Segregated Churches and Immigration
The immigration debate is an opportunity we can't afford to waste.

The national debate (or is it an argument?) about immigration has provided a huge opportunity for churches to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel to an anxious country. However, rather than responding with courage and grace, many of us have either kept silent or responded in fear, nervous about an unknown future. Three recent stories reveal the weight of this cultural moment and show why churches need to engage the issue with increased wisdom, mercy, and justice.

On April 23, Arizona governor Jan Brewer signed into law the broadest anti-illegal immigration legislation in the country. The legislation has been celebrated by some and strongly opposed by others, because it instructs police to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally.

Also in April, Alabama gubernatorial candidate Tim James released a television ad that quickly propelled him from YouTube sensation to a guest on The O'Reilly Factor. The ad promises to administer driver's license exams only in English. "This is Alabama, we speak English," the candidate says. "If you want to live here, learn it." James claims his ad is not about immigration, but many are wondering who the "you" in the ad is if not non-English speaking immigrants.

Finally, on May Day, thousands of people—50,000 in LA, 25,000 in Dallas, and 10,000 in Chicago—gathered for rallies and marches calling for comprehensive immigration reform. Protestors carried signs like, "Fight Ignorance, Not Immigrants," "I am not an alien," and "Reform Not Raids." Many of these protestors know well the hazards of even appearing to be an undocumented immigrant in America these days.

As the percentage of non-white people in America continues to grow, stories like these will only become more common. Many people accustomed to life in the majority are looking for ways to protect their "values" and "way of life." Their reactions have been exceedingly painful and personal for many immigrants.

In a recent Time article, "The White Anxiety Crisis," Gregory Rodriquez traces this current fearful upheaval to America's history of privileging some and oppressing others based on race and ethnicity.

As much as Americans pride themselves on the notion that their national identity is premised on a set of ideals rather than a single race, ethnicity or religion, we all know that for most of our history, white supremacy was the law of the land. In every naturalization act from 1790 to 1952, Congress included language stating that the aspiring citizen should be a "white person." And not surprisingly, despite the extraordinary progress of the past 50 years, the sense of white proprietorship—"this is our country and our culture"—still has not been completely eradicated.
May 13, 2010

Displaying 1–10 of 31 comments

Melody

May 29, 2010  12:10pm

The real phenomenon here is the contempt so many white people have for their own culture while they strenuously hold sacred the culture of others, all the while people of other cultures flock to the United States to access the white culture.

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sgillesp

May 24, 2010  10:35am

Actually, it was my impression that the article was not just about Arizona's law but the "white anxiety crisis" - the fear/defensiveness some feel because our culture is changing around us. Speaking as a white person to other white followers of Jesus, apart from discussing Arizona's law, let's confront this problem: there is lament in it for 'white' people - there is a culture that felt comfortable for us that is passing away, like it or not. But as believers in Jesus, we must by faith accept that we have died, and our real lives are hidden in Christ - Col. 3 - and therefore we are not available to defend 'white culture' or any of that. We belong to Jesus and we are recruited to defend the kingdom of God, where our siblings are people from every tribe, tongue and nation - so after we've faced up to the sadness, we have to rebuke our fear and defensiveness, and get busy loving others in whatever culture emerges. This is a heart change, and a submission to obedience. That says nothing about Arizona's law or anything else...yet. But how we respond to any issue needs to be carefully examined to be sure that fear and defensiveness as white people has been defanged, because that is not Christ.

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still

May 24, 2010  3:18am

AMNESTY WON'T UNDERMINE THE RULE OF LAW Google "this is a nation of laws," and you'll find a thousand online Cassandras warning that our failure to prosecute illegals is an invitation to anarchy. They are right about the U.S. being a nation of laws. But our legal system is not a house of cards, one flick away from collapse. U.S. jurisprudence has in fact always been a series of hedged bets, weighing the potential harm of a violation against the costs of enforcement. That's why people get arrested for assault but not for jaywalking. It's time to think seriously about exactly where the act of illegal immigration lies in the spectrum of criminality. Consider the complicity of U.S. employers ranging from multinational corporations to suburbanites looking for gardeners. Factor in the mixed signals that lax law enforcement sent to would-be immigrants throughout '80s and '90s, and the crime should rank as a misdemeanor, not a felony. Even if we step up border enforcement in the future - as we should - it is true that for a long time, crossing the Rio Grande was akin more to jaywalking than breaking and entering. Sure, there is a very real national-security threat in having a porous border. But a large - if unquantifiable - percentage of the people crossing that line illegally are not newcomers but rather people who have already established lives in the U.S. and would qualify for amnesty. If they were legalized and free to circulate, we could concentrate on the serious criminals and terrorists crossing the border, not a worker going back to his family. In Beardstown, amnesty would also help authorities tackle crime. Right now, they spend a lot of their energy sorting out who is who in the community because illegals present local police with a bewildering maze of identities. The illegals of Beardstown work under one name and go to church under another. Parents give their kindergartners fake names to use in school. "We are absolutely unable to identify our own people," says Walters. It sounds counter-intuitive, but with immigration, forgiving a crime may be the best way to restore law and order. Read more: http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1630168-2,00.html#ixzz0opdHcB9D

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Frank

May 23, 2010  8:43am

If Christianity is going to encourage lawbreaking... count me out.

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R.

May 19, 2010  5:17pm

R. Hernandez– David used to live in S. Cal. I knew him then. He HAS lived in immigrant central. Plus, Chicago has a huge illegal immigrant population, ranking 4th of all states in the U.S. Don't dismiss David's analysis based on your perceptions of his background.

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Melody

May 19, 2010  4:09pm

KALAMAZOO — "The White House appears to be laying the groundwork for President Barack Obama to shake the hand of each senior at Kalamazoo Central High School's commencement ceremony next month. Seniors are being asked to provide their birthdates, Social Security numbers and citizen status to the Secret Service so background checks could be performed. Such a check is required for anyone who gets within an arm's length of the president, students were told at their senior breakfast Friday." - mlivedotcom Unfortunately any graduating senior who is unable to provide such documentation would miss their own high school graduation because of Barak Obama. This seems rather racist and unfair and very Arizona. Maybe we should boycott Kalamazoo.

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Melody

May 19, 2010  4:05pm

From this website: http://www.mlive.com/news/kalamazoo/index.ssf/2010/05/obama_may_personally_greet_eac.html "The White House appears to be laying the groundwork for President Barack Obama to shake the hand of each senior at Kalamazoo Central High School's commencement ceremony next month. Seniors are being asked to provide their birthdates, Social Security numbers and citizen status to the Secret Service so background checks could be performed. Such a check is required for anyone who gets within an arm's length of the president, students were told at their senior breakfast Friday." I guess that this would discriminate against any graduating senior who would be unable to provide such documentation. They would have to miss their own high school graduation because of Barak Obama. That seems really racist and unamerican.

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still

May 19, 2010  3:54am

"I hope we will look back on these days as the time when the fear-defying Gospel of Jesus was exhibited to immigrants and skeptics alike." What would Jesus say? LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR BY BEING A GOOD NEIGHBOR. How? Jesus would tell a story. _________________________________ "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. "A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. "But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. "'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.'" Luke 10:30-35 _________________________________ The man was an illegal immigrant. No ID. No SS number. No notarized reference of good character. No name. He fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of a life of dignity, beat down his status in society, and went away, leaving him with marred image as beloved child of God. WHEN YOU SAW HIM, YOU TOOK PITY ON HIM. You knew the life back there had gotten so worn to a thread for him to leave painfully behind his own home and family. You knew he worked like a horse plodding the hundreds of miles across an utterly unknown territory - running away from road violence, hiding from police corruption, walking in fear, loneliness, exhaustion, sorrow, cold, heat, diarrhea, thirst, hunger - before he got ultimately to his journey's fateful end. You knew not everyone had the energy to go on. Even faith in Jesus, the Virgin Mary, or the Streets of Gold - broke down sooner or later. Many, like him, foundered at the border...who simply ran out of strength. If North America does not want them, Tijuana wants them even less. They become outcasts of an outcast region.(Luis Alberto Urrea's "Across The Wire") YOU WENT TO HIM AND BANDAGED HIS WOUNDS of his traumatic life, POURING ON OIL of compassion AND WINE of generosity. YOU'RE AWARE OF YOUR TAKING THE RISK AT SUCH DANGEROUS PLACE. But you also knew that he was not with the "bad" guys. You're not referring the "bad" guys to those power-trippers-of-fundamentalist-religion-gone-bad type. Nor to those American-haters-whose-fundamentalist-nature-is-to-hate-us-no-matter-what type. Nor to those jealous-over-our-success-and-wealth type. But the real "bad" guys are those who still keep the hardcore memory alive of "the way Britain and France took over the Middle East after World War I, carving out a set of countries from what had previously been a single Arab world and backing local elites who agreed to sell oil to the West at cheap rates in exchange for being allowed to run dictatorial regimes at home...[of] how the United States took over major responsibility for maintaining this kind of relationship after World War II and overthrow the democratically elected government in Iran to set up the Shah..." (Michael Lerner's "The Left Hand of God") You knew the man was too namby-pamby to be with the real "bad" guys who are motivated by genuine outrage at the destructive role of the G-8 countries in global politics. YOU FOOTED THE BILL OF HIS MEDICAL CARE. You mulled over the inanity of the bill face to face with the total loss of staggering $427 Billion in market value of WorldCom, Tyco, Qwest, Enron, and Global Crossing. The bloated dough could fund the United Nations for the next 263 years and still have $165 billion left over for unforeseen famine relief and peacekeeping missions, get Argentina back on its feet by paying off its external debt three times over, give $356 to every man, woman, a

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R Hernandez

May 18, 2010  4:23pm

David, I seriously think you need to live in San Diego, Phoenix or Houston before you judge the Christians who are in favor of stronger immigration laws as unloving. The article is very loving toward illegal immigrants but lacks love and understanding toward Christians who truly deal with this issue. It lacks empathy for the very real issues caused by illegal immigration. And that is the key! The issue is between legal immigration and illegal. ...not race or ethnicity. San Diego has a huge Spanish speaking culture within the churches. The vast majority of churches are culturally diverse. Loving and welcoming ethnic diversity is not the issue...drugs, violence, sex trafficking and incredible tax payer expense is the issue. I think it is unfair to play the "love" card to these Christians who deal with this issue on a daily basis. I would like to hear from someone who faces this issue in their church in El Centro or El Paso or Phoenix. Not Chicago...I do love you though.

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Bill Williams

May 18, 2010  3:00pm

Amazing...I've never seen a group of people more "expert" at judging the motives and thoughts of others whom they have never met. It honestly depresses me as a Christian. And Sheerakahn, if you're still reading these comments, in the past I have agreed with some of your points of view, but often been saddened by the harshness of your tone. But your sarcasm, blanket accusations of racism, and unwillingness to recognize that those who believe differently than you do may just have a valid point, that you have expressed in the comments to this post–I don't even know what to say. I don't know you, and I definitely don't want to be judgmental, because I'm sure in person you are a decent person, and I know the sins that are in my own heart. But I just plead with you as a brother in Christ that you examine yourself. I say this to ALL of us. The debate on this post has been no more loving and gracious than the debate on the cable news shows. For a forum with people who are disciples of Christ, that just isn't possible!

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