They Wouldn’t Do That

I recently was listening to a morning show when they spoke about the 14 year old from Texas who claimed she was Colombian and was deported. The morning commentator chortled, “Well, she doesn’t even speak Spanish. They wouldn’t deport her; they wouldn’t do that.” To be sure, there were mistakes made. But it was not a mistake that they deport a person because they do not speak the language of the country of origin. In fact, they do it quite often.

There seems to be this misconception that deportation only involves those caught at the border or those who just arrived. There is a fair amount of that, as the busloads of undocumenteds sent to Mexicali can attest. But there is a whole other side of deportation that doesn’t come nearly as quickly to mind.

Day in and day out, I rub elbows with detainees who have been in the United States for years. A typical scenario is one in which they are one of the older children in family, but were just a baby when the family arrived from, say, Mexico, or Pakistan, or the Philippines. Later, siblings are born, but they are born in the United States. And the older ones, even though they are not U.S. citizens, become as acculturated to the United States as their American-born brothers and sisters. They speak English with a California accent, not an Indian one, or with a Texas accent, not one of Eastern Europe. To see them or hear them, you would not know the difference.

And they continue on with their lives, growing up in American neighborhoods, being educated in American schools, worshipping in American churches, shopping in American malls. They feel American, and are much more connected with the United States than with their country of birth. But often through no fault of their own they are undocumented and, as such, are subject to being deported.

As I will always concede, immigration policy is a difficult issue. It is tough to know where to draw the line: who to include, who to exclude. I was encouraged by the president’s recent announcement opening an opportunity for more to stay in the U.S. for awhile longer. I contend that it should be seen as only a temporary measure until enough courage is summoned to deal with immigration in a more thorough, systemic way.

Because our immigration policy has costs involved with it. One of the costs we bear is to our image and self- image as a nation. We see ourselves as a nation with caring and compassion. This image needs to come face to face with those touched by our laws and policies. I urge us to act on immigration with this in mind. Even though we want to pretend that we are not sending people to dire circumstances when we deport them, the reality is that we do it all the time.

Rev. Richard Barnes is an American Baptist endorsed chaplain, ministering on behalf of Church World Service in the Immigration and Refugee Program. As such, he is the Religious Services Program Coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s El Centro, California Service Processing Center (Detention Facility). Previously, he served for ten years as a missionary with American Baptist International Ministries in Mexicali, Mexico.

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Mighty Be Our Powers–Book Recommendation

“When courageous women work together, it reflects the best we have to offer the world. Courageous women often work in the homes, and for our children, often in the shadows to support those in the limelight.” Leymah Gbowee

Mighty Be Our Powers is the story of Nobel Peace Prize recipient Leymah Gbowee. The story begins about one woman and her struggles through oppressed situations that dictate her life, including poverty, domestic violence, and civil war. Through her struggles, Leymah finds her voice and empowers women in war-torn Liberia to find their voice.

The powerful stories throughout this book of women coming together and helping one another are fully inspiring and move you to stand up for women who are in oppressed situations and do not have a voice.

The faith that Leymah models throughout her life and the faith of women in Liberia is amazing. Women from all faiths come together to work towards peace for their country and their families. They are a true example of building bridges and becoming unified to make a difference. Their voice was heard and now with peace in Liberia, they work towards rebuilding their country and helping others achieve peace in their communities.

This book would be great for a book discussion along with the documentary “Pray the Devil Back to Hell” which features the women’s movement work towards peace in Liberia. Leymah has become one of my “sheroes” in the 21st century. I hope she becomes yours too.

Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed A Nation at War, by Leymah Gbowee (Beast Books, 2011)

–Barbara Anderson

Barbara Anderson currently serves as the national president of American Baptist Women’s Ministries.

Why I am still concerned

I listened with much relief as three of the four parts of Arizona SB1070 were struck down. I was pleasantly surprised at the Supreme Court’s rulings, even if the logic left me scratching my head at times. But I am still concerned about the “show me your papers” section of the law that was not struck down.

Some would say, “Well, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you don’t have anything to be concerned about.” That is not necessarily so, and I can tell you this from personal experience. A little about my driving habits before I launch in. I used to drive at about five miles over the limit on a regular basis. But then, I just decided a few years ago to do the limit. And I almost always use the cruise control when conditions warrant. I have never gotten a ticket in my nearly 30 years of driving, though I am not saying there weren’t times… But especially when I am traveling long distances, I behave myself.

This is important, because there have been two times when I have been pulled over for no reason. One time, Richie (my then 17 year old) and I were coming back from Chicago, where we went to see the University of Chicago, where he now attends. We were traveling down US 54 in the Oklahoma panhandle early one morning. We passed through a town and had just gotten back up to highway speed when an Oklahoma State Trooper pulled me over. After the usual license and registration thing, he explained that I was not speeding, but had simply accelerated a little quickly. I was let off with a verbal warning.

The other time this happened is when I was driving Richie to school. We were in the middle of Missouri on I-70, and passed a Missouri State Trooper in the median. Again, I was at or below the speed limit. He followed me for about five or six miles, then pulled me over. He explained that I was “swerving” some. Hmmm. Of course, I was let off with a verbal warning.

In both instances, I know that the stated reasons for why I was pulled over were pretexts. Maybe it was my California plates. Maybe it was my “Frito Bandito” moustache, maybe Richie’s long hair. But I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that it was not really my driving. The egg would not have been broken on the accelerator in Oklahoma, and you could have put a laser on my path in Missouri. Neither officer really sought to defend their actions upon questioning them.

But I was pulled over. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone. Over the course of the next few years, I will be curious if those “anyones” have a darker skin tone, or a “funny” accent. I do not unduly question the integrity of most police officers. But the reason that the 4th amendment is in place is to make sure there is a check on law enforcement, that there is a limit to the power they can exercise. SB1070 puts police officers in a tough spot, including demonstrating that “show me your papers” is not racially or ethnically motivated. This is why I am still concerned.

Rev. Richard Barnes is an American Baptist endorsed chaplain, ministering on behalf of Church World Service in the Immigration and Refugee Program. As such, he is the Religious Services Program Coordinator at the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s El Centro, California Service Processing Center (Detention Facility). Previously, he served for ten years as a missionary with American Baptist International Ministries in Mexicali, Mexico.