Category Archives: Immigration

Make this world great again

I’ll interrupt my series because something must be said about President Trump’s statements yesterday regarding immigrants from developing nations. Since the election of Donald Trump, I’ve committed myself to being guided by 1 Peter 2:17 and similar passages. I avoid criticizing the president himself because of this passage. I’m also aware that such statements tend to be seen as partisan, as if I were supporting another party or candidate.

But with all the uproar from yesterday’s vulgar remarks, I want to state a few things clearly, directing my remarks to Christians who live in the U.S.:

  • If the only thing about the president’s remarks that bothers you is the fact that he used a vulgarity, then something is very wrong.
  • If you’re willing to explain away the president’s remarks because you agree with his politics, something is very wrong.
  • The United States is not a church and should not be expected to act like one. But we Christians are the church, 24/7, and must never forget that.
  • If greatness for one country comes at the expense of other peoples, then we Christians cannot promote such greatness. We are Kingdom people first and members of some nation of this world second.

Much more could be said. Probably should be said. But it’s hard for me to say much more without violating the principles I wrote about in the first paragraph.

Pray for Africa. Pray for Haiti. Pray for all the nations of this world. May God make this world great again.

Manuel Manrique and the Luis Guzmán family

On Friday, I mentioned that there were several big events that happened last week(s), one being the passing of Wanda Martin. Two other big things happened while I was on my Cuba trip.

The first was the passing of Manuel Manrique. I’ve written about him a couple of times before. Back in 2011, I described a visit to Manrique’s house and the joy that was. Then I shared a video back in 2015 when Manrique had fallen, and I thought he was going to pass.

This time it was for real. Manrique passed away on the morning of October 21, the day I arrived in Cuba. As is their custom, they buried him that same afternoon. I was blessed to arrive in time to be at his funeral and was even asked to say some words at the graveside ceremony. That was a privilege for me; as I said then, Manrique is one of the few heroes I have.

On Monday, I got some bad news about my dear friends Luis and Lido Guzmán. They are from Mexico and have been living legally in Abilene for the past 6 years. Their temporary status was coming to an end, and they had applied for permanent residency. They found out that their application had been denied and that they had to leave the country within a week. How awful! They had bought a home in Abilene, their daughter is a freshman at ACU, and they were building a life here.

I’m sad for them and especially sad for our church. As I told someone, I can think of many problems that the Guzmáns helped solve, and I can’t think of any that they were the cause of.

Later this week I’ll share more about the trip itself. But I needed to share those major happenings first.

Why some legal immigrants are afraid these days

HandcuffedIt’s very difficult today to separate the topic of immigration from political partisanship. I’m going to ask you today to try to do just that. Let’s not talk about the ins and outs of immigration laws nor enforcement.

Please hear me today as I try to address the feelings of immigrants. I’ve tried this in the past. On this blog, it had mixed success; fortunately, it went much better in the congregation that I’m a part of.

At that time, I talked about Hispanics who felt uneasy because of changes in immigration enforcement. A lot of people thought that was only those who were here illegally. In fact, many questioned why legal immigrants would feel uneasy. A story in the news this week shows why many feel uneasy.

(Yes, this may be an isolated incident. No, no one is saying that this is evidence of widespread raids targeting Hispanics. Please put down your politics for a moment, pick up your compassion, and keep reading)

Fox News reports:

According to Sava’s representative Bree Stillwell, who spoke with Eater.com, five ICE agents entered the dining establishment at about 11:30 a.m. to eat breakfast. When they were done, they “went into the kitchen to apprehend one of our employees who wasn’t on at the time,” as they suspected he did not have the proper documentation.
When the ICE agents realized the employee wasn’t on duty, Stillwell says they turned their attention to other cooks in the kitchen, and started demanding their documentation instead.

One employee had an especially bad time. Yahoo notes:

About the same time, line cook Carlos Rivera-Ochoa took out the trash in the back when officers slapped handcuffs on him, according to Lelcaj. Rivera-Ochoa told MLive he carries his permanent residency card with him, and he was released shortly after being taken into a vehicle and fingerprinted.

So Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents went to a restaurant looking for a certain individual. Upon not finding them, they began questioning others about their immigration status. One legal immigrant (with documentation) was handcuffed, placed in a vehicle, fingerprinted, then released.

This is what many legal immigrants fear. Will it become commonplace? I doubt it. Will there be widespread raids? I doubt it.

Will many people live with a degree of fear and uncertainty? I’m sure of it.

The New York Daily News has this from the restaurant owner:

Lelcaj said that she and her team were shaken by the incident. “They are feeling like they can get arrested anytime because of the color of their skin. There is heightened fear in their community,” she said.

The next time you hear about fearful immigrants, please respond as a Christian and not just a Democrat or a Republican. The fear exists, whether it’s justified or not. Show some compassion.

Clarifying some statements on immigrants

OK, so last week’s post about hurting people drew a lot of attention. It was primarily directed to my home church and has led to some very healthy discussion within that church. Our leadership has stepped up in amazing ways.

But I also know that what I’ve written has created some misconceptions, and I take responsibility for that. Let me try and address some things:

  • The vast majority of the church members that attend our bilingual service at the University church in Abilene are in the United States legally.
  • The hurt felt within the Hispanic community extends far beyond the subset that doesn’t have proper immigration status. Much goes to the climate around what’s going on; see my post about the border wall to get a feel for that.
  • In a comment, I stated that illegal immigration is not a crime. I should have said that being here without proper status is not a crime. The act of crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor, which is considered a crime. A large percentage of those who are here illegally entered on a legal basis. During the campaign for the G.O.P. nomination, Marco Rubio put the figure at 40%; surprisingly, there are no good numbers available to confirm or contradict that. Rubio’s guess seems to reflect a good approximation.
  • I have never suggested to a Christian that they enter the U.S. illegally. I personally don’t know any Christians that have done so. I do know many who became Christians after entering the country.
  • About two-thirds of those who reside in the U.S. illegally have been here for more than 10 years. (http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/11/03/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/) Most Christians that I’ve known who are here illegally are not border hoppers; they fall into this category of people who have come to establish a new life.
  • Someone having broken the law does not preclude our extending compassion toward them. I wrote this in a comment on Facebook the other day: “If someone who is texting hits someone and kills them, can I not feel compassion for them even if they are suffering for their own mistake? What if they drive drunk and kill themselves; should I not feel for their families even though the loss was based on a broken law?”

I’ve written lots about the justice and injustice of our current immigration system. There’s nothing black and white about this situation; anyone who tries to reduce this issue to a phrase or two is on the wrong path.

But one thing is black and white: we are called to show compassion to our brothers and sisters who are hurting. A lot of people quoted Romans 13 to me; few quoted Matthew 25. The first one is about them; the second about us. It’s always easier to point out what they’ve done wrong.

I don’t have brown skin

Skin Brown Skin Brown Skin Up Close Skin Up Close

As we’ve talked about showing compassion for immigrants, a number of people have wondered why people who are here legally would be anxious about an uptick in immigration enforcement.

I’d bet most of those people don’t have brown skin.

“Aha! I knew you’d play the race card sometime.”

When discussing immigrants, even Latino immigrants, there shouldn’t be a race card to play. “Latino” or “Hispanic” aren’t races; they are ethnicities. That is, there are white Latinos, black Latinos, yellow Latinos, and brown Latinos. And there are plenty of people with brown skin who are neither Latino nor are they immigrants.

But we know who the brunt of this enforcement will fall on. When my friend Carlos was arrested for not having papers with him, he was merely the passenger in a car driven by someone who committed a violation (a U.S. citizen). Yet Carlos “looks Mexican” and was asked to prove his legal status. Unable to do so, he was arrested.

What documentation do you carry with you to prove your legal status? Ever been out with a friend when you weren’t driving? Did you worry about carrying your “papers” with you? Do you often carry your passport or other documentation showing your citizenship?

If you don’t have brown skin, probably not. If you’re one of the 2/3 of Hispanics that live here that were born in this country, you probably haven’t thought about that either. Yet I’ve had Hispanic friends who were asked to show their green card, even though they were born here. Why? They are Hispanic… and look like what most people think Hispanics look like.

My son probably doesn’t have to worry about it, even though he was born in Argentina and identifies as Hispanic. He doesn’t have brown skin. He’s okay.

Let me use an example from Argentina. Different country. Different laws. But maybe the illustration will help some. We had two young men in our congregation who regularly got around on motorcycles. One was stopped several times a week by the police to have his papers checked and his backpack searched. One was rarely stopped and never searched.

Can you guess the difference? The first young man was from the north of Argentina and looked “Bolivian” to most Argentine eyes. The other was also from a different Argentine province, but he and his family looked very European.

I don’t expect things to reach those levels here, but I do know if police are tasked with looking for illegal immigrants, they won’t be tapping me on the shoulder and asking for my papers.

I don’t have brown skin.