I’m working on a new set of bookshelves for my office. I’m not a wood worker or furniture builder.. but its a creative project that will be functional. Once complete I’ll move the boxes of books I’ve accumulated into a more appropriate space.
While working on those bookshelves I’ve been thinking about immigration. Actually I think about it a lot – immigration that is. My heart grieves for those who who are having their families ripped away. It’s not right. There’s no reason to do that…or is there…
The Constitution outlines specific responsibilities of the federal government. Some see that responsibility as narrowly defined. Some recognize a much broader responsibility, a more humane and compassionate responsibility for the human condition. We can argue all day about that – and many do. There is ground we can meet on though, if we take account of our values as people, and as a nation.
Immigration is one of those issues that is difficult and will require a lot of conversation and wisdom.. I’m no expert. I was born here. I grew up being taught we have to work for what we have and I’ve worked hard. I’ve also made a lot of mistakes, and still do, but I’ve also been extended a lot of grace along the way.
Everyone wants to be treated fairly. Even that looks different for each of us. The color of our skin makes a difference. Gender makes a difference. Education makes a difference. Family makes a difference. Our God given nature makes a difference…but it doesn’t define us, or who we are, or who we become. We do. By our actions. By the values we hold dear. By our willingness to consider others.
So what gives? Why are we at each other’s throats over basic human need and compassion for people who weren’t born with the same privileges as me? God give me the perspective You have when you look at people. All people.
Let’s talk about intent for a minute. When this country was founded we needed more people to grow the nation. Life was hard and the country was full of opportunity. Many left their native lands to come here for a better life. Most with little more than what they had on their backs. It was expensive. It was a hard trip and many didn’t have a place to go once they arrived, but they came and figured it out. They worked hard and made the best of it. They worked long hours at menial jobs for little money. Sound familiar?
Racism was rampant. Most were treated unfairly . It didn’t matter. This was a better place to be than where they came from. Doesn’t seem much has changed over the years. We still treat many newcomers like they are subhuman – not the government – us. When will that change? What are we afraid of? Why can’t we see the value in people? All people…
The risks are great today. The modern day threat of terrorism is real. Human trafficking is real. Dealing with the shear volume of immigrants and refugees is real, especially when so many people in this country are doing everything they can to keep their own heads above water. The time and money and resources needed to keep it all flowing is insane.
The coordination and logistics is hard to wrap my head around. It reminds me of Israel leaving Egypt. A million people wandering around the desert for 40 years looking for a place to settle. They knew where they were going. They had a destination in mind and their hope was it would be better than where they left.
Not much has changed. War, the rumor of wars, natural catastrophe and the like are not new to the human experience. It still impacts so many people. How we respond personally and as a nation is up to us.
Many argue there are laws on the books and they should be followed. One Senator tried to use a passage in Romans 13 to justify the actions of the government. Bad choice. I contend its the inconsistent enforcement of the law that is to blame. If an administration doesn’t agree with the law they treat it differently to promote their point of view. Every administration does it because they can’t or won’t do what’s needed to change the law. What’s permissible today may not be tomorrow depending on who is in power. That hasn’t changed over the years either. Every new administration expands their authority.
What do we, as a people, value? Our laws need to reflect that. That means we have to have hard conversations about how we protect children and women from human trafficking but still keep real families together when they cross the border and don’t have the right paperwork. That’s one of the reasons why immigration is so complex. It’s one of the reasons for all the checks and balances.
Can it be easier, smoother and better for all involved? Of course it can, but it takes a lot of hard work from passionate, caring people, willing to work through the details within the constraints of the resources we have.
I don’t know many people who would open their homes to just anyone who showed up on the doorstep, looking for a place to stay and food to eat, if they didn’t know them. Protecting our personal space and convenience makes us question to what extent we help anyone, even family and friends sometimes. I suspect some of us might help but many wouldn’t, me included. We fear the unknown. We’ve been taught not to trust. We’ve been taught to protect what we have and in this day and age caution is wise. Add to that a language barrier. Cultural barriers. The list is endless, so in our wisdom, we pass that responsibility off to the government and expect them to do it all, our way.
I, for one, want to see change here. My values and my compassion for people, all people, is at stake. We can’t live in fear and thrive. No one can. Not you, not me, not those leaving everything they have to come here for a better life. Its time to stand up and demand change. That change will cost us something. Time, effort, money, but more importantly, a piece of myself. It may require I think different and learn things I never knew.
In the Harry Potter Book “The Sorcerer’s Stone” Harry and his close friends were battling evils around them. The threat of Lord Voldemort was looming but no one knew exactly what was happening. They had many suspicions but nothing they could prove. Amidst the tension they had finals to study for. Even in the midst of looming crisis we can get lost in the day to day responsibility of life. Time to go to work….
Love you all,