Wednesday, April 28, 2010

"This is...borderlands"

Professor Carlos Cardoza-Orlandi made this statement during a lecture, in his classic intonation, very matter of fact yet "it's obvious can't you see?" way referencing changing social landscape in the state of Georgia. His main concern was that people who are part of the dominant culture recognize changes to cultural norms take place due to an influx of people who represent different cultures and values. Because of this subtle or dramatic exchange, such as a processional honoring La Virgen de Guadalupe on December 12 in a north Florida town, the landscape on which we sit changes.  Borderlands are both metaphorical and literal. Metaphorical in that they exist wherever there is an exchange of cultural ideas, literal in the since that there are real geo-political sites called borders between nations. In any "borderlands" area, there will be a variety of reactions to the changes: some will embrace these changes, others ignore them, still others reject them.

Arizona is both a metaphorical and literal borderlands. And it seems that the reaction has been strong. SB 1070 reflects a desperate attempt to prevent a borderland state from becoming borderlands. The outcome is unpredictable. Will the federal government's hand be forced?  Does this violate human rights?  How does a police officer responsibly suspect that someone does not reside legally in his/her jurisdiction? How will those who do not reside legally be able to confidently report crimes in their neighborhoods if they fear deportation? Will there be a mass exit of undocumented immigrants from Arizona? I saw a vehicle with what looked to be a latino family inside, passing through a mostly immigrant neighborhood with Arizona plates on it...I couldn't help but wonder: relocation?
What will happen to the economy in Arizona?

I think Stephen Colbert brilliantly analyzes the new Arizona law in this take:"No Problemo".

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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I was asked to engage this topic by a friend (US Citizen) who resides in Mexico. His Mexicans friends say the legislation is bien racista. Here was my response:

I echo Chuks [one of the people who commented]: "I don't see how this law helps anyone."

I'm on the City of Santa Fe's Immigration Committee, and we advise the mayor on immigration issues. About 3 months ago we put forth a policy that would require that our city officers would be trained in not profiling when enforcing the law, and there now exists a form by which people can submit complaints to the city if they feel they have been subjected to biased based profiling (there are more than just race/ ethicity categories). Yesterday, I did a wedding at the church and a city police officer was part of the wedding party. I asked him about the bill and Arizona, and he said it would put him in a compromising situation, and I asked him about the policy we passed, and he said he thought it was good. He said that it was important for residents, regardless of immigration status, can trust the police officers so that they will more readily report crimes they may witness in the city.

Today in church, one of my elders, whose last name is Chavez and is third generation immigrant, was not happy about this bill. He saw it as a threat to him and his identity; and that if he lived in Arizona, he would be tempted to stand on a corner and call enforcement officers over to him and check his papers. He was very concerned for the people of color in Arizona, particularly those who are citizens, but will be subject to potential profiling because of this new law. But, he was also concerned for those who would be subject to deportation. He is aware of the reality that children often times come home from school and their parents aren't there because they have been deported.

Ironically, coincidentally, I was at a faith based immigration conference in Phoenix the week the bill was passed in the AZ senate. Collectively, we were not at all pleased with it's passage. Rather than hosting a vigil or some other kind of public demonstration to call awareness to not only the problematic nature of the bill, but also to voice the faith of a people who try to take God at God's word: "The alien who resides among you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:34 )". We did not publicly demonstrate, as it would have put undocumented (a technical legal category unlike "illegal") participants in a compromising situation. Instead we composed and signed a letter to President Obama, Secretary Napolitano, and Gov. Brewer. Read it here (if it is still posted on the home page; if not it is also copied below). One statement from the letter: "It is legislation such as this [SB 1070] that codifies racial profiling and creates an atmosphere of suspicion, hatred, and scapegoating of immigrants and U.S citizens."

In response to the consensus of Mexican friends who say it's bien racista. Look at the history of what people groups have immigrated to this country en mass and what immigration laws were passed during those periods and you will find evidence to support your Mexican friends. (end response)
Theologically speaking, immigration is a symptom of human restlessness to seek satisfaction and joy in life. We want more opportunity, better healthy, more wealth, freedom. We become dissatisfied with our current situations and think that change will bring that which we are longing for. The search for peace in life must come from inner peace, as there will always be dissatisfaction with the external. But, the external satisfactions we do experience can help mask or curb some of the inner disturbances we experience.  Even as I am seduced and confined by materialism, I fear that people are drawn to more things and for this reason emigrate. Of course there are elements of freedom and a sense of opportunity that come along with the decision to emigrate: a desire to be challenged, opportunities to grow and flourish.  And these simply may not exist in one's place of birth.  But, my concern is that an immigrant may be exploited to support an economy founded upon slavery, especially when there laws in place that would deny rights; sustaining a way of life (the american dream) that is not sustainable. Immigrants may become enslaved to materialism. I also witness the struggle of second generation immigrants who are seduced by a culture of violence, crime, and drugs as they search for identity and meaning. However, the decisions that one makes to emigrate and the consequences that come with that are for him/ her to decide and live with.

My response as a Christian, from what I believe scripture says is to welcome the immigrant ("I was a stranger and you invited me in" (Mt 25:35); to love the immigrant who lives in my city ("love your neighbor as yourself" Mark 12:31); and apply the same laws and protection to an immigrant as to a citizen (Leviticus 19:34 quoted above)-Perhaps in this day, if it is difficult to recall the slavery in Egypt experience (4000 years ago) we could substitute, for you were once aliens/immigrants in the land of many of us can trace or ancestry in this country to a story of immigration? As a follower of Christ, I will strive to treat others with dignity.

April 20, 2010

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama, Secretary Janet Napolitano, Governor Jan Brewer, and
all elected officials

On April 15th, a group of Christians from both sides of the U.S./ Mexico border gathered in Phoenix, Arizona to celebrate our unity in faith, to confront the figurative and literal borders that divide us, and to proclaim that Jesus is our peace who breaks down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14). We gathered together as brothers and sisters of faith in a time in which the current United States immigration and border enforcement policies are broken and create division, fear, and insecurity in our communities and between our nations.

We support the effort of law enforcement to apprehend those individuals involved in human and drug trafficking. However, we are outraged by some of the tactics implemented in these efforts. We are particularly alarmed by the deployment of large numbers of armed ICE agents, the use of ski masks and the association of immigration enforcement with the police.

Instead of restoring order and a sense of safety, these raids create a climate of fear and instability and erode the trust between immigrant communities and local law enforcement. We are profoundly disturbed by the passage of one of the harshest anti-immigrant legislation in the country by the Arizona Legislature. We know that Arizona is not alone in these efforts that do not take in to account the complex reasons for migration and instead attempt to criminalize a class of people. It is legislation such as this that codifies racial profiling and creates an atmosphere of suspicion, hatred, and scapegoating of immigrants and U.S citizens.

We celebrate the diversity of our nation and the contribution of immigrants and call for the end of the criminalization of individuals and the destabilization of our communities.

We call for Comprehensive Immigration Reform that will provide a path for legalization for people who are contributing to our society, an adequate system for future legal economic immigration and family reunification, and policies that prevent deaths in the desert. We find it morally reprehensible that 5500 men, women and children have lost their lives in the last 16 years trying to provide a life of dignity for their families. Current immigration policy diminishes the ability of law enforcement to apprehend violent criminals and protect our communities. We believe that, by allowing for the orderly flow of law abiding persons through ports of entry, law enforcement agencies will be able to focus their efforts on apprehending those engaged in the trafficking of drugs, guns and human beings.

As people of faith and conscience rooted in the teaching of Jesus Christ we find ourselves compelled to speak out and act in accordance with our faith which affirms the call “to unmask idolatries in Church and culture, to hear the voices of people long silenced, and to work with others for justice, freedom and peace” (Brief Statement of Faith, Presbyterian Church (USA) for all of God’s children.

Signed by me and some 100 other participants in the Crossing Borders conference.


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  2. Nothing to say that ain't been said. I did especially enjoy Carlos' sermon which I guess was the only thing you did not write.
    I bet you could get a Mexican to do your blog for far less than you do.
    On a related note, I was doing my Census work in multifamily, heavy immigrant, 65% undocumented, and I didn't have one person refuse to help me complete their Census, one guy was so proud that he had it all written on a notepad because he knew that he was going to get counted; two people invited me in for some a/c and water. I get back to the meeting and I hear horror stories about good Americans who think that the Census is some kind of Obama scam (not realizing of course that it was people like Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin who started the Census and that it is in the Constitution of the USA). Threating, door slamming, cursing, etc.... How funny that is, there is like 25% of the people who have the priveledge don't want the responsibility and you have 100% of the people who are persecuted who desire to do what they can to improve the community. Well that is how I see it.

    Keep up the good work and stay of the orange keypad.