These Are Human Beings!
A very telling picture of the current debate on immigration appeared before our local (San Diego) television cameras on Tuesday. Sheriff Joe Arpaio, of Maricopa County, Arizona, where Phoenix is located spoke to a sold out crowd at the Rancho Bernardo Country Club. Arpaio proudly calls himself the "toughest sheriff in the nation" and is famous for his tent jail in the desert where inmates are "housed" in the 135 degree desert heat. Even before SB1070 was passed, Arpaio was famous for sweeps in Hispanic neighborhoods where he would arrest people on the slightest pretext and check their immigration status. This is blatant racial profiling.
Arpaio was greeted by many demonstrators who opposed him and his message. I'm proud to say a lot of them were UUs whom I recognized. I couldn't be there but I avidly watched the news reports that evening. The sheriff rhetorically asked the audience inside what should be done with people who break the law by crossing the border without papers. A woman from the audience yelled out, "Shoot 'em." This outburst was greeted by laughter. The sheriff said we shouldn't shoot them but put them in his jail under harsh condition, which he then described. The camera panned the whole room. Every person I saw was white. Every person I saw had gray hair.
Contrary to what most people think, crossing the border without papers is not a crime under federal law, neither a misdemeanor nor a felony. It is a civil infraction, in a class with jay walking. The consequence is deportation. This is not a capital offense! These are human beings--husbands, wives, mothers, fathers who are seeking to feed their families and give them a better life. How can this woman say we should shoot them! How can people laugh! The dictionary defines hate as "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury." This definition is too mild for the kind of insensitivity displayed at this exclusive country club, tended no doubt by immigrant labor. Who deserves to live? Who deserves to thrive in America?
As people of faith, it is our task to denounce hatred. I'm very sure most of the people in the fancy room with Sheriff Arpaio called themselves Christian. They haven't read 1 John where it is written: "If one says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who has does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen." The folks in that room claim to be better Americans than anyone else. What about the poem on the statue of liberty, that welcomed my family to this country when I was in my mother's womb.
"Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
It is not the undocumented immigrant that is creating the political chaos and the financial uncertainty that makes us all afraid. It is not the law abiding Muslim neighbors who wish to build a house of worship, vilified in the name of Christ, the Prince Of Peace, who are making this a dangerous world. It is not the committed same sex couple who want to seal their vows of love who are responsible for the turmoil in the lives of our families. As people of faith and those who still hold the dream of America, we need to confront hatred wherever we find it--in public life, with relatives and friends, with our neighbors. Without hating in return. Without calling them names. By calling people back to what they say they believe in.
Posted on Thu, August 12, 2010
by Arvid Straube filed under