I’m speaking to the Christian faith community in this post, so my language and verbage is directed to that community.
CHICAGO – Everyone knows where Flor Crisostomo lives, even the federal immigration officials who have ordered her deported to Mexico. The reason they haven’t detained her is her address — Adalberto United Methodist Church.
Another woman famously took refuge in that church as she championed immigration reform, and at least 13 other illegal immigrants are doing the same at churches around the country. So far, they have little to fear.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials have arrested illegal immigrants by the hundreds in raids at factories, restaurants, malls, farms and meat packing plants, but they have handled cases involving churches delicately.
. . . Since the 1970s the unwritten rule has been “no churches, no playgrounds, no schools,” said Meissner, now a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute in Washington.
Critics say making exceptions for churches, where immigrants openly — and in Crisostomo’s case, very publicly — defy deportation, makes the agency look lax.
“These are people who deliberately violated the law,” said Dave Gorak, executive director of the Midwest Coalition to Reduce Immigration. “We can’t even enforce the laws without being criticized as Gestapo.”
I got a laugh out of the last line (the quote by Dave Gorak), and he is right. Busting into churches, schools, playgrounds, community centers, any place like that, would be something the Gestapo would do.
Churches should break the law. They should do thoughtfully, conscientiously, but at the end of the day, if the demands of conscience go against the laws of the state, then churches should break the law.
I do respect the law, at least those that are good, but if a law is destructive of basic human dignity, then it should be defied. I’m glad that there are some churches, like Adalberto United Methodist Church, that have the courage to do so. I wish more did.
I encourage my readers who are members of faith communities to look at the website for The New Sanctuary Movement, and then consider what your conscience is saying. If we are claiming to follow the radical inclusive message of Christ, we must remember that no one is unwelcome, and no person is “illegal” (the ultimate label of dehumanization in today’s America).
Jesus reached and love the “illegals” and unwelcomes of his day, he reached in love to the lepers who were ostracized in his society. He reached across the lines of racial prejudice to show love to the Samaritans and to the people in Decapolis. He reached across political dividing lines (his own band of apostles, contained members of different political sects). He reached out in love to women and to the “undesirables” and “sinners” of his society (prostitutes, Roman tax collectors, you name it)
So, what would Jesus have us do today?
I wonder about State Rep. Randy Terrill‘s church, South Gate Baptist Church in Moore. I wonder why they haven’t spoken out against their member’s hateful stands to bar followers of Christ to provide the works of mercy and love to undocumented migrants? How can his church stay silent when their member has made it a felony to show love to those in need.
I want to remind the churches that remain silent about this sin, of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:37-40:
Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family,* you did it to me.”
If we refuse to give a drink of water to the undocumented migrant (and yes, this is now a felony according to Oklahoma law) or to provide clothing, or lodging, or food to an undocumented migrant, then we are not seeing the Christ in the migrant, and as such are denying (in a metaphorical/spiritual sense) that love to Jesus himself.
We must be willing to extend a hand in friendship to those on the other side of the border, and if they are suffering we should welcome them to our nation as friends and neighbors. We (as US citizens) have no right to enjoy our life of relative luxury while others don’t have enough. We must do all we can to those who are risking their lives to cross the border.
If we do not do this, then we have no right to call ourselves Christian.