About a year ago there was a little film calledA Day without a Mexican. The story line was that a fog came over Californian and all of the Mexicans disappeared... those here legally and those not. It wasn't a great film but the message was solid. California fell apart and by extention, so did the rest of the country. After all, almost all of the crops picked in California are picked by Mexican workers with a significant percentage (I've heard 40% but don't hold me to that figure) picked by undocumented workers. If they suddenly disappeared, that would mean a lot of strawberries rotting in the fields and an incredible price increase in the broccoli on the dinner table.
This week, our legislators are looking at immigration reform. And once again, it is the poorest of the poor who suffer short-sighted and easy fixes. Our porous borders have led to concern about terrorists getting into the country easily but few point out that none of the 9/11 hijackers got here illegally. They all had visas. This knee-jerk reaction won't stop Al Qaida members from getting in but it will stop a poor Mexican who is here because he can do a better job feeding his family picking vegetables in California than trying to farm in central Mexico. It will hurt the American who struggles with food vs. energy in our country if food prices go up because of changes in the work force. There are issues of race and class involved when educated white folk get in easily while poor, uneducated brown and black folk are sent home.
And the church has been pulled into the mix with the proposed law. Evidently, it would make it a federal crime for any organization to provide services for folk who are here illegally. A church helping with housing or food for undocumented workers would be liable under the law. Would "spiritual" service count? Who knows. What is clear is that essentially, the church would become an agent for the state, checking the documents of people who come for help or to be part of the Christian community. The bishop of Los Angeles has come out and said that his priests will ignore the law. I hope that stand will be taken by church leaders of all stripes across the country. We are not called to be agents of the state, but of the love of Jesus and frankly, I can't see him turning a Mexican migrant worker in to the INS or even encouraging the worker to head back across the border when his family is depending upon that income.
Immigration reform is needed... but the change needed is not to re-write the words on the Statue of Liberty - "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breath free..." It should not say, "Give me your well educated, your rich, the haves yearning to avoid responsibility in their homelands..." What would Jesus do? He'd throw his arms around the Mexican and say, "Dios te bendiga!"