Monday, March 21, 2011

This is Why Mass Deportations Will Not Work

I came across this video from Loving the Stranger, a networked blog I am a part of, and thought I should to pass it along here.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Two things:

1. I am praying for Dana Rohrbacher because, unfortunately, his information is incorrect. Is this the "line" he is referring to??

2. Ask yourself, "What if those were my children?"

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Anchor Baby Revolution

I held a one week old baby boy tonight. He is perfectly beautiful and I was instantly in love. He’s just a little guy, weighing in at just over 6 pounds. He has all this hair and likes to pucker his big lips. His name is JJ and he is what many sadly refer to as an “anchor baby”.

You see, his mother is a 15 year old girl from Central America who upon finding out she was pregnant decided to make the dangerous journey to the US. She is an illegal immigrant.

As I was holding JJ I thought about how innocent he is. I thought about how happy he must make Jesus, laying there in his purest form, untouched by the darkness of the world. I thought about what it will be like for him to grow up and the hardships he will surely face being a child of an immigrant.

Then I thought about the new life he must have brought to his mom. This young girl comes from a place infested with violence, poverty and corruption. She has lived more life and seen more devastation in her 15 years than most do in a lifetime.

I hate that many in our country (including far too many in our Church) will never see past the law breaking act of crossing the border to have her baby. I hate that there will be people who think she is manipulative, selfish and wants nothing more than to live off the benefits of having an American Citizen child. Many things will be assumed about her while very few people actually try to get to know her. I hate that many will not see her innocence or her pure intent. I hate that many will not realize how selfless she actually is. I hate that her heroic act of traveling 2000 miles, alone and pregnant, just so that her baby won’t have to worry about being kidnapped and trafficked by the gangs or know what it feels like to slowly starve to death, will go unnoticed.

I don’t want to suggest that anyone who is pregnant should be able to come here and I don’t mean to over emotionalize our current Immigration situation. I simply want to remind us that there are beating hearts behind this issue. There are people like JJ and his mom who want nothing more than to live a life of dignity. I want us to ask ourselves the difficult questions. I want us to see JJ and his mom and think about what it would look like to love them well. I want us to think about the millions more who were not as lucky as JJ. I want us to consider our part in loving those who have crossed our borders while figuring out our role in the transformation that needs to happen in the places people are coming from. This issue calls for more than new policy; it calls for an army of Christians who are ready to fight poverty and corruption with peace and love. As believers, I don’t think we can complain about the drain JJ and his mom might be on our economy while we do nothing to address the reasons they are here in the first place.

Sometimes I feel hopeless because I know we have such a long way to go.

But then I remember who our God is.

I remember that when Jesus looks at JJ and his mom, He does not see an illegal immigrant and her anchor baby. He sees His son and daughter who He loves with all His heart and who He was willing to die for. I can’t help but hope for the kind of revolution that would occur if we were all more like Christ in this way.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Listen to the Children

A couple weeks ago, I was honored to preview a new book called Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families/Escuchemos a Los Niños: Conversaciones con Familias Inmigrantes. This book highlights those who are most often victimized by the broken set of laws in our country: children. I was also give the opportunity to ask some questions to the author, Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier, and I am so excited to share that conversation here!

What was your inspiration in writing this book?

For thirty years, I have worked with immigrants in the Hispanic community. I have listened to the stories of spouses, parents, and children who are living through the trauma of separation—and the challenges of reunification in a new land and assimilation in a new culture. And when I listen to the debates going on in the media, in the public arenas, around the "issues" of immigration, I think of the human beings affected by those issues and I remember their stories.

Most of the books that have been written about immigration are political or ideological. We have an overabundance of politics around the question of immigration. In this book, I'm trying to be pastoral and practical, not political. I'm trying to focus on the immigrants themselves—the people, the families, and especially the children who are most vulnerable.

If you could choose only one thing, what would you want the reader to take away from your book?

I would want them to take away the understanding of the human worth of all persons including immigrants. I also write about the idea of worthiness and its importance in the lives of most immigrants. To say that someone is “worthy” is to say that person has merit. A worthy person is someone who is valued enough to be deserving of basic human dignity. Immigrants understand themselves as persons of merit who should be treated equally alongside others. Most immigrants will do whatever is asked of them in order to fulfill the responsibilities that are part of being a person of excellent character, a person considered worthy by society. Yet this is an opportunity that many immigrants have not had in their countries of origin and have not found in the United States either. They are not given the chance to take on the responsibilities and reap the benefits of being a worthy citizen. I would like for us all to do whichever part we can to establish a sense of worthiness for immigrants.

What was the research process like? Where and how did you find the families featured in your book?

For thirty years, as pastor, professor in theological education, as friend, I have worked with immigrants in the Hispanic community and with those who work with immigrants in a variety of ethnic communities. I have listened to the stories of spouses, parents, and children who are living through the trauma of separation—and the challenges of reunification in a new land and assimilation in a new culture. As I led workshops about the issue, people kept asking me to put this information in a book. I decided to pull together the many stories I had gathered over these years and to place them in dialogue with the research in an accessible way for all to read.

Why do you think it is so valuable for us to hear the voices of Immigrant Children? What do we need to hear?

We need to get in touch with the humanity of the children. We need to get in touch with the streams of compassion in ourselves. We have objectified the immigrant and cast upon them blame- they have become the scapegoat for our dissatisfactions. I wish for us to see them as human beings and as the most vulnerable- “the least of these.” Once that happens, can we be attentive to the voice of the Holy Spirit? What is the Spirit saying to us?

I really loved the conclusion of the book, where you touched on status and worthiness as humans. Why do you think it is difficult for so many Christian American's to internalize this idea of equality and human worth as God's children in regards to Immigrants among us?

Christians are also political beings and because as Christians we have become used to being the majority religion and many founding documents of the US have Christian values and language, we have assumed that this “civil” religion is the same as Christian values. On other occasions we have believed that we are to obey the officials of the land. We have forgotten to balance this with our prophetic call as the people of God that we are called to bring government into accountability with the values of the reign of Jesus as Lord. We have not done critical thinking. As citizens of the US as well as of the kingdom we need to submit all arenas to the lordship of Christ. We have submitted to government without asking if the law represents the kingdom values.

Matthew 25:31-46 defines sustenance as clothing, water, food, hospitality and even prisoners are to be visited. We are to provide these things to the “least of these.” The Old Testament had laws about treating the alien, the stranger in our midst as ourselves (Ex. 22:21; Deut 10:19; Lev. 19:34: Ps. 146:9). Israel was reminded that they too had been strangers- we have forgotten these passages- they haven’t spoken to us. Ultimately the kingdom belongs to the children. This has not been the biblical basis of our thinking and acting as Christians.

Getting on CIR does not mean that we simply accept a position of “let them all come.” It is a critical thinking position where we understand that this is a very complex issue and that we want to have intelligent dialogue about these matters- that we want to be at the table as Christians as we all discern these matters in as just a manner as possible- accepting that there are limitations to what we can do responsibly. Where is the voice of scripture and the spirituality that believes we are all created in God’s image- the imago-Dei?

What do you think need to be the key components of CIR and what do you see as the role of the Church in accomplishing it?

Key components need to include family unification, border security that targets drug traffickers, violent criminals and persons who pose a genuine threat to national security, work site enforcement, a point system for permanent residency and others. I think that a good place to go to look at these points discussed further is the website of a Christian institution named Esperanza at There one will find much information about the issues of immigration from a Christian standpoint, particularly the section on “what we support.”

The role of the church I believe is to become informed and disseminate information by holding public forums to disseminate information and to have civil discussion that includes the theological/biblical grounding on these matters.

What is your hope for the Church in America in regards to how we treat Immigrants and how we engage this polarizing issue?

My hope is that we would enter the dialogue with the kingdom values in mind; that we would be discerning and an example of civility. We should be a place for the humanitarian treatment of immigrants. We should take the lead in defusing hate language and conversation that vilifies immigrants.

Rev. Dr. Elizabeth Conde-Frazier is dean of Esperanza College at Eastern University in St. David’s, Pennsylvania and the author of the new release Listen to the Children: Conversations with Immigrant Families/Escuchemos a los niños: Conversaciones con familias inmigrantes (Judson Press). This bilingual resource invites the reader to eavesdrop on fictionalized conversations between immigrant parents, their children, and their caregivers, offering insight into their emotions, perceptions, and realities.