Nobody notices them.
Sometimes they pass right in front of us, and we look through them as if they were not there.
But they are here, and the United States would be a very different country without them. People don’t realize just how important they are to our way of life.
Those who go through each day unseen are undocumented immigrants. The Invisibles.
— Jorge Ramos in A Country for All: An Immigrant Manifesto
“And turning to the woman, [Jesus] said to Simon, ‘Do you see this woman?’”
— Jesus, in Luke 7:44
I like to lie to myself and say, “The followers of Jesus totally got it. They understood Jesus, and they were awakened to the plight of the world around them. I mean, they were Jesus’ followers.” But if we are just a little bit awakened to reading the Bible, we realize this is total BS. Even at the end of Jesus’ life, after they’ve been with Jesus for three years, they deny knowing him, don’t believe his claims of resurrection, and flee from his side when he’s dying.
It’s no surprise then, that in the first third of Luke’s Gospel, a woman who’s a second-class citizen is busy loving Jesus, and he helps the disciples realize that they really don’t care about her. “Do you see this woman?” Jesus asks. Of course it’s a rhetorical question. They don’t truly “see” her. Sure, there’s a nuisance, an obstacle to the teachings of the Master. But to them, there is not a child of God, an equal minister, and someone of equal worth.
This is how society treats undocumented immigrants. Unless you are actively working against it; this is how you probably treat undocumented immigrants. In the story of Luke 7, the Pharisees around Jesus give a lot of examples why the woman is pariah — she’s lived a sinful lifestyle, she makes advances on men who aren’t in her family, she is wasteful with an expensive jar of perfume. The Pharisees were not intentially trying to be sinful, themselves. They had just been socialized in a way that made them see through the humanity of this woman, because of a host of undesirable things.
We are socialized in a similar way. Sometimes we say, “These people who crossed illegally are criminals.”** Sometimes we say, “They are wasting our tax dollars.”*** Whatever we say, the words and ideas prevent us from seeing humans. Our eyes gloss over and only recognize issues.
Jesus’ response to the Pharisees was to offer a word of blessing to the unseen, invisibility woman. In our context, Jesus is doing the same. “Blessed are the poor and wounded, who almost died coming through the wilderness, hoping for a better life,” Jesus might say to these people. Will you attune your heart to hear God’s grace offered? Or will you be like the Pharisees?
A Prayer for doing the work of ministry with immigrants:
Jesus, I can’t handle how they stall.
I can’t handle the Fall.
I can’t handle each wall.
I can’t handle it all.
…I can’t handle it, at all.
Jesus. Help. Amen.
**By the way, crossing the border without inspection — being an “illegal alien” as some would harshly say — is not a criminal offense. It is a civil offense. So, if your mother accidentally locks her dog in the car and gets a misdemeanor “cruelty to animals,” ticket, that makes her more of a criminal than someone who enters the country illegally
***By the way, it’s just as likely for an undocumented immigrant to pay into a social security system they’ll never benefit from, as it is for them to reap benefits from the government, by virtue of being in the USA and not being citizens, (Government services of this kind are actually offered to them through the 14th Ammendment to the Constitution).