“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim…Action is the only remedy to indifference, the most insidious danger of all.” — Elie Wiesel in Night
“The Secretary of the Department of Public Safety shall enter into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) pursuant to section 287(g) of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, as amended, to permit designated State law enforcement officers to perform immigration law enforcement functions. The designated State law enforcement officers shall be required to receive appropriate training as provided by ICE and shall function under the supervision of ICE officers when performing under the MOA” — North Carolina HB 135, February 20, 2019
“Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” — Jesus in John 13:17
Like many pastors, I seen many people forsake the assembly of the Believers, as Hebrews 10:25 says, because of the immigration debate. To their credit, these people have chosen a side and know beyond the shadow of a doubt where the stand. They will not be in the same church as people who might be “criminals,” and they will not be in a church that supports undocumented immigrants. To be fair, undocumented immigrants are not criminals, if the USA legal system is of any consideration. Crossing the border without inspection is handled in civil court, and not in criminal court. So, if you forgot to pay for that new Blue Ray movie in the bottom of your shopping cart and walked out of Wal-Mart, that makes you more of a criminal than someone who entered the country illegally (shoplifting, under a certain amount, is a misdemeanor in criminal court, by the way). But that does not matter, for people who have believed everything they see on television about criminal people entering the country illegally.
Martin Luther King Jr. said that the group which gave him the most heartburn was the white moderates, who refused to take a side on the Civil Rights movement, reminding us that indecision helps the oppressors. Here is a contemporary example. While all of you are reading this, journeying through Lent, House Bill 135 and House Bill 370 are being decided upon. As of this week, HB 370 just made it through the House to the Senate. Here are some things they would do:
Orders law enforcement agents to act as immigration agents through the 287 (g) program;
Prohibits community identifications like the FaithAction ID and remove state funds for cities, counties, municipalities and law enforcement agencies that violate state immigration laws;
Requires that the Attorney General receive and investigate complaints from citizens that “in good faith”, suspects that cities, municipalities, law enforcement or counties are violating state immigration laws;
Makes the Office of the Prosecutor to investigate received complaints from citizens who believe that companies are violating state laws regarding E-Verify;
Makes Universities share and deliver information to immigration.
Some will ask, “But isn’t it a good thing to keep the laws?” Sure. But please realize what these law kill. The reason why many immigrant communities have been relatively safe is that local law enforcement has worked hard over several years to build relationships with them. The extremists who are trying to pass this law, know that it will undermine these relationships, making whole communities to live in fear of law enforcement, who can stop people simply for looking like an immigrant. Faith Action IDs have helped NC Cities like Greensboro to grow together, and they are perfectly legal in their respective cities, but making them illegal would destroy the fabric of the communities built around them. The list goes on and on.
Put simply, HB 135 and HB 370 are examples of many racist laws that unduly affect and neglect the poorest and invisible members of our society, the ones in our immigrant communities. If we do not use our voices to take a stand, they who have no voice in our society cannot make the change themselves. This is not a “left-right” issue, but a humanitarian rights issue. Jesus said, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” He was speaking in the context of his final gathering with his disciples, while he washed their feet. We too must act on the servitude that Jesus modeled. We may not wash each other’s feet, but we can radically embody the kind of hospitality that washes away the muck and mire that our immigrant neighbors walked through on their way to where they live.
Consider: You can do something right now. By talking to your representatives and Governor Cooper, you can make your voice heard. If you don’t know how, consider messaging “resist” to ResistBot on Facebook, or text message “resist” to number “50-409” and it will guide you in how to make your civic voice heard.
Prayer: Dear God of the oppressed, please make your voice heard among us. The voices of those who feel the weight of injustice ring in your ears, as the voices of the dead cry out from the grave. Please help us remove the boot of oppressive laws from the neck of our immigrant neighbors, so that we together can praise you for your unfailing love. Amen.