January 2012- “Got Documents?” Food For Thought
Most of us know someone who faced or faces this dilemma. Many, maybe most, of the undocumented we know entered the U.S. legally as visitors or quite often as students. They discovered a welcoming community; they saw opportunities that did not exist anywhere else and they stayed on after their visas expired. They studied, worked, paid taxes, raised families, contributed to society by offering their service of time and talent and established themselves as respected members of society. They are our brothers and sisters, integral members of our parish family.
Now there’s talk of concrete walls, barbed wire, gun turrets, drones, military patrols, searches, arrest, detention and deportation, not to mention attempts to turn ordinary citizens into mandatory ‘informers’. The language is often replete with sentiments that are obviously anti some or another race, religion or group. A recent debate by presidential hopefuls revealed that people from the Near or Middle East were obvious targets of this misguided and misdirected fervor.
Not since the struggle for civil rights have we been so challenged to move a major social issue beyond paralysis and fear toward a just and humane resolution. Comprehensive immigration reform is about ending a nightmare for millions of undocumented people and those who love them. It is about bringing them out of the shadows of society.
The Antiochian Orthodox Church, with its deep ties to immigrant peoples, often fleeing persecution, should be in the forefront of promoting immigration policy reform that is morally right, socially urgent and economically good for all. We should quickly identify and join with other religious and humanitarian groups that peruse the same just cause. As we enter a ‘New Year’ and listen to the debate around us, we can take pride that St. George parish has never ignored the plight of undocumented immigrants. The Eucharist we celebrate and give thanks for reminds us that there can be no stranger, no border and no closed door in a Christ centered community. The Gospel warns us that ‘eternal life’ is reserved for those who feed the hungry, visit the sick and welcome the stranger indiscriminately. Supporting humane immigration reform, and candidates who advocate for it, makes it evident that what we say and do in the Divine Liturgy is directly linked to what happens in our hearts, our society and at our borders. I will be watching this debate closely and doing my best to promote the most humane legislative response possible for this immediate social dilemma.