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.”