Immigration Issues from a Both/And View

Photo by Yigithan Bal from Pexels

The situation at the border of the United States of America and Mexico is overwhelming to think about. The varying points of view presented either blame President Trump or President Obama for the mess. Mudslinging from the left to the right and back again uses up an inordinate amount of energy. Meanwhile, children are suffering. Meanwhile, Border Patrol agents are suffering. Meanwhile, non-profit organizations and for-profit organizations are overwhelmed.

The roots of the massive migration from Central America lie in compromised personal safety and economic insecurity. The demographics of humans at the border has shifted from primarily lone males to families. Our border patrol agents have been caught by surprised by this shift and have not caught up to what is necessary. Leadership at the highest level of our country is using the separation of families as a deterrent to migration.

The effectiveness of this plan is evident in the numbers of people still presenting themselves. It hasn’t worked and is not likely to suddenly begin to work on some bright new day.

As a pastor, in my view the core of the problem is simple. Humans are confused about ownership. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it, the world and all those who live in it, Psalm 24:1a).” As Americans, many of us seem to believe that we own this land, when the bible clearly states it belongs to the Lord. We do not own our lives. The accident of where we were born and the parents who bore it was utterly out of our control. If we were fortunate in one of these foundations, we are lucky. If we were fortunate in both, we are overwhelmingly fortunate.

Now, I get that we have ownership laws and a system of tracking whose land is whose. We have a biblical narrative of God designating land for various tribes. The legal ownership of our piece of property is not an ownership of all of the country. It still belongs to God. The people at our border, clamoring for a chance at a better life, are also beloved children of God. How we treat them matters to our own souls.

Our being born in this nation does not make us superior to people born in other nations. That we hold many goods does not make us superior. The people who are knocking on our door may or may not be harmful to us, but they are most certainly not our inferiors. We need to recognize that human to human treatment is expected to be civilized. It is not ok to treat people as animals.
Our government agencies need to be called to task.

This is what I am seeking:

1. Immediately find a way to house those who are being detained in a clean and healthy environment.
2. Reunite families now.
3. Create a clear path to citizenship.
4. Allow greater transparency into what is going on in the detention centers.
5. Find a way to partner with the non-profits and faith-based agencies to help with the human side of this crisis.
6. Stop criminalizing people who extend help.

We all need to work together to resolve this crisis.  We can do this if we work together!

Social Change the World Needs

This Century’s Great Moral Problem

Sheryl WuDunn calls attention to the powerful positive impact helping a girl get educated can have on a village.  She shares stories of triumph and struggle.  She highlights the injustices that are perpetrated on women and girls. Then she offers opportunities for improvement.

In this blog, I want to focus on the social problems right here at home. While I am writing from the state of Louisiana, in this post I am considering home to be anywhere in the United States of America. Lest we forget, most of the issues we face are minimal as compared to much of the world.  We definitely want to pay attention to the least of these in this whole world.

Here at Home

In our own towns and states, it is in our own best interest to help the people who struggle. Excessive prisons and mass incarceration are a drain on the economy, even though they provide employment in the communities that house them.  Addiction and the underground economy of drug dealing create more violent communities. The stresses from violence ripple throughout our structure, law enforcement gets stretched, trauma units in hospitals are expensive, and the unrelenting stress of feeling unsafe is a health risk for humans. Underemployed single mothers not only do not have enough discretionary income to add to the economic well-being of your town, their teenagers are often up to no good.  Family dysfunction, loneliness and a sense of hopelessness all contribute to mental health issues.

The Common Thread

The common thread of these issues is that they impact women and children disproportionately.  Imprisoned parents mean lonely children. Drug addiction contributes to violence in many ways, including domestic violence.  Dysfunctional families are a factor in mental and behavioral health issues. Unsupervised young people are often detrimental to the community.

What’s That Got to Do With Me?

Everything.

We are our society. We are our government. Remember the Gettysburg address, “of the people for the people and by the people”? It means all of us. Sheryl WuDunn ends this TED talk with two primary reasons we should take on these issues.

Paraphrased, she says, “Once we have our material needs taken care of, one of the only things that can make us happier is contributing to a cause greater than ourselves.”

Call to Action

Privilege and responsibility are Siamese twins.

In addition to contributing to international causes (e.g. Heifer International,  Kiva, Samaritan’s Purse, UMCOR, etc.) how can you find a way to reach out in your own community?

 

Purpose and Super Bowl

 

What’s Our Purpose?

Yesterday was the Super Bowl. As a pastor, I recognize that it is the High Holy Day of our current national religion. Media is absolutely over-run with information about the game. Millions of dollars are spent on the advertising and production. As far as I can tell, Capitalism is the religion of this country. I confess, I did not participate in the service. I stand outside of the doors of the cathedral and try to discern what is going on in there. Thus, my view is admittedly skewed.

Like any other religious service, the Super Bowl has rituals. The singing of the National Anthem by some edgy performer. (I must say, Lady Gaga has a fabulous voice. She did a great job this year! I did play the video.)

There are time honored traditions. People were disappointed this year apparently because they did not get to see the Budweiser Clydesdales. (Just as in any other institution, change is met with resistance). On Facebook, there were many comments that the quality of the commercials was not what the community expected. People are invested in the outcome of the service, but it still plays a second fiddle to the worship of excess and greed that are the focus. The worship extends to the grit and work of the players, but really, they are often dehumanized in this process. People who have never lifted a weight or run a mile will criticize a player’s performance. When we step back and ask what it all means, some disturbing theories arise.

I don’t really think that football is evil. But, I do believe our national obsession with this game might be.

Who are we really?

We like to believe that our country was founded on the principles of freedom of religion and a system of government that was “of the people, for the people and by the people”. Yet, we have abdicated the “the people” part of our government. And, if we look closely, our country’s was founded on land-grabbing and slavery. Human misery and disdain for the latest wave of immigrants have been part of our story from the beginning. Don’t you think it’s time we own it, confess it, and figure out how to make it right?

I have lost faith that our government can be effective “for the people”. Mostly because it is no longer operating “of the people and by the people”. Government may be for some of the people, but there are large groups of people who are left out or damaged by government policy and procedure.

What I see when I really look closely at the children I serve, I see government entities that do the best they can to rescue children but end up hurting them anew. I see government policies that make no sense in the context of human families.

For instance, how can you require an addicted mother to get treatment and make no effort to help her with transportation, or child care for the children you are trying to preserve the family to care for? How is it we incarcerate parents and throw their children in foster care and not make huge efforts to keep the parent and child connected? How cruel is that?

What are we going to do about it?

There are a million and one things we can do. None of us can do everything. Each of us can do something. That’s why I’m writing. I’m also producing a podcast to feature people whose lives have been changed by other people stepping up. I also feature volunteers to help us with forming the mindset to be able to help. And, I interview the CEO/Director to get guidance on how these helping entities spring up and what attitudes help us. I want to encourage us all to think about what it is to be a human and what purpose we can serve.

The Roots of Child Welfare Issues

THE ISSUES

In order to know who to talk to and what to look for, I have begun reading more about the issues. The Child Welfare system, Foster Care, and other state agencies and efforts are in response to an even more awful reality. The roots of the problems with families are buried deeply in poverty and violence. Political oppression, lack of opportunity, sex trade, the drug culture and communities blanketed with hopelessness all play a part in this weight pulling down our communities.

HOPE
Yet, there is hope!
“A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity” is written by Nicholos D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn.

This book details non-profit efforts in agencies throughout the world. But, it is not just about a feel good, let’s see what is possible. The authors also detail efforts to measure the impact that the projects have on the future of the people served. One project is led by an MIT professor, Dr. Esther Duflo. She experiments on different initiatives and helps us to know what actually helps (P. 35-41). The danger in feel good projects is that they can cost a lot of money and have limited effect on actually helping people.

Overall the book is optimistic that our drive to make a difference in the lives of others is a powerful force for good in our world. The problems of our society are challenging. Yet, the human desire to make a difference for others is a spark of hope in this world.