One shoe off

November 26, 2007

Immigration, redux.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Liz @ 9:59 pm

“You shall not abuse a needy and destitute laborer, whether a fellow countryman or a stranger in one of the communities of your land.” Deuteronomy 24:14

“Build your home in such a way that a stranger may feel happy in your midst.” Theodor Herzl, August 6, 1896

I haven’t kept my promise of writing more about Oklahoma’s immigration law, which went in to effect on the 1st. To be honest, there hasn’t been much to write. The Latinos haven’t completely disappeared — I still see some of the families I first met when I worked at the health department — but their presence is significantly muted. It’s having a quiet effect on the economy, I hear — homebuilders have lost 10 percent of their crews, an Oklahoma City grocery store in a Latino area reports a $50k-$75k weekly drop in sales … but the stories of undocumented families, those don’t make headlines.

The other night my mom was musing on WHEN the immigration issue became such a hot button.  Any ideas? She said she didn’t remember it really being the major issue that it is now. “I just don’t remember people caring this much about it before,” she said. Granted, we spent close to 20 years out of the country, so we missed a lot.

I realize that the U.S. has a long and troubled history with immigration.

Here’s a great quote from essayist Bonnie Honig’s piece “A Legacy of Xenophobia“:
“Americans are so used to thinking about foreigners as either a poison or a cure for the diseased national body that they are poorly prepared to think about them simply as persons. This poor preparation is captured by the dehumanizing American term for foreigners—’alien.'”

That gets to the heart of the issue for me: the way in which immigrants are continually dehumanized in order to make them more effective scapegoats. Around here it’s not just “alien.” It’s that ugly-sounding phrase, “The Illegals.” There are many things about Red staters that leave a bad taste in my mouth. But the way many of them can invoke Jesus and the Bible in one breath, and then in the next start railing about “The Illegals” takes the cake. You would think, wouldn’t you, that anyone who takes the Bible seriously — even those who take the Bible LITERALLY — would realize the importance of hospitality, of welcoming the foreigner. I would think so, anyway.

Perhaps there are signs of hope, however. The Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma, the state Southern Baptist body, this month passed a resolution that, while they recognize the importance of obeying laws and honoring the government, the law would not cause them to change the way they do ministry or determine who they will and will not serve.

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