Monday, July 18, 2011

Guest post: Blame me by Juan Martinez

In June Senator John McCain (R-AZ) blamed undocumented people who happen to pass through Arizona for starting one of the fires that burned thousands of acres in Arizona and New Mexico and are now threatening to cross the border into Sonora, Mexico. According to McCain if the borders were more secure there would be fewer fires in that area. (The only thing left for him to blame on undocumented people are the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

This accusation–and others like it–demonstrates the tendency to make marginalized people scapegoats. This tendency of blaming other people has been common in the United States throughout its history. Blame is now focused on undocumented people who are mainly Latino. According to some right wing pundits, Latino undocumented people are the cause of unemployment, mediocre education and health services, criminal activity, and even deficits in state and federal budgets.

These accusations are so easy because no one contradicts the madness. Undocumented people cannot defend themselves, and many of the rest of us choose to keep silent in the face of these accusations. It is time for us to have the courage to stand up and challenge what is clearly false and unjust.

Even on the outside possibility that some undocumented person accidentally started a fire, the problem of wildfires in Arizona cannot possibly be fixed with by closing the border, as an accidental fire can be started by any one of us, even Senator McCain himself.

It is time for us as Christian leaders to speak with force and clarity against this type of inflammatory rhetoric. We must address the issue of undocumented people. But to blame them for every bad thing that happens to this group of immigrants only moves us further away from responding to the serious problems that our country faces.

Unless undocumented people are responsible for the rise of the price of oil or problems with the social security system…

Dr. Juan Martinez is the Associate Dean for the Centro para el Estudio de Iglesia y Comunidad Latina (Center for the Study of Hispanic Church and Community) and Associate Professor of Hispanic Studies and Pastoral Leadership, School of Theology. His education includes an MDiv from Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary and ThM and PhD from Fuller Theological Seminary.  Cross posted from Caminando con el Pueblo   in Spanish. Post here with permission of the author. Translated by Glen Peterson

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, July 13, 2011

Seven DREAMers Arrested in San Bernardino

ICE Threatens Deportation of Seven Undocumented Youth Arrested at Protest
Pasadena, CA – Earlier this morning the seven undocumented youth arrested at a sit-in near the San Bernardino Valley College yesterday were all released.  The seven rallied earlier in the day asking local police to stop cooperating with ICE programs.  Jonathan Perez, one of the youth arrested stated: “We are coming out of the shadows to protest programs that target undocumented people, programs like 287(g) and Secure Communities.  Local police should not be enforcing or collaborating with ICE, it creates a mistrust in the community and it needs to stop right now.” After sharing their testimonies the youth staged a sit-in, with over 200 supporters surrounding them, the 7 youth were arrested.

“We spent much of the night in booking, at one point ICE came in and interviewed us.  We thought we were going to get detained like most undocumented people who go through these jails, however we were not detained for some reason,” said Martha Vazquez, 22. ICE authorities threatened they may still get involved.

 Ju Hong, 21, one of the seven, risked arrest in an effort to empower his community, “I took action because I want to encourage all Asian American undocumented youth to come out of shadows and fight. In this critical time, we must stand united and continue to take a risk in order to push for the fair and humane immigration reform to our community.”  More about his story, a senator elect to the Cal Berkley Associated Students is in the Daily Californian

Two of these students, Jonathan Perez and Martha Vasquez, was part of the delegation that went to California Senator Ron Calderon's office  on July 6th, 2011 to talk about the concerns we all have about enforcement without any concern for a path to normalized immigration status. I posted about that experience here. Another DREAMer that I met in Pasadena a while back, Isaac Barrera was arrested. I am using his photo below. 

More information about the action at San Bernardino Community College is in the Redlands Daily here.

Some of the students are holding a press conference announcing future plans of arrested youth at Pasadena Community College on July 14, 2001 at 12 noon in front of campus by the fountain. 

Information from this story was found in the news articles that are linked above and from a press release from the San Gabriel Valley DREAM Team.  

Putting faith into action to support the DREAMact

From July 12, 2011

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] -- Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) and more than a dozen religious leaders representing a broad variety of faith traditions, today announced a DREAM Act Sabbath -- an initiative enlisting churches, synagogues, and mosques around the country to dedicate time during their regular weekly worship service to a conversation about the DREAM Act. The nationwide event will talk place this fall on September 23rd, September 24th, and September 25th.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Immigrants and faith leaders speak out about immigration reform

Faith leaders and immigrants in California speak out about the need for immigration reform. Check out what some of our friends say about the current immigration situation and the need for reform. The voices for immigration reform come from many different perspectives and Christian traditions in Los Angeles and Orange County. How will you respond when you read the Bible and God's concern for the stranger, the sojourner, the immigrant?

This video is from one of the Loving the Stranger Network partners, Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice--Orange County (CLUEOC)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Guest Post: The Right to Wander, A Pastor Plants a Flag, by David Housholder

I’m going to plant a flag on this issue.

Please hear me, I respect the opposing view. I just don’t share it.

The truth is, God gave the whole earth to the human race and told us to go forth, be fruitful, and multiply.

Even when he gave Israel to the children of Jacob, he warned them to treat the foreigners nicely; that they would be evaluated, as a nation, by their hospitality toward them. All through the Old Testament stories, there are prominent foreigners sharing the lives of Israelites (e.g. Uriah the Hittite) at a high level.

I have Scandinavian heritage, and you have the right, in my ancestral homeland (the Swedes call it “Allemansrätten”), to wander across anyone’s property, as long as you respect their privacy and leave everything the way you found it. And you can camp for free on anyone’s land, as long as you don’t disturb anyone or make noise, for up to two nights.

I believe in the right of every peaceful man or woman on Earth to be able, unhindered, to:
  • Travel anywhere on planet Earth he or she can afford to visit. As long as you pay your way and are not a burden.
  • Seek and take gainful and respectful employment anywhere it is legitimately offered.
I don’t believe in gated communities.

I don’t believe in national fences that keep people in (Berlin Wall) or keep people out (Mexican border at Tijuana).

All God’s people have access to all God’s world.

People of Western/Northern European ancestry have no greater right to staying in my California county than people of Latino ancestry.

And I believe that a mobile population is good for the economy. Anytime free labor can find its way to free capital, there is prosperity for all. That’s the free-market libertarian in me, talking.

Mobility is a basic human right.

The big question is: Do you see people as an asset or a liabilty?

Sure there are people who are one or the other. But on balance, how do you see the human race?

America was founded on the idea that people are, on the whole (and with some exceptions), an asset. Look at the Statue of Liberty. We saw the “huddled masses” of peasant Europe as an amazing asset. They built the farms that now feed us. Their blood now runs through our veins…

Overpopulation is a total myth. Europe and Russia are starting to decline in population. Most of America is empty (every spend much time looking down out of the window seat?). Our rural areas are depopulating. Detroit has thousands of acres of emptiness and some of it is returning to native forest. Sure there are areas of overcrowding, but Anglo North America could easily handle two billion people. (Currently 350 million). Our biggest challengers in this new century will be China and India, because they are blessed to have more people. More workers. More ideas.

We have to re-think transportation and energy–but that’s been done before and we can do it again.

People are not bad for the earth. People are beautiful and creative. We are the crown of creation. Made in the image of God.

I live in California. We are so blessed to have hard-working Latino and Asian immigrants in our midst. They have, together with us, built this state. I have driven all over our great state for the past ten years, and most of it is….empty. There is room for all–especially those willing to work.

You can’t have free markets (and I’m a free market guy) without freely mobile labor. We can’t put a fence around America.

My wealthiest California friends say “Unless we let inexpensive labor connect with our abundant domestic capital, we may as well ship all of our manufacturing to China.” Sobering.

Fences just accumulate and build up tensions, artificially. It’s where weapons tend to congregate. The barbed wire fence across Korea is a source of great tension right now.

Truth is, fences don’t work anyway. The Great Wall of China was a colossal failure. And the “Iron” Curtain rusted in one generation. Walls will always be breached, just like in medieval warfare.

Eventually, European towns just quit building them because they were ineffective.
We have to learn to live together. It won’t be easy. There will be huge challenges.
We may have to get rid of the welfare state altogether to make for a workable world.
But building more fences is not the answer.

They won’t last.

They won’t work.

This article was originally posted on David Housholder’s Journal on December 29, 2010, cross-posted here with permission of the author. David Housholder is teaching pastor at Robinwood Church in Huntington Beach California. He finds his spiritual and cultural roots as Norwegian-American Lutheran and now considers pentecostals to be his tribe. He is the author of  The Blackberry Bush (Summerside Press, 2011) that deals with immigration. He does not like to wear shoes when he preaches, and believes socks were a really bad invention. He moved to California mostly to get away from socks.

We append the following disclaimer on all guest blogs: “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, July 7, 2011

Guest Post: 25 Hour Adventure to Mexico by Keturah Kennedy

Sometimes I wouldn’t believe my own stories if I hadn’t lived them.

One week ago I left an “American” 18 year old in Mexico.

Gio was on a bus to the Palm Desert when border patrol picked him up in Indio, CA. His bus was boarded and the riders were asked to prove their citizenship. Gio was brought to the US when he was 5 years old, attended California schools and for all intents and purposes was an American by everything except his papers. Gio is one of the best kids we’ve ever had come through our programs at Mika. He attended our after school program, has been mentored for the last five years and volunteered diligently tutoring elementary students through his last few years of high school. He currently attends Orange Coast College and helps support his family as the man of the house.

Last Friday when border patrol boarded his bus as he was headed to visit a friend, he was asked to produce his papers and he was detained when he couldn’t prove his citizenship. After he was intimidated and coerced to sign a voluntary departure form he was deported to a country he didn’t know at 3 o’clock in the morning. He was alone and scared.

At 3pm on Friday afternoon, myself and 3 other people drove to Mexico to help get Gio from Mexicali to Tijuana to a safe home where he could stay until further arrangements could be made. What was intended to be a 10 hour trip turned into a 25 hour adventure that included wondering the streets of Tijuana at midnight and diligently pursuing a safe place for Gio to reside.

I wish I could say everything turned out alright and everything is ok. But what is ok in this situation? I left one of my favorite kids in Mexico while I got to drive back across the border and show his mother the pictures from our journey. Everything Gio knows about Mexico he learned from the movies. Everything he knows about life took place in Orange County, California. I want to believe that the government is interested in deporting criminals and those at danger to our society and yet my experience of walking with undocumented teenagers tells me otherwise.

When will we as the people of God say enough is enough. Worshiping on Sunday morning was difficult in light of the fact that I left a child of God in a country that he didn’t know as home, and yet as a believer I have to trust that my God is greater and has a plan beyond what I can see right now.

This was originally posted by Keturah Kennedy on May 26, 2011 her own blog, Before I'm 30… as 25 Hour Adventure to Mexico. Keturah loves her city of Costa Mesa. She has a passion for participating in God’s Kingdom work in her city and uses her gifts in organizational development as Mika Community Development’s Director of Operations.

We append the following disclaimer on all guest blogs: “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, July 6, 2011

California Legislative Visit Senator Ron Calderon

Ten of us in California Senate District 30 visited California Senator Ron S. Calderon's office in Montebello, CA this afternoon to talk about AB 1236 and learn more about the legislative process in California. Our group of ten people included Jonathan and Martha from the San Gabriel Valley DREAM Team;  retired United Methodist Pastor from Whittier, Bill Miller; Maria, Fernando (going into the eighth grade) and Marta from Bell and Adriana Diaz Ordaz from COFEM; and Carl from the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA).

Our concern is that any increase in enforcement such as E-verify program that is full of errors, without any change in the law to allow hard working people a path to get resident and/or citizen status will have a negative effect on business, on people seeking jobs, and the community as a whole. We asked the Senator's staff to ask Senator Calderon to support AB 1236 which will limit the use of the flawed system in California. In the past, Senator Calderon voted in favor of similar legislation. My sources told me before the meeting that the Senator's legislative director is recommending he vote in favor of this bill. The staffer in the office today was unable to say with certainty that the Senator would in fact vote for it.

Kristine from the California Immigration Policy Center helped with the technical details and briefed us on the negative impact of e-verify program and why AB 1236 is a positive thing for California, for business and our communities.  Follow the links here to learn more about this issue.

A letter to my senator, Ron S. Calderon after the break. Adapt the information in this letter for your own California Senator and Assemblymember. 

Guest Post: What is a U. S. Person?

This is new one on me.  Last week I had to certify under penalty of perjury; that “I am a U.S. Person.”  We were signing some financial documents and on the page where you give your social security information there was the new phrase “U.S. Person.”

A United States Person is defined variously by different government agencies. The gist of it is that if you are a citizen, a legal resident alien or a corporation formed under US law you are a U.S. Person.  Some implications of being a U.S. Person are:
·      The NSA is not supposed to spy on a US Person without a court’s permission. 
·      The IRS has permission to tax US Persons. 
·      You don’t have to live in the USA to be a United States Person. 
·      You don’t have to be a person to be a United States Person. You can be a corporation or a group.
Since we had to invent United States Person to keep everyone in nice neat categories I suggest that our rules are too complicated.
U.S. Person appears to be a term invented to fill up the space between those who are not subject to US law, taxes and constitutional protections (Foreigners) on the one side and those who clearly are (US Citizens and resident aliens) on the other extreme.  US Person includes trusts, partnerships and corporations that are formed under US law.  It doesn’t seem to include foreign investors doing business in the US who don’t have permanent resident visas and it doesn’t include persons living in the US who don’t have green cards.
As a service I have below the fold included several US Government agencies definitions of U.S.Person and links.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guest Post: A Pulitzer Prize Winner and the Dream Act

Last month José Antonio Vargas, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, revealed that he is an undocumented immigrant. One can read about his journey in countless stories on the internet or watch an interview. He came from the Philippines when he was 12 and did not find out until several years later that he did not have proper documentation. From a very poor family, his mother sent him to live with his grandparents in San Francisco in order to have a better life. He has lived all these years with incorrect documents, but he has made quite a career for himself. In the interview he talks about the constant fears and contradictions of living without proper papers.

Last week Senator Durbin of Illinois again brought the Dream Act before Congress. This is another chance for legislators to do justice for the hundreds of thousands of high schoolers who are here without legal status. They came when they were small and have finished their studies. This is a whole generation with potential that could contribute to the country in so many ways. Vargas is a sterling example.

Those who speak against it say that these kids take jobs away from young citizens. Perhaps this is so in the very short term, but the longer view is that they will generate jobs and move the market forward, as well as become full-tax paying participants in the economy. Another argument is that this will encourage illegal immigration. Really? How does waiting years and years for a chance to enter a legal process that itself will take years encourage immigration? What kind of ‘plan’ is that?! The Dream Act is for those who are already here and who meet certain qualifications. In no way is it an open door policy. Others say that U.S. kids have to pay out-of-state tuition if they come in from elsewhere. The fallacy of that argument is that these kids have been living where they are for years. A U.S. citizen can move to a new state and get residency in another state usually in a year. If a U.S. citizen were living as long as they had in a state, they would pay in-state tuition.

None of these kinds of arguments against the Dream Act are moral, let alone biblical. They are misinformed perspectives about the contents of the bill and actual immigration patterns and motivations, and they are designed to raise the emotional quotient.

As Christians, we need to focus the discussions on the biblical value of people and the mandate to love the neighbor (even our enemies!). How many more José Antonio Vargases are there? How much energy could they generate for the common good!

M. Daniel Carroll Rodas, who celebrates his heritage from both Guatemala and the United States, joined the faculty of Denver Seminary in 1996. He currently is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament. He is the author of Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible. This article was originally posted on Danny's blog: Immigration and Other Matters hosted at Denver Seminary and is cross-posted here by permission of the author.

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.

Note: Jose Antonio Vargas has a website, Define American.

Prominent Immigrants Discuss U.S. Immigration Policy

"Segment on Immigration featuring George Will, Former Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL), Former DC Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, and journalist Jose Antonio Vargas on the July 3, 2011, edition of ABC's "This Week" program."

This demonstrates that people who disagree can have a civil conversation about immigration.

Thanks to Tweets from @MatthewSoerens and @MicEvHill

Friday, July 1, 2011

Life, Liberty, and The Pursuit of Happiness

The most famous part of the Declaration of Independence says that “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” are values so precious that they are worth more than our own personal wealth, security and even our lives.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

This text was adopted by the second continental Congress in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776 and we celebrate the 235th anniversary of its signing this weekend.

I believe the founders of this country believed that the “pursuit of happiness” included the ability to work and enjoy the result and to enjoy that in the community of other in a civil society with other created humans with equal rights and privilege to do the same.

The founders had not yet understood the full application of these words as they would continue to use the coerced labor of slaves and did not afford full rights, education or voting rights to anyone except white, land-owning, males. Our country has come a long way as it has abolished slavery, gives many rights including schooling to everyone within our borders and full suffrage for those 18 and older.

I hear the theme of pursuing happiness repeated, revived, and renewed when I hear the stories of my friends and neighbors who have risked their own lives by coming to the United States to pursue a better life for their own families, their children, and their children’s children. They have done this of their own will, sometimes with the previlege of doing so within the legal system that inadequately accounts for the number of workers our economy uses. And, other time outside of the legal system that refused to acknowledge the value of each individual being created in God’s image.

As a country we have further to go. Some people living, working, paying taxes and participating in other respects of our civil society are not afforded all of the rights that they should enjoy.

Our declaration goes on to say: “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed…” There are some clear consequences if we really believe this statement. If we believe that everyone should enjoy equal rights and treatment by virtue of our being created in the image of God and that governments derive their power only by consent of the governed and not based on the privilege of class or citizen status, then we have more work to do.  Should we not consider how we can more quickly and fully engage and empower people who are working and living in this country rather than have a class of working people who have fewer rights based on the accident of where they were born?

I believe that it imperative for the spiritual and moral foundation that our country is founded upon and made explicit in these words of the Declaration of Independence that we consider fundamental changes in our immigration system that will include legal status for as many people who are present within our borders who have agreed to pursue happiness by working hard and obeying the laws and caring for their families. We must abolish the current system that labels some workers as “illegal” and holds them out of the society that they are actually helping to build with their hard work laboring in fields, factories, and providing needed services to our citizens.

I hope and pray that during this congress, new laws that are compassionate, fair, and decent will be adopted. This should be the year that young people who grew up in this country and call themselves American and pledge allegiance to the flag will be allowed away to make their status right by the passage of legislation such as the DREAM Act. I call on congress to pass new laws. I call on the President of the United States, Barrack  Obama to lead on this issue and to sign the legislation into law. Let’s make it possible for all of us to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.