30 March 2008

Reedwood adopts minute on immigration enforcement

"Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all." -- Proverbs 22:2

Recent enforcement actions in the State of Oregon and across the nation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have resulted in the arrest and pending deportation of hundreds of people. Many of these people have committed no crime other than that of coming without documentation to the United States in order to find work and provide for their families. Those arrested now face losing all that they have earned through years of toil, and their families are being ripped apart.

Many of those recently arrested have been working here for years and have school age children who were born here and are citizens of the United States of America. In many cases these children have been asked to make a decision whether to be deported to a foreign country with their parents, or remain in the United States in foster care. These citizens of the United States must now choose between relinquishing their birthrights in order to remain with their parents, or remaining in their home country and being separated from their parents for the foreseeable future.

As Christians and Quakers we declare that such treatment of our fellow human beings is inhumane, and that the policies which have dictated this course of action are abhorrent and unconscionable to us.

We ask that our elected political leaders put an end to these intolerable and unconscionable practices and conditions. A just and workable program offering legal status to those caught up in this situation, and legal opportunities for those who want to remain here to work, is one way to heal the wounds our society has inflicted upon these, our brothers and sisters, and upon itself.

We have heard the command of God through Moses, "Treat the alien as one of you, because you were aliens in Egypt." We are also mindful of the words of Jesus Christ, "As you have done to the least of these, you have done to me."

This minute was approved today at Reedwood Friends Church's monthly meeting, which adopted it on the understanding that it represented the beginning of a dialogue, not an endpoint. It will be sent to Oregon's media and congressional delegation.


Anonymous said...

Hi, Johan!

I think a problem that arises often in the Christian world, and causes a lot of misunderstanding and plain bad theology, is a failure to distinguish attentively between the domain of Cæsar and the domain of God and Christ. They are of course very different domains. Cæsar's is based on a laying-up of treasures in this world; Christ's is not of this world. Cæsar's domain is established by force, is maintained by force, and follows the logic of force; Christ's is led by those who have put up their swords as Peter put up his, who have put their private money in the common pot as the disciples did while Jesus was still alive, and as the church in Jerusalem did after Jesus's death, and who now wash the feet of the least deserving of their neighbors as Christ taught them to do at the Last Supper.

This is as true of our local Rome, the U.S., as of any other Rome. The U.S., too, was established by force. And though professing Christians assert that it is a "Christian nation", it is maintained by force and follows the logic of force, not the logic of foot-washers. Once in a while some bout of Christian idealism brings about a merciful departure from the logic of force, as for example the establishment of a refuge for the Indians in what is now Oklahoma, the disarming and opening of the Canadian border, and the abolition of the death penalty in the mid-twentieth century. But these things are never irrevocable victories for Christ, because the logic of force is always eating away at them. The Indian Territory was shut down a hundred years ago, the abolition of the death penalty didn't last, and the disarming and opening of the Canadian border has been visibly, progressively undermined by security measures adopted in the course of the last thirty-odd years.

The "arrest and pending deportation of hundreds of people" who "have committed no crime other than that of coming without documentation to the United States" is consistent with Cæsar's logic. Coming and going without documentation subverts the logic by which Cæsar's domain is maintained as his property, with its people under his control. To ask Cæsar to be tolerant and forgiving of such behavior, sets a precedent encouraging future would-be immigrants to try the same. It amounts to a direct challenge to the psychic energy that holds this place apart from the rest of the world as the U.S.'s (the local Cæsar's) personal playground and private treasure on the earth.

Of course, letting people immigrate and build lives here without permission and without documentation would make perfect sense if this portion of the earth's surface was going to exist, not as a private reserve called the U.S., but as part of heaven — a world with Gospel order but with no more borders than the blue sky itself. But that would involve a staggering change in the character of the United States and in the mind-sets of its three hundred million inhabitants.

I have no objection to what Reedwood Friends ask in this minute. But they should recognize that what they are doing is much more than simply asking for kindness toward resident aliens. They are challenging the whole knot of psychic energy that allows the Rome of the U.S., and the Cæsarism that is Americanism, to exist in their present character on this earth. It is a staggeringly big challenge that they are taking on.

If Reedwood Friends is going to follow through on this minute (and what meaning does the minute have, if they aren't going to follow through?), then I do hope they are going into this campaign fully cognizant of what they are doing.

In any case, my heart is with them. And with you.

Johan Maurer said...

Marshall: This minute was originally kindled by a Friend's vocal ministry during the open worship in a Sunday service. I wasn't there, but I know that the energy carried over into monthly meeting, where the group who drafted the minute was formed. They reported to a called meeting, and then to the following monthly meeting.

The analysis was not explicitly along the line you suggest; the impulse was much more immediate and limited--the well-reported family separations caused by the arrests and deportations. But the initial meeting for worship was part of a series based on Howard Thurman's poem "The Work of Christmas." The thread of the Holy Spirit, supreme above all psychological constructions such as nations and borders, runs through all of it.

I think your comments are a great contribution to the conversation that Reedwood has committed itself to. I'll pass them on!


Johan (immigrant visa V-2, quota no. 385)

Anonymous said...

Hi Johan,
I'm glad to read of Reedwood's minute on immigration enforcement. You and Friends at Reedwood may be interested in an article we've just posted from the May issue of Friends Journal on our website, "Immigration and Friends Testimonies: Seeing That of God in Our Immigrant Neighbors". Peace,

Johan Maurer said...

Thanks for the article. I'll try to remember to include the link in my next post.