Assembly to support Assembly Bill 130, the California Dream Act, when it came up for a vote on the floor of the State Assembly. Assemblymember Hernández told his colleagues AB 130 is needed so undocumented college students can apply for and receive financial aid. Assemblymember Gil Cedillo (D-Los Angeles), author of AB130, has introduced a similar bill every year since 2005. Former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, vetoed the legislation repeatedly. Here’s more from Assemblymember Hernández in this Assembly Access video.




California's 57th Assembly District falls within eastern Los Angeles County and includes the cities of Azusa, Covina, Baldwin Park, Industry, Irwindale, La Puente, West Covina and the unincorporated communities of Avocado Heights, Bassett, Charter Oak, Citrus, East Arcadia, Hacienda Heights, Ramona and Valinda.

Governor Jerry Brown has already said that he would sign this kind of bill when passed by California's Assembly and Senate.

Find out how your California Assemblymember voted and thank him or her for supporting eligible students. How will your State Senator vote? Find your senator here and let him or her know that you support the California DREAM Act. 

For more on other California legislators and congressional representatives and positions on immigration see what America's Voice has to say about Congressman Elton Gallegly (R-CA) here.

I hope this becomes a recurring series of informational posts on State and Federal legislators and their positions on immigration, immigration reform and DREAM Act related issues. If you'd care to submit a blog post on this topic or another immigration and faith related issue, see our guidelines here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

STREET POLITICS--a guest blog

 …from David Schmidt

           About once a month, I voluntarily subject myself to the psychotic rantings of the anti-immigrant blogs and websites that pockmark cyberspace. More important than their comedic value or any masochistic tendencies of my own, I feel it necessary to hear what our opponents are saying. If we who are on the side of solidarity and inclusion are aware of the accusations being levied against immigrants, we will be more prepared to respond to these attacks, thus inoculating the general, confused U.S. public against any potential appeal they may have.

           Most of the time, I find outright lies, distortions and falsehoods that can be easily countered with the facts: “immigrants take our jobs, degrade our culture, bring crime and disease, bankrupt our hospitals, make our hallways smell of garlic and cilantro,” etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseam. [more after the jump]

Dr. Daniel Carroll R. - Immigration and the Bible

A sixty minute video teaching on immigration and the bible can be purchase from Urban Entry Video.



Dr. M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, who celebrates his heritage from both Guatemala and the United States, is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament at Denver Seminary.

Dr. Carroll blogs about immigration and other matters here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

David Cho: Am I a Traitor?

I have had the great opportunity to meet some amazing people in my journey with people who migrate. David Cho is one of these who I met earlier this year at a conference by the Center for the Study of Immigrant Integration. Here, David shares his own historic day and some of his feelings. Many DREAMers share these feelings.

May 27 marks a historic day: Larry King ended his radio show in 1994; Britain agreed to return Hong Kong to China in 1997; UCLA won their 7th NCAA basketball championship under Coach John Wooden. On this unique date, I popped the question to a very special and important person, my-then girlfriend, now fiancé, Jane.

I always felt a huge rush every time I gave a speech in front of hundreds and thousands of people. But proposing to Jane was the most nerve-wracking. Was I not ready?

What was most important was that she said “Yes”. And I was forever grateful and indebted to her.



Look how happy she looks!


But up until this very moment, I actually felt awful the entire day. I reflected back on my DREAM Act activism the past three years: sharing my testimony for the first time in public at City Hall; speaking in front of 25,000 people at May Day; driving to Washington D.C. from Los Angeles for the Campus Progress National Conference; appearing in numerous rallies and radio stations across the nation; and being featured in C-SPAN, CNN, Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and the White House blog. I enjoyed every moment sharing my story and inspiring other students to fight for the DREAM Act. We came so close to passing it last December. Having said all this, I felt like I was betraying the movement and millions of students in my situation.

I questioned whether marrying Jane was the “right” thing to do. Will people consider me a traitor? Will I still be able to continue to share my story locally and nationally? How? Am I leaving fellow undocumented students in the shadow?


Hundreds of questions cluttered my head throughout the day. I talked to my close friends, like Nancy Meza, who supported my decision and urged me to suppress my pride. I thanked my friends for their support. After contemplating about my decision, I decided to pop the question. The deciding factor was my love for Jane. We are ready and excited to embark on a new journey together. People in many circumstances take different paths in life – we made the decision to marry a bit earlier than the rest of our peers.

This movement and the millions of undocumented students have shaped me into who I am today. I will continue my activism, remain as chair of ASPIRE at UCLA next academic year, and keep fighting for the DREAM Act.


This was originally posted at NAKASEC. We thank them for their permission, and David's to post this here.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

World Relief Refugee and Immigration Advocacy Update June 2, 2011-Part 1








STAND/for the Vulnerable--from World Relief's Policy and Advocacy Director:


World Relief Refuge and Immigration Advocacy Update, June 2, 2011

This information is provided by World Relief's Policy and Advocacy Director, Jenny Yang.

  1. Remarks by President on Need for Immigration Reform
  2. Immigration Enforcement Funding
  3. Reintroduction of the DREAM Act- take action now!
  4. Introduction of the Domestic Refugee Program Reform bill- take action now!
  5. Refugee Funding Update for FY11 and FY12- take action now!
  6. UnDocumented.TV- Updated Blog!





1. President's Travels to the Border, Speaks Publicly on Need for Immigration Reform

Over the past couple months, the President has publicly renewed his committed to Comprehensive Immigration Reform. On April 19th, President Obama met with business, community, faith, and other leaders, and also with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on May 3rd. President Obama also gave a commencement address at Miami Dade College on April 29th where he continued to speak of his commitment to passing immigration reform and the DREAM Act.

On May 10th, 2011, President Obama traveled to El Paso, TX, where he made his second major public speech on immigration during his time in office.

This speech outlined the Administration's work in securing the border and the need for comprehensive immigration reform as an "economic imperative" for our country.

He mentioned the wide breadth of support within various sectors of the American community, including the business community, political leaders from both sides, police chiefs, labor unions, and "evangelical ministers like Leith Anderson and Bill Hybels."

During the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast on May 12th, 2011, President said that "immigration reform is a moral imperative, and so it's worth seeking greater understanding from our faith. As it is written in the Book of Deuteronomy, 'Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.' To me, that verse is a call to show empathy to our brothers and our sisters; to try and recognize ourselves in one another."

The President mentioned the work of the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) and UnDocumented.TV in his remarks, saying that it's "that moral compass, that conviction of what is right is what led the National Association of Evangelicals to shoot short films to help people grasp the challenges facing immigrants."

The White House's blueprint for reform called Building a 21st Century Immigration System [link downloads a .pdf]  reviews what the Administration has done so far in enforcing immigration laws and sets out a series of principles and policies for reforming the current immigration system.  The document
ends with a Call to Action, which lists a series of events the White House is leading that will bring together Administration officials and community leaders to discuss immigration reform.

More information on the White House efforts can be found here.


Jenny Yang is Director of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. Jenny has provide the information in these posts to people how have signed up for advocacy updates on World Relief’s Advocacy website. She is also co-author with Matthew Soerens of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.

World Relief Refugee and Immigration Advocacy Update June 2, 2011-Part 2

Legislative News from World Relief's Policy and Advocacy Director:
  








Immigration Enforcement

Yesterday, the House began consideration of H.R.2017, the FY 2012 Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act under an open rule which means that any member of Congress can file an amendment to increase or decrease spending for DHS operations, like immigration detention, Secure Communities, 287(g), etc. As reported out by the Appropriations Committee, the DHS appropriations bill would increase the number of daily immigration detention beds by 600 (33,400 to 34,00), increase immigration detention spending by $25 million above President Obama’s budget request, and increase Secure Communities spending by $10 million above President Obama’s request. A number of amendments have been filed that would further increase funding for immigration enforcement, including for border fencing, detention and removal operations, and 287 (g) programs.


Today, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to mark up four bills, including H.R.1932, the Keep our Communities Safe Act of 2011. This bill would give the Secretary of Homeland Security authority to detain immigrants indefinitely if they are subject to a final order of removal and cannot be deported for some reason, or if they are subject to a removal order that has been stayed by a judge while their immigration case is on appeal. The Judiciary Committee is also expected to mark up bills pertaining to E-verify in the near future.


World Relief urges Congress to oppose HR.1932 as it commits precious U.S. taxpayer dollars to detain vulnerable migrants seeking protection in the United States while providing them with inadequate recourses to challenge their detention. World Relief also expresses strong concern about passing E-verify without a parallel path for earned legalization for undocumented immigrants and funding of expanded enforcement measures without full consideration and passage of comprehensive immigration reform.

Click here for part 3.

Jenny Yang is Director of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. Jenny has provide the information in these posts to people how have signed up for advocacy updates on World Relief’s Advocacy website. She is also co-author with Matthew Soerens of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.

WR Refugee and Immigration Advocacy Update June 2, 2011-Part 3-DREAM

This information is provided by World Relief's Policy and Advocacy Director, Jenny Yang.




DREAM Act Reintroduced

On May 11, 2011, Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL), Harry Reid (D-NV), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and 34 other co-sponsors, re-introduced the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act (S.952) a bill that would give certain undocumented students a chance to earn legal status.  Co-sponsors include the Chairs of all of the relevant Committees (Patrick Leahy (VT, Judiciary), Joseph Lieberman (CT, Homeland Security), and Carl Levin (MI, Armed Services).  All Democratic members of the Judiciary Committee are also signed on.  A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), and Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) (HR.1842).


The “DREAM Act” would allow our country to prosper from the contributions made by promising and hardworking immigrant youth.  These youth were brought to the U.S. at a young age, but are not able to fully integrate into American society because of their immigration status.  Many did not even know about their status until they applied for college and were surprised to find that they are undocumented in the only country that they consider home.  If passed, the DREAM Act would provide a six-year path to a green card for undocumented children brought to the U.S. more than five years ago if they graduate from high school and continue on to college or military service.

Approximately 50,000-65,000 undocumented students graduate from American high schools each year who are American in their upbringing, values, and culture, and yet because of their immigration status often unable to pursue higher education.  The DREAM Act would help break the cycle of underemployment, instability, and poverty endured by undocumented immigrants.  Last December, despite bipartisan support from a majority of members of Congress, the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the DREAM Act.
 
 

Click here for more information about the DREAM Act.  For more on the DREAM Act, see this release from Senator Durbin’s office. 
 
TAKE ACTION NOW! Ask your Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the bill!

Jenny Yang is Director of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. Jenny has provide the information in these posts to people how have signed up for advocacy updates on World Relief’s Advocacy website. She is also co-author with Matthew Soerens of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate. 

World Relief Refugee and Immigration Advocacy Update June 2, 2011-Part 4

Rep. Gary Peters Introduces Bill to Reform Domestic Refugee Program
 







Representative Gary Peters (D-MI) officially introduced his legislation, H.R. 1475, on April 12th, 2011 entitled the Domestic Refugee Resettlement Reform and Modernization Act of 2011.  Currently, recently arriving refugees receive limited cash and medical assistance as well as access to housing and job placement services.  These benefits are intended to help refugees achieve self-sufficiency through employment during the eight month period for which benefits are provided.  However, structural deficiencies within the domestic resettlement program have made it more difficult for refugees to achieve self-sufficiency.  The impact is not just on the refugees themselves but also on local communities that are welcoming refugees where social services and philanthropic resources are more strained.

It is important that each federal dollar is spent wisely and that every program seeks to operate more efficiently.  This bill would thus institute zero-cost reforms to better maximize refugee self-sufficiency.  Specifically, the bill would:

  • Revise the state funding formula used by the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) so that it accounts for future refugee arrivals and more accurately distributes funds to state resettlement offices.
  • Elevate the Office of Refugee Resettlement within HHS, giving it broader authority and ability to make structural changes and direct resources effectively.  
  • Increase transparency within the Office of Refugee Resettlement and require greater analysis of program operations and barriers to refugee sufficiency.  


The bill currently has 27 co-sponsors (6 Republicans and 21 Democrats). You can keep up with the co-sponsor count at http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bill.xpd?bill=h112-1475. This bill will also be critical, especially given its bi-partisan co-sponsorship, in avoiding budget cuts, as it shows the ongoing, across-the-aisle support for the refugee program.

Contact your representatives and encourage them to co-sponsor this bill, and encourage others to do the same.
 

TAKE ACTION NOW! Ask your Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the bill!

Jenny Yang is Director of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. Jenny has provide the information in these posts to people how have signed up for advocacy updates on World Relief’s Advocacy website. She is also co-author with Matthew Soerens of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate. 

World Relief Refugee and Immigration Advocacy Update June 2, 2011-Funding Update

FY11 FUNDING UPDATE + FY12 FUNDING ADVOCACY

The FY11 budget deal was approved as HR.1473 on April 15th, and refugee accounts were not substantially cut! We came out amazingly well. We actually got an INCREASE in funding relative to fiscal year 2010 (if you don't include the FY '10 Supplemental or the across-the-board cuts).  And we only took a $25 million hit in the ORR account, which we would have had anyway because they had "rollover" money from the prior year.  The across-the-board cuts only amounted to a .2 percent cut. Attached is a more detailed analysis, as well as the entire bill, and a summary is below:

  • The Migration and Refugee Assistance (MRA) account, which funds the R&P grant and overseas assistance to refugees, was funded at $1.69 billion, $160 million less than the total amount appropriated in FY10.  While this is technically a cut, this is a victory for refugee advocates, as the House had proposed a $827 million decrease in funding, and the overall reduction was only a 0.2% cut. Overall this is very good. MRA is lower than the level enacted in FY10 ($1.85 billion, which includes supplemental funding) but higher than the President’s request.
  • ORR was also spared drastic cuts—the bill only rescinds $25 million in unspent ORR funds (mainly from state reimbursement of cash and medical costs and the unaccompanied alien children program), but the House had proposed rescinding $77 million in unspent funds from ORR, so again, this is a victory for refugee advocates.
  • The International Disaster Assistance account was funded at $863 million, which is lower than what was available last year ($1.3 billion – which includes a big supplemental for Haiti), but actually higher than the president’s request. On ORR we are pleased that no funds were cut and they were able to keep some of the funds that were unspent.

  While we avoided massive cuts to the refugee program for Fiscal Year 2011, that's only until the end of September this year. Congress is already working on an appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2012, and many members are proposing drastic cuts, even more drastic than we faced this year, for 2012.

We are asking for FY12 funding for MRA at least at FY11 levels of $1.69 billion, and FY12 funding for ORR at $825 million, the President’s request.  Please continue to call your members of congress, urging them to support adequate funding for refugees in FY12. Keep a look out for additional advocacy alerts and materials as the FY12 process moves forward. 

 
TAKE ACTION NOW! Ask your Representatives and Senators to co-sponsor the bill!

Jenny Yang is Director of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. Jenny has provide the information in these posts to people how have signed up for advocacy updates on World Relief’s Advocacy website. She is also co-author with Matthew Soerens of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.

World Relief Refugee and Immigration Advocacy Update Undocumented.tv

This information is provided by World Relief's Policy and Advocacy Director, Jenny Yang.

 Our video campaign and blog at Undocumented.TV continues strong today.  The blog is updated weekly with various authors writing about immigration as it relates to hot topics of the day.  Our most popular blog posts include:


 You can watch the award winning short film A New Dream on Undocumented.tv/watch and participate in a discussion forum there.

Jenny Yang is Director of Advocacy and Policy at World Relief. Jenny has provide the information in these posts to people how have signed up for advocacy updates on World Relief’s Advocacy website. She is also co-author with Matthew Soerens of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.