The Gang of Eight senators took a photo-op tour of the border fence in Arizona yesterday and, what-d’ya-know, they witnessed a desperate young woman successfully scale an eighteen-foot border fence. We have just their word for it since no media people were allowed to accompany the tour and hence we have no video or pictures. I’m not questioning the legitimacy of the report; I’m sure the senators saw what they say they saw. But how convenient that a young woman made her move at precisely the moment the senators made their appearance?
Hope and Nazry Mustakim will be speaking at the kickoff event for our Common Peace Community on Saturday. If you live in the DFW area, we invite you to join us at 12 noon in Room 302 at Broadway Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Hope didn’t have to worry about the Department of Homeland Security until she married a man from Singapore. That simple decision opened a door to a strange and frightening world.
Armed immigration agents woke Nazry Mustakim and his wife, Hope, as dawn broke on March 30, 2011, banging on the door of their North Waco home. Even as they handcuffed 32-year-old Naz, as friends and family know him, agents promised the arrest was merely administrative. He’d be released within hours, they said. “His case had just been flagged for some reason,” Hope said. “I was told he’d be out in no time.” Naz texted his call-center boss, saying he’d be late for work.
Days later, however, U.S. Immigration and Customs officials told Hope that Naz would be deported to Singapore and he was sent to the ICE detention center in Pearsall, south of San Antonio, to wait. (more…)
American Evangelicals are gradually joining the push for immigration reform and the impetus behind this shift in emphasis is most apparent in Focus on the Family, a para-church organization founded by the controversial James Dobson. But Dr. Dobson has yielded leadership of Focus on the Family to the irenic Jim Daly, and the difference in approach is beginning to show.
James Dobson started out as a Christian psychologist with a mission to teach Christian parents how to discipline their children. As anyone who has ever spent low-quality time with undisciplined children knows, Dobson was scratching where a lot of families were feeling the itch. Originally, Dobson stayed on message and his avuncular and often humorous presentations were warmly received in Christian churches across North America. As a young pastor, I used his films on Sunday evenings. Parents felt overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting and Dobson seemed to have the answers. (more…)
The immigration debate unfolding in the halls of Congress is directing increased attention to the nuts and bolts of American immigration policy. Republicans insist on “securing the border”. Democrats insist the border is already secure. But what is the cash value of “border security” rhetoric and what price, in dollars and in human misery, are we willing to pay to achieve it. As things presently stand, we are building border walls, establishing dozens of new immigration detention centers (half of them run by private prison companies), turning police officers into immigration agents and generally transforming the border region into a draconian police state.
It is very gratifying to see Operation Streamline getting a sliver of the publicity it deserves. This program is highly controversial in federal legal circles because it is very costly, it deflects prosecutorial attention from serious crimes of violence, and it involves legal procedures that are tantamount to human rights abuse. Until recently, Operation Streamline was rarely mentioned by the mainstream press. If this ABC story is anything to go by, that might be changing.
The American Civil Liberties Union says United States border security treats people crossing the border illegally to look for work as criminals instead of as desperate people trying to feed their families.
Border security continues to be a central point of the ongoing immigration reform debate, with Republican saying they won’t move forward without it and Democrats arguing the borders are already secure. (more…)
On February 23rd, several advocacy groups are sponsoring a briefing for congressional staff that shines a spotlight on Operation Streamline and the link between immigration policy and the private prison boom.
What is Operation Streamline, you ask? This helpful fact sheet will bring you up to speed. Pay particular attention to the recommendations at the very end. It’s good to see proponents of a sane and sensible immigration policy placing concrete policy recommendations on the table.
Bipartisan negotiations over immigration reform – which pit a “pathway to citizenship” against “more
enforcement” – could lead to an expansion of “Operation Streamline” and federal felony prosecutions
of people crossing the Mexican border into the US. Criminal prosecutions of migrants promote the
unnecessary growth of private prisons at a time when crime is down nationwide. Lucrative contracts
for 13 “Criminal Alien Requirement” (CAR) prisons only serve the interests of private prison
profiteers, not public safety. (more…)
This story by Bob Allen of the Associated Baptist Press should excite Baptists who care about justice. The fact that the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship nominated a woman for the position of Executive Coordinator is itself reason for rejoicing. A woman like Suzii Paynter who possesses an unusually deep passion for justice is more than we had any right to hope for.
A few months ago, I wrote an opinion piece called “A Candle in Search of Darkness” after attending a Cooperative Baptist Fellowship gathering. “Every good story needs an antagonist, a villain,” I wrote, “and the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship story doesn’t have one.”
Formed in the wake of the infamous fundamentalist takeover of Southern Baptist institutions, the CBF seemed determined to recreate a world in which “moderate”, politically savvy preachers could nuance their way to professional security. As a result, I said, Cooperative Baptists shy away from anything potentially controversial, including the immigration and criminal justice systems.
Paynter is smart enough to avoid my candle critique (that’s the role of independent voices like mine), but she clearly wants to lead the CBF upward to holy ground.
Suzii Paynter, executive coordinator nominee for the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, sees advocacy on social-justice issues as consistent with the Fellowship’s longstanding dedication to ministry to the “least of these.”
By Bob Allen
A woman nominated to the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s top leadership post says her extensive background in lobbying and public policy would bolster the Fellowship’s holistic missions strategy of targeting critical needs among the world’s most neglected peoples.
Suzii Paynter, director of the Texas Baptist Christian Life Commission, said in a Skype interview on EthicsDaily.com that if elected Feb. 21-22 by the CBF Coordinating Council, one of her primary interests as the group’s next executive coordinator would be “the intersection between our missions and justice.”
“In looking at our missions, we have eight communities of missions in CBF — poverty and transformation missions, disaster recovery, missions with internationals, economic development, missions around economic development, missions education, medical care — and in all these areas we have the opportunity not to just do hands-on missions on the ground but to also use the responses of our congregations and the interests of our many lay people to advance policies and to advance advocacy for issues that affect all of those areas,” she said.
As head of the ethics agency of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, Paynter has been assigned to speak on a wide variety of ethical issues including citizenship and public policy, family life, religious liberty, ethnic reconciliation, faith in the workplace, hunger and poverty, substance abuse, environmental justice and creation care, war and peace, gambling, bioethics and more.
She has been recognized for her work on issues including immigration ministries, environmental stewardship, predatory gambling, underage drinking and prison reform. She has established interfaith and ecumenical relationships around common-good initiatives that she hopes to keep intact in the years to come.
Paynter cited Together for Hope, the Fellowship’s 12-year-old rural poverty initiative focused on breaking cycles of economic disparity in 20 of the nation’s poorest counties, as “a great example of places all over the country where we can match the love and experience we’ve had in missions with an advocacy word and voice on the national level.”
If you think the immigration debate will be sane and smooth, consider these paragraphs from Christian Parenti, one of the most thoughtful and responsible authorities on crime and punishment in America. Lots of big words, but if you want to understand the immigration debate read and re-read these words until you get his drift.
I have been told that the extreme anti-immigrant legislation proposed in the last session of the Texas Legislature was beaten back by a coalition comprised of immigrant rights activists and business owners. The owners didn’t want their supply of cheap labor drying up. But how will they react if their workers are no longer subject to deportation?
“What keeps agricultural labor so amazingly inexpensive, unorganized, and efficient, if not a pervasive culture of fear among immigrant laborers? To the extent that raids ‘reproduce’ a supply of poorly remunerated agricultural labor, then the economic damages suffered by individual employers are simply the diseconomies and political externalities of maintaining the interests of employers in general.
It is axiomatic that owners of capital need labor to be inexpensive relative to the price of labor’s product if profits are to remain healthy, and that impoverished people, driven by desperation, will generally labor for lower wages than people with some degree of social power and wealth. But sometimes poverty is not enough. In many dangerous and dirty low-wage labor markets–such as food processing, agriculture, and apparel manufacturing–employers seem to prefer not just poor workers, but criminalized workers. A labor supply of undocumented, ideologically demonized, and literally hunted immigrants is to American capitalists what drugs are to America’s consumers: an essential import.”
The usefulness, if not necessity, of criminalizing immigrant labor became apparent in the wake of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA), which gave green cards to 1.2 million undocumented farm workers. As soon as these laborers received this slightest of legal protections, the vast majority of them evacuated the fields in search of better employment. As soon as these migrant laborers were ‘legal’ they had a degree of upward mobility; poverty alone was not enough to ‘keep them down on the farm.’ Only police terror can assure that. To remain passively trapped at the very bottom run of the labor market, immigrants must be legally and ideologically constructed as criminals.” (Lockdown America, pp. 153-154)
Rachel Maddow was the first American journalist to draw attention to a story the mainstream media has studiously ignored: a Republican plan to score presidential elections using gerrymandered state district maps. It is thanks to these electoral maps that Republicans were able to hold on to House in the last election while losing the popular vote. If six Republican states (including Virginia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Ohio) had calculated their electoral college tallies using the same maps employed in state elections, Mitt Romney would now be president even though he lost the popular vote.
In Virginia, for instance, Barack Obama would have won only for of the state’s thirteen electoral votes under this plan even though he won the popular vote. The trick is to make rural and suburban votes worth more than urban (that is minority) votes. When you do the math, as several bloggers have done, this means that your average urban vote is worth precisely three-fifths as much as your average white vote. (more…)
Last night at Waco’s Calvary Baptist Church, Friends of Justice sponsored a worship “God’s Heart Toward Immigrants”, an ecumenical worship service that brought Christians from Anglo, Latino and African American congregations into one place to consider what the Bible has to say about immigration. A lot, it turns out. For those with eyes to see, the Bible is bursting with clear, radical, uncompromising instruction that leaves little to the imagination. Here are links to the NBC story and the write up in the Baylor University Lariat. Below I have pasted the text of the sermon I preached at this event. It quickly became obvious that a good portion of the 140 people gathered in the Calvary sanctuary spoke little English, so a local pastor volunteered to translate as I preached. After the service, people told me they had never heard a sermon like that before. One day, I pray, these sentiments will not seem unusual.
A Common Peace Community
The last time I preached in Waco we talked about the ancient confession imbedded in the book of Deuteronomy:
“A wandering Aramean was my father; he went down into Egypt and lived there as an alien, few in number, and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous.” (more…)