Posts Tagged ‘solidarity’

Civil Rights Opportunity of the Century

April 5, 2008

When Martin Luther King wrote his famous “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” he had in mind several prominent preachers, including Episcopal Bishop C.C. Jones Carpenter. When King wrote, “The ultimate tragedy of Birmingham was not the brutality of the bad people, but the silence of the good people,” he was envisioning these men of faith who had their hands on the levers of hundreds of thousands of consciences. While C.C. Jones Carpenter legalistically disagreed with King’s direct action strategies, he was in effect weighing in with support for the segregationists. One of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr‘s best friends, Bishop Will Scarlett, had attempted earlier to rouse Carpenter’s conscience for integration. Scarlett wrote that integration was “…in line with my suggestion years ago that the sight of the great Bishop of Alabama ridden out of his State on a rail because of courageous and enlightened speech, would be one of the greatest events of many years…I still think so: I think you have an opportunity of a hundred years.” (Parting the Waters, 742)

The Secure Fence Act of 2006 and the shockingly un-Constitutional waivers of 30 laws this past week in order to hasten the wall’s construction provide American citizens and residents the civil rights opportunity of the century. The Secretary of Homeland Security’s waiving of border citizens’ rights and due process is shocking in its blatant disregard for morality and basic human rights; however, we must not let this, the largest waiver so far in the construction of what would eventually be a 2,000-mile border wall, enervate us and cause us to falter.

No, this mass waiver and the thoughtlessness of the Secure Fence Act of 2006 must serve as a rallying cry to unite Americans and to call for real immigration reform with solidarity. I must admit that when I first heard of the waiver on Tuesday, I trembled with shock and disbelief. Having walked 126 miles with 300 people but a few weeks before in the No Border Wall Walk here in the Rio Grande Valley, I had felt we had made a difference. UTB Professor Eloisa Tamez’s case had been a partial victory, and the UTB decision on Wednesday, March 19, had made all activists and citizens begin to believe that perhaps the lines of dialogue were open and our leaders were willing to listen to reason and conscience. My hopes were jarred this April Fool’s Day 2008, but I have now come to understand that this is merely a call to action.

And so to oppose the foolhardiness of this Fool’s Day decision, people of faith must say to the fool there is a God and he is on the side of the stranger and the migrant. People of faith, from Baptists and Methodists to Mennonites and Lutherans and Quakers, from Catholics and Unitarians to Jews and Muslims and Buddhists – all these people of faith are united around the idea of protecting the sanctity of human life and defending the rights of immigrants. All people of faith must therefore unite in solidarity against a border wall which threatens the way of life and the basic human rights of the millions who live on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. People of faith must join in opposition against a double-layered, 18-foot wall which would be economically destructive, environmentally unconscionable, politically backward, socially devastating, and morally reprehensible. If we do not step up in this moment of opportunity, then Dr. King’s words from prison will ring true.

So often [the church] is an archdefender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church’s silent – and often even vocal – sanction of things as they are.

But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today’s church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century (Why We Can’t Wait, 92)

People of faith, and in fact all citizens, must come together today. The REAL ID ACT holds the potential to waive any number of laws in constructing a border wall. The Secure Fence Act of 2006 stands as a deterrent from positive immigration reform and a detriment to the border region, Mexico, and our entire nation of immigrants, both legal and extralegal. Please speak with your faith leader and urge them to adopt a strong resolution against the border wall. The Church is strongest when it is a check of the State, and our nation’s power imbalance must be righted by people of faith today. It is no longer our place to discuss whether or not this is a church issue or a moral dilemma – the time is ripe to do right right now.

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No Border Wall Walk- Day 1 or A Lesson in Solidarity

March 8, 2008

    No Border Wall Walk- Day 1

The pins were white with red sequins. A junior high-school student at Rivera High School made them to show the unity between the United States, Canada, and Mexico throughout the common colors of their flags. The pins were worn today by everyone walking the 14 miles from Roma to Rio Grande City, Texas. Overalls and cowboy shirts looked great with these ribbons sparkling on them. Button-downs and floppy fishermen hats looked unified with these ribbons flapping solidarity in the westerly wind.

The response from communities along the Rio Grande was phenomenal. With nary a permit, police forces from Roma and Rio Grande City escorted us as we left the scenic birding bluffs by the international bridge (a section of historic downtown and environmental treasure which would be cut off by the Secure Fence Act of 2006). The Rio Grande City police force crossed town lines in order to tell us they would be waiting just inside the city limits. For much of the march in their city, we had 3 police cars. Shutting down an entire lane of traffic through the gorgeous downtown district, cars were honking as the entire group chanted “We don’t need no border wall, we are people one and all” and “No al muro!” Every honk, every hand wave was interpreted as a positive gesture because we were intent on conveying a thoroughly nonviolent message in opposition to the border wall. As Titus 1:5 states, “To the pure all things are pure.”

After a long day of sunburn, calloused feet, tired eyes, and bloated bellies thanks to Father Amador and his wonderful welcome at Immaculate Conception Church, we sat down to discuss the purpose of our walk in terms of opposing the border wall and advocating for immigration. We came to realize that we are looking at a Rubik’s Cube, a single facet of a much larger immigration issue with global repercussions. We in the Rio Grande Valley are a pivot point for real immigration reform. This border wall, while it can be defeating and discouraging, is our golden opportunity to show the golden rule to those seeking the land with streets “paved with gold.” Esther 4:14 states, “…who knows but that you were have come to [this] position for such a time as this.” U.S. Congressman and former SNCC chairman John Lewis put it this way.

“…I began believing in what I call the Spirit of History. OtSmart Borders › Edit — WordPresshers might call it Fate. Or Destiny. Or a Guiding Hand. Whatever it is called, I came to believe that this force is on the side of what is good, of what is right and just. It is the essence of the moral force of the universe, and at certain points in life, in the flow of human existence and circumstances, this force, this spirit, finds you or selects you, it chases you down, and you have no choice; you must allow yourself to be used, to be guided by this force and to carry out what must be done. To me, that concept of surrender, of giving yourself over to something inexorable, something so much larger than yourself, is the basis of what we call faith” (Walking with the Wind 64).

Few people raised concerns when parts of the wall were constructed in Arizona and California. That is our fault, and we are guilty for our complicit acceptance of this immoral action. We must raise our voices now, because this is on our watch. Victor Hugo wrote, “There is no force more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” Our backs are against a wall – the time is here, and we have a united community with which to nonviolently oppose the Secure Fence Act and all it symbolizes.

This is our chance to show solidarity on all fronts, to show the image of God and the spark of the divine in all peoples, both these residents with lands and lives on la frontera endangered by physical walls and also in the lives of displaced peoples and refugees the world over who are being denied a fair chance at citizenship. Perhaps the ribbons that high-school student made for us to wear should be rainbow-colored, to reflect the wide array of immigrants in every nation queued in quotas and waiting refugee status. Come join the walk tomorrow as we walk to Holy Family Catholic Church and have a rally as we arrive at 5:00. We have a ribbon for you as well.

Abraham Lincoln’s Birthday, Belatedly

February 13, 2008

    9 score and 19 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was born into the world. In his 56 years of life, he helped guide the United States through its only civil war and to officially abolish the institution of slavery through the Emancipation Proclamation and then the 13th Amendment.

    Texas was the slowest state to accept Lincoln’s end of slavery. It wasn’t until 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, on June 19, 1865, that Texas finally followed Lincoln’s lead and worked to end slavery. The celebration of this Juneteenth day, the official end of slavery everywhere in the United States, is still celebrated every year in Texas on the 19th of June.

    But Texas has not always been behind the tides of change. In 1963, in Crystal City, Texas, the first Mexican-American political officials were voted into office. This groundbreaking event laid the ground for the Chicano movement and greater equality for Mexican-Americans in the United States.

    Today, on Lincoln’s birthday, we have a choice to be at the forefront of change or be stuck in the past. Rather than erect a wall and cease to learn from other countries, we must work hard to be progressive leaders in issues such as global human rights, immigration, green energy, etc. As Dr. King wrote,

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

…True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring…

…A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. (Martin Luther King Autobiography 340-1).

It is imperative the the United States be a leader in civil rights as it has striven to be in the world economy and in its military. What is might and what is a mite without right? Though thousands of people on the border are opposed to a border wall and for a liberalized immigration system, very few people are actively campaigning to make this happen. If you are interested in making Texas the leader on border issues and the focus of the continent, please consider joining the No Border Wall Walk from March 8-16. The march is more than symbolic, more than simply a show of force; this march is solidarity in action – this march will be transformative and historic. Sign up now at http://www.mysignup.com/noborderwallwalk

People of Faith United For Immigrants- Church of Christ

February 6, 2008

    On this Ash Wednesday after Super Tuesday, it is important to realize that the hopes and dreams of our nation cannot be merely loaded onto the backs of any President, no matter how good or bad she/he is. While campaigning for immigration reform, so many Christian denominations are simultaneously working to give hope and sustenance to the “strangers” within our land. Though these 12 million or so extralegal residents are not courted by any Presidential hopeful, they do deserve a voice and a chance. The Church has been and must be that voice.

    James 2 calls Christians not to be respecters of persons, to refrain from showing “favoritism.” “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him?” (James 2:5 NIV). When God calls us to love your neighbor as yourself, the Church has responded by reaching out to our neighbors outside of these borders and the immigrants within.

    The Church of Christ, has been very forthcoming with a strong position on immigrants and immigration policy. At a recent synod, the Church of Christ passed the following immigration Resolution of Witness.

 

WHEREAS, Jesus and the scriptures give us clear instruction on how we are to treat the
foreigner and neighbors in need; and

WHEREAS, the Biblical heritage of the Judeo Christian tradition specifically identifies
the “stranger” in our midst as deserving of our love and compassion; and

WHEREAS, we have been called by the one God to tear down all the borders we have
built between us so that we may see each person as a child of God, so that we may learn to love and welcome all of God’s children as members of one family and one world; and

WHEREAS, our consciences are affronted by federal policies and actions that detain immigrants, that prosecute undocumented workers, that fracture families and prosecute those who would give them aid; and

WHEREAS, more than 3,000 men, women and children have died attempting to cross
the US/Mexico border since the implementation of the blockade strategy of border enforcement and there is little evidence that this policy has been effective in slowing the tide of illegal immigration; and

WHEREAS, many of us are in local churches and communities where we are aware of
migrant peoples, but largely unaware of their personal, communal, and national stories; and

WHEREAS, the United States is affected by the presence of new immigrants from all
over the world, and

WHEREAS, although countries have the right to control their own borders, it is not an
absolute right; the Church recognizes a basic God given right for shelter, food, clean water and other basic necessities; and

WHEREAS, the blockade strategy of border enforcement has created an underground
market for the smuggling of human beings which exploits its vulnerable victims, and has encouraged an upsurge in vigilante activities, fosters an anti-immigrant atmosphere and represents the potential for violence; and

WHEREAS, current immigration policy forces upon migrant families potentially deadly
choices which separate and dislocate them from one another, precluding free travel and mobility to return to their families; and

WHEREAS, migrant workers and their families enter the United States to live and work,
and the current immigration policy makes that passage dangerous, illegal, disorderly, and inhumane, with very few of the basic rights afforded to all workers under international law; and

WHEREAS, approximately ten to twelve million undocumented workers and their
families currently living in the United States are pressured to live covertly, without rights, and in vulnerable situations all over the United States; and

WHEREAS, the root causes of this migration lie in environmental, economic, and trade
inequities between the United States, Mexico, and all of Latin America, policies which reduce tariffs and taxes that would support the poor in Mexico and Latin America; eliminate agricultural subsidies and low-interest loans for the poor in Mexico and Latin America while keeping those subsidies in the United States and in Canada; reduce social spending for health care, food stamps, and welfare reform in Mexico and Latin America; liberalize land ownership policies, thus limiting the ability of the poor in Mexico and Latin America to own or share in the land; deregulate environmental and labor laws in Mexico and Latin America; and limit the rights of Mexican and Latin American workers to protest or seek remedies for wrongs done to them; and

WHEREAS, the fragile desert environment has sustained severe damage as a result of
migrant and responding enforcement patrols moving through remote desert regions; and

WHEREAS, General Synod XIII of the United Church of Christ (1981) adopted a
Pronouncement on Immigration calling upon all settings of the church to:

a. advocate for the rights of immigrants;

b. aid undocumented immigrants in attaining legal status;

c. aid immigrants in reunification with their families and in placement in areas of the country most favorable for their productive participation in society;

d. assist in meeting the social welfare needs of immigrants; and

e. be inclusive of immigrants in existing and new churches; and

WHEREAS, General Synod XXIV of the United Church of Christ adopted a resolution
supporting Humane Borders, a faith-based group that offers assistance to those in need by maintaining water stations on and near the border and recognizing that there is more that can be done within and by the United Church of Christ regarding border issues; and

WHEREAS, the United Church of Christ proudly declares an extravagant welcome to all
who seek to be in relationship with Jesus Christ;

THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED that General Synod Twenty-six of the United
Church of Christ declares that the Militarized Border Enforcement Strategy of the United States government has been ineffective and inhumane.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that UCC congregations with their congressional
representatives, advocate for a policy that allows immigrant workers and their families to live and work in a safe, legal, orderly and humane manner through an Employment- Focused immigration program (as opposed to employer focused) that guarantees basic international workers’ rights to organization, collective bargaining, job portability, religious freedom, easy and safe travel between the United States and their homeland, and verifiable paths to residency, and a basic human right of mobility.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the conference ministers be urged to participate in
delegations and immersion programs, and that UCC congregations seek out opportunities for face to face dialogue with immigrant communities.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the congregations and pastors of the UCC study
the immigration issue through discussion and reflection of films such as “El Norte” and

Babel” and books such as “The Devil’s Highway” by Luis Alberto Urrea.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that congregations and pastors form grass roots
organizations working in conjunction with established groups such as:

Border Links

Presbyterian Border Ministry

Samaritan Patrols

Illinois Maya Ministry

The New Sanctuary Movement

Center for Education and Social Transformation

<http://www.ucc.org/synod/resolutions/immigration-final.pdf>

 

As a Border Ambassador myself, I wholeheartedly applaud the ecumenical way the Church of Christ has gone about supporting immigrants. This denomination realizes that Christians must be united in their support for the sojourner. If every church in these United States could come together in solidarity for the immigrant community, the nation would surely take notice. We need more than numbers, however. The May Day demonstrations of 2006 brought 10 million people into the streets but no progress in Congress. If the Church could begin to take action on resolutions such as that of the Church of Christ, then the immigrants would no longer be caught between criminality and marginality.

    To this end, the Border Ambassadors here in the Rio Grande Valley hope to work alongside denominations like the Church of Christ in our No Border Wall Walk this March 8-16. We will be walking 120 miles from Roma to Brownsville, TX, both in an effort to publicize and under-represented issue and to show solidarity for the landowners and communities currently opposing a border wall. However, opposition to a border wall can never be a success if it is not part of a larger effort to humanize and legitimize hard-working, loyal would-be residents (Americalmosts) here in the United States and to honestly strive to diminish the “push” factors of immigration the world over.

People of Faith United For Immigrants- Presbyterian Church USA

February 5, 2008

    “Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know how it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9 NIV) Martin Luther King Jr. puts this another way in his speech Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.

We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

 

Immigration is not a matter of us or them but of humanity. While the compassionate, human side of immigration is often forgotten in shock-jock radio shows and television syndicates, the Church continues to be a bastion of hope for the hopeless, a voice for the voiceless. The Presbyterian Church is part of this solidarity for border reform – not for the sake of simply changing immigration laws but rather changing the hopes and dreams and rights of immigrants themselves.

    In its 2006 General Assembly Policy on Immigration, the Presbyterian Church of the USA (PCUSA) set forth the following conditions as their dream for the Church.

2. Affirm that our denomination, mindful of the current realities and threats to our belief system, not sway from our solidarity with, and pledge of service to, all of our brothers and sisters regardless of their race, creed, color, nationality, or residency status.

3. Affirm those Presbyterian congregations and presbyteries that are already standing alongside immigrants and are actively engaged in acts of compassion, empowerment, and advocacy.

4. Challenge each Presbyterian congregation and presbytery to embrace a comprehensive approach to “advocacy and welcome” for immigrants that includes, at the very minimum:

a. an opportunity for hard-working immigrants who are already contributing to this country to come out of the shadows, regularize their status upon satisfaction of reasonable criteria, and, over time, pursue an option to become lawful permanent residents and eventually United States citizens;

b. reforms in our family-based immigration system to significantly reduce waiting times for separated families who currently wait many years to be reunited;

c. the creation of legal avenues for workers and their families who wish to m migrate to the U.S. to enter our country and work in a safe, legal, and orderly manner with their rights fully protected; and

d. border protection policies that are consistent with humanitarian values and with the need to treat all individuals with respect, while allowing the authorities to carry out the critical task of identifying and preventing entry of terrorists and dangerous criminals, as well as pursuing the legitimate task of implementing American immigration policy.

e. a call for living wages and safe working conditions for workers of United States- owned companies in other countries;

f. a call for greater economic development in poor countries to decrease the economic desperation, which forces the division of families and migration.

5. Affirm the right of each congregation, presbytery, and our denomination as a whole, to speak out clearly and constantly to the media and others regarding the PC(USA)’s call to serve all those in need and to stand with the oppressed, our refusal to be deferred from this mandate, and our willingness to break laws that forbid us to live out our responsibilities to God and to our brothers and sisters who do not have U.S. residency documents…

10. Reaffirm that we must find ways to ensure that “marginalized persons” in our society, citizen or not, are not pitted against each other.

11. Express our grave concern about the negative impact of the growing effort to make the border more secure through building walls designed to move migrant patterns further into the more dangerous part of the borderlands, by increasing the number of federal agents, and by deploying armed National Guard to the already volatile region.

12. Commend the visionary efforts of programs such as Just Coffee, Just Trade Centers, and micro-credit programs that strengthens communities and enables people to stay in their homeland through economic development.

 

The Presbyterian Church, like so many other Christian denominations, realizes that the issue of immigration is not ultimately about borders but about boarders, not pesos but the peso of a world which continues to keep America rich and endowed with certain inalienable rights which are alien to so many people living in poverty just a few miles away. Christians in different denominations all realize that it is a sin for teachers in border towns, like myself, to make 10x as much money as qualified teachers across el rio. We must realize that the Gospel is not just the good news of Heaven but the good news of heaven on earth; it is the Church’s prerogative to tirelessly work to redistribute the blessings and gifts of God here in America to the rest of the world. So many nativists and xenophobes are opposed to immigration because it is a constant reminder that there is still not an equilibrium of rights and wealth in this 21stcentury globalized world. It is a constant reminder that the United States needs to reach out more, not less, to its neighbors, to work at the root of “push” immigration.

 

    *The Border Ambassadors are proud to be in solidarity with the Presbyterian Church of the greater Rio Grande Valley. As we walk the 120 miles from Roma to Brownsville from March 8-16, it is both to protest a physical border wall but also to encourage and show solidarity in the communities which are being impacted.*