On Tuesday, a group of local faith and community leaders, along with Jim Wallis and Noel Castellanos, called on the Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, to veto SB 1070, the toughest immigration enforcement bill in the country. My precious Phoenix is in the spotlight, but for the wrong reasons, I think. I don't want my city to be the Birmingham or Selma in this drama. That sounds awfully painful.
This bill is not about enforcement; it is about politics. Personal political ambition, electoral political calculus; even worse, it is about the politics of fear. SB1070 preys upon the fears of native-born folks who rightfully worry about a population of people who live outside the system; it makes people in the shadows even more afraid of the system they silently contribute toward. Encouraging these fearful sentiments is wrong. It also does not move us towards real solutions.
You must know the truth by now: Immigrants who are long-term, permanent members of our communities cannot fix their status. The system refuses to recognize them despite many attempts at 'doing the right thing.' Either brought over as children or as decades-long tax-paying residents, another 'homeland' does not exist. They cannot wait in line, and they never have been able to. Visa availability for workers in industries like construction, hospitality, manufacturing and tourism is effectively zero. And it has been for decades. You say, 'wait in line'; they say 'I would literally die waiting, and you wanted a new house, a date night, and clean hotel rooms.'
Our broken system that does not dole out visas based on economic need and that has always been fonder of Western migrants, has allowed us (and our economies) to get fat on immigrant labor, while not having to pay for it. This reality is undeniable. To deny this truth and call upon base arguments or simple messages of law enforcement, period, is either deceitful or ignorant.
In light of these facts and in recognition of this history, yanking these families out of the fabrics of our communities is morally unconscionable and will result in severe levels of pain in our neighborhoods and churches like mine. We have to say something. Please, for those of you who disagree with me, understand that I am fighting for my friends.
Biblical values are rooted in our migrant faith and migratory spiritual narrative. The patriarchs were called sojourners; Ruth was a Moabite living in Bethlehem; Joseph was so assimilated into Egyptian culture his brothers did not recognize him; Nebuchadnezzar deported Daniel; Moses was an alien fugitive in Midian; David lived with the Philistines fleeing King Saul; Jesus, our Peace, our Redemption Crucified, was an infant carried over a border, like so many of my honor-roll discipleship students who dream about a future denied.
God's law for Israel is rooted in God's person and is a paradigm for others. God's law reminds Israel of the need to protect the vulnerable and to do so because God does. God says, 'I love the widow, the orphan and the stranger and so shall you!' 'Don't be like the Egyptians who don't know me; they proclaim the myth of scarcity, you shall live into my abundance!' Romans 12 reminds us
to offer your bodies as living sacrifices ... not to conform to the pattern of this world ... to hate what is evil, cling to what is good ... to be devoted to one another in brotherly love ... to share with God's people who are in need ... to practice hospitality
This sets up a Kingdom frame for leadership in Romans 13. When leadership does not meet this standard, we do not blindly follow human-made sinful brokenness but call our nation-states to a higher standard. In light of apartheid, segregation, the holocaust, and abortion, we admit this must be true. Luckily, for us, American democracy is a better way to include Christian input than many other systems have proven to be.
Living out our Christian witness compels us to deny our earthly identities in the face of our larger, more compelling citizenship, one in a supreme, expanding, yet very real Kingdom! Our Jesus followership will not allow us any pre-qualifiers. We are Christ's people before being any other thing.
So, in the face of law abiding, tax paying, hard working, Bible believing, living migratory gifts, we say SB1070 cannot stand. It cannot be the law of the land, in the United States of America. It must be struck down.
Now is the time to act. Call the Governor of Arizona and tell her she must listen to the One she has publicly called Savior in making this decision. While I don't speak for God, what God has been telling me is undeniable as I stumble in prayer every night this past week: 1070 is bad, very bad. But I'm not up for reelection.
Governor Brewer's office phone number is: 1-866-966-5161.
Ian Danley is a youth pastor with Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, Arizona.
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