One shoe off

September 20, 2007

“The Mexicans are Laying Low”

Filed under: Bad Government,Idiotic ideas,immigration,Jesus,politics — Liz @ 11:01 am

I’ll say this for Muskogee, OK in contrast to many other parts of the state — it is an incredibly racially and ethnically diverse city. The Five Civilized Tribes Museum is in Muskogee, and the Cherokee Nation and Muscogee (Creek) Nation headquarters are in close proximity. Muskogee has a relatively large African-American population, and the Latino population has grown exponentially over the past years. There is even a growing Asian community as evidenced by the number of new Asian families moving in to my parents’ subdivision.

So imagine my surprise when, in my first few days as Spanish interpreter at the Muskogee County Health Department, I found myself with no one to interpret for! Not to mention that the tamale lady was gone from the Farmer’s Market. And the music minister from the Muskogee Hispanic Baptist Church had also disappeared. What was going on?

The answer came from my mother, who spoke with a local Latino leader yesterday during a planning meeting for Muskogee’s “Diversity Day” celebration.

“The Mexicans are laying low,” he said. “So just know that they aren’t going to show up because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

You see, back in May the Oklahoma legislature approved (and Gov. Brad Henry signed) the Oklahoma Taxpayer and Citizen Protection Act of 2007. The law requires all state and local agencies to verify resident status before approving benefits. It denies state identification cards to undocumented immigrants and requires employers to check applicants against a federal database to determine their resident status.

The rest of it is quite reprehensible, though, and deserves to be quoted word-for-word:

“It shall be unlawful for any person to transport, move, or attempt to transport within the United States any alien knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law, in furtherance of the illegal presence of the alien in the United States.
B. It shall be unlawful for any person to conceal, harbor, or shelter from detection any alien in any place, including any building or means of transportation, knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that the alien has come to, entered, or remained in the United States in violation of law.
C. Any person violating the provisions of subsections A or B of this section shall, upon conviction, be guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment in the custody of the Department of Corrections for not less than one (1) year, or by a fine of not less than One Thousand Dollars ($1,000.00), or by both such fine and imprisonment. “

Of course, if you read the text of the law, it tells you that certain services are exempt from the requirement — for example, services guaranteed by federal law (like WIC), and emergency services (like emergency medical treatment or soup kitchens) are still allowed. Try explaining that to someone who was already in fear of being caught and deported, though.

The deadline for all of this is Nov. 1, which explains why people are becoming more and more worried, and why this issue is going to continue to stay at the forefront of discussions in Oklahoma for the next months. Robert Waldrop wrote an excellent piece about the legislation back when it first passed Oklahoma House. More on this as it develops.

September 15, 2007

This is SO 1984 …

Filed under: 9/11,Bad Government,books,constitution,Jesus,libraries — Liz @ 10:04 pm

<sigh> I’d like to get a hold of a prison chaplain and ask them for a copy of the list.

In brief, the Bureau of Prisons has decided that prison chaplains must remove from their libraries any material not on a pre-approved list. Why? Need you ask? The same reason the government makes every decision lately: to combat terrorism. The feds don’t want prisoners converting to Islam while their in prison.

The bureau, an agency of the Justice Department, defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize.”

Ms. Billingsley said, “We really wanted consistently available information for all religious groups to assure reliable teachings as determined by reliable subject experts.”

The copy of the list is not public, but according to my Web research C.S. Lewis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer and a whole bunch of Orthodox Jewish books are in. Barth, Niebuhr, Kushner (When Bad Things Happen to Good People) and Rick Warren (The Purpose-Driven Life) are out. Also gone are the Hadith, and the works of Moses Maimonides.

At the Otisville prison in New York, according to one report, the post-purge Muslim section of the library has been reduced to the Qur’an and two other books. Three-quarters of the Jewish books in the same prison were removed.

As a theological student and someone who spends a great deal of time and energy reading religious books, this first of all hits me at a very visceral level. I’m trying to imagine the pain of visiting the prison chapel library and finding gaping holes in the shelves. And what about the anguish of having a treasured prayer book suddenly removed (as many Muslim prayer books have been)?

On an intellectual/ethical level, this is completely unacceptable. One of my core theological principles is that of soul liberty … the freedom (and responsibility) of each individual to choose what her/his conscience dictates is right, free from the control or coercion of church, government, family, friends or any other outside entity. To restrict access to religious texts is unconscionable from a religio-ethical standpoint because it interferes with the individual’s ability to explore her/his relationship to and understanding of God.
From a constitutional standpoint, this kind of restriction interferes with prisoners’ freedom of religion, of a few rights that they still retain. Further, I would argue that the freedom to read is another core human right that prisoners should retain.

Finally, from a pastoral perspective, faith is an important part of many inmates’ lives. To restrict their access to books that encourage and strengthen their faith is to do tremendous damage. In many libraries, the shelves have been all but emptied by this project (called, btw, the Standardized Chapel Library Project. Incidentally, it’s been going on since MAY). The project did NOT, however, include any funds to help the libraries replenish their collections with approved books. So now many inmates looking for enlightenment, encouragement and solace are faced with gaping holes on the library shelves.

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