Striving for Justice and Peace in Migration
Originally published February, 2014 on the website of Province V of The Episcopal Church. This was a reflection on my painful pilgrimage to Tijuana in 2013 with Cohort 3 of the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program. mc+
Being an Episcopal Christian, I’ve taken a vow to “strive for justice and peace among all people.” This summer I was challenged to live out this particular baptismal promise. I was invited to live with deportees in Tijuana, to hear their stories and share their struggles. This was with the Wabash Pastoral Leadership Program. I’m one of eighteen pastors from diverse denominations around Indiana who gather every other month to look at ways we can make positive, Godly change in health, education, immigration and poverty in our Midwest state. Part of our goal was to gain some perspective on what is happening in that border city and apply our learning there to immigration issues in our own hometowns. We also met with US border agents to hear their side of the story. It’s a very complicated issue with layers of history.
At the Scalabrini home for migrants I washed dishes after dinner with Miguel. He had arrived the night before after being deported from the US. Miguel lived and worked in Seattle for 34 years, he has two daughters, 8 and 13. His life was that of an average American until the night he had a broken tail light on his car. Police in Washington stopped him and decided this man with brown skin, driving in a fairly Anglo neighborhood, needed to produce paperwork beyond his driver’s license to prove he belonged in this country. Miguel couldn’t. He arrived here when he was as a child. His mother and father were migrant farm workers. The judge deemed Miguel undocumented and ordered that he be sent to Mexico. He will likely not see his family for years, if ever. This was not an uncommon story among the migrants we lived with that week.
At the heart of the injustice is prejudice, even greed and a very narrow view of historical relations between our country and Mexico. Consider these quotes and sound bites that still ring in my ears months later. It’s not the whole story, I know, but it speaks to the heart of the injustice I encountered.
“The real problem, politicians are trying to do both things, appease anti-immigration lobbyists who want to see something being done, so they hire border guards, which really doesn’t work, except to promote anti-immigration sentiment; but they also want to appease the big business and farming communities that don’t really want immigration enforcement, they need the cheap labor. Politicians want to look like they’re doing something but don’t want it to have a real effect.” ~ Bp Julian Gordy, ELCA
“In the US
1 out of every 6 households is Latino.
1 out of 5 Latinos is a student in our schools
1 of 4 babies born in hospitals are Latino
1 of 3 are in our church pews
1 of 2 in are in a church youth group”
~Elevator speech of Allert Brown-Gort, University of Notre Dame Professor
Meaning: an astounding number of Latino brothers and sisters go undocumented in our society.
“We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.” Enrique Morones of Border Angels, referring to the nineteenth-century annexation of the southwest. We heard many others in Mexico use this phrase.
“While Europe was tearing down a wall, we were building one.” Enrique Morones
“Why are we at war with Mexico?” Jerry, fellow pilgrim after looking at the border wall and observing the massive military spending on this construction that divides our countries.
“If the immigrant is not your brother/sister, then God is not your Father.” Bp Scalabrini c. 1887
“The immigrant who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were immigrants in the land of Egypt” Leviticus 19:34
“A wandering Aramean was my ancestor” Deuteronomy 26:5
What can I do to strive for justice and peace? This education is just the beginning. The work of building trust and relationships with Latino communities, even this far north of Mexico, must take place. That’s one reason why I am taking up Spanish. It’s not because many Latino brothers and sisters don’t know English, but because it is a sign of my hospitality. Second, politicians must hear from Christians in the pews, not just clergy leaders. Anti-immigration sentiment, prejudice and poor education in this area is well funded and has a strong, organized voice. Episcopal Christians who are vowed to promote justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being must bring better education and God’s voice to bear in this process. I’m tasting the living waters of my baptism here in Northern Indiana, even if they are bitter, salty as tears. But I pray that they will flow strong and roll with justice and peace for those I am vowed to serve.