On my daily commute to and from the office I drive by both a Home Depot and a Lowes. I've noticed something eerily different in the last two weeks or so. There are no longer men standing on the periphery of the parking lot looking for opportunities to do day labor.
The reason for their absence is pretty obvious: The escalation of detainments and deportations of undocumented people in America has caused tremendous fear among migrant workers in the U.S. Trump continues to refer to them as "bad hombres," but what we've seen in the news are hard-working mothers and fathers separated from their American-born children, detained in ICE facilities (some of which are run by private for-profit corporations), and then summarily deported. ICE officers are "just following orders" as they tear apart families and destroy lives. People are now in hiding; they've gone underground. Parents are pulling their children out of schools. Men and women are staying at home rather than going out to work.
If you're a white Evangelical Christian, maybe you think this is a good thing. After all, Trump is doing exactly what he said all along he would do, and 81% of white Evangelical Christians voted for him, which means they voted for this. But I can't close my eyes to what an utterly anti-biblical and anti-Christian thing this is. There is a golden thread that runs all through scripture, from Abraham to Moses to the prophets to Jesus to the disciples: We are told to care for the most vulnerable among us--the "least of these." The Jewish and Christian scripture are abundantly clear that this includes the poor, the powerless, the stranger who lacks a support system, the migrant living in our midst, children and women with children, etc.
In the 25th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells a parable of "sheep and goats" to describe who is accepted by God and who is rejected by God. To the "sheep" Jesus says, "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me." To the "goats" Jesus says, "Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me." When the "goats" ask how this could be, Jesus replies, "Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me." The point of this strongly-worded parable is not about heaven or hell; it is about what God's will is in terms of how we look after the vulnerable and marginalized in our midst. Jesus often rebuked--in very strong language--the comfortable empowered religious establishment folks of his day who claimed to speak for God. He called them not just hypocrites but damned hypocrites.
The United States of America once prided itself in being a Christian nation. We printed "In God We Trust" on our currency and put all kinds of God language in our official documents. Presidents are expected to conclude their speeches by saying "God bless America." The degree to which the U.S. was ever *really* a Christian nation is debatable (there's that whole slavery matter and Native American genocide issue), but now the facade has been fully ripped away. And, as in the days when Jesus walked the earth, it is the most sanctimonious among us who are revealed to be farthest from God's heart.
The migrants from south of the border who have lived on the margins in North America (and who's ancestors were here before our ancestors) and who are now trying desperately to be invisible, they are our neighbors. And whether we see them or not, God sees.
Here is an example of how the new immigration crackdown is mercilessly destroying families and lives. This report from Oregon Public Broadcasting is about Roman Zaragoza-Sanchez, an undocumented immigrant with a wife and five American-born children. He has been in the U.S. for decades and worked in a tree nursery in Oregon until he was recently tracked down and taken away by ICE. He has no criminal record. According to the report, "The family relied entirely on Roman Zaragoza-Sanchez’s income from his job at the nursery. They do not have savings. With him gone, the family is relying on financial help from friends and relatives. Zaragoza-Sanchez’s co-workers collected money for the family, and Rosalina’s brother gave her a loan to pay for an immigration attorney. Friends from school have dropped off food and groceries, and a teacher has offered to drive the four oldest children to Tacoma to visit their father [in the ICE detention facility]."
ICE Plans To Deport Oregon Immigrant With 5 Children, No Criminal Background