Month: March 2017

Day 27 – Stranger Love

Jesus said, “I was a stranger and you broke down my door, pointed a gun in my face and shot me.”

OK, Jesus didn’t really say that, but that is what a Chicago family experienced at 6:20 am on March 27, 2017, when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents entered their home and seriously wounded a 53-year-old father.  Here’s the problem: ICE agents had come to arrest someone in the house (not the man who was shot), but everyone who lived there was documented.  The family has lived in the home for almost 30 years.  ICE agents claim the man had a gun–a claim the family denies.

A Chicago City Council committee unanimously voted last week to renew Chicago’s status as a “Sanctuary City” which would prevent the Chicago Police Department from cooperating with ICE and other federal agencies.  However, the measure does not prevent ICE from conducting raids on their own and allows cooperation under certain circumstances.

Question For Reflection

It is experiences such as this that make all immigrants and citizens of color so nervous.  What actions could people of faith take to protect immigrants from these kinds of situations?

Is your community a “sanctuary” for immigrants and refugees?  HERE is a list of all cities, counties and states identified by the Department of Homeland Security.



Day 26 – Stranger Love

Why do we need migrant workers to harvest our fruits and vegetables when we have so many people unemployed or under-employed that are looking for jobs?  According to Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development, it’s because native workers won’t often take the jobs–and even when they do, they don’t last very long.  This is true despite the fact that native workers are given preference in hiring over migrant workers.

According to the report of Clemens’s research (published in 2013), of the 489,000 unemployed in North Carolina, only 268 native workers applied for the available 6,500 seasonal farm jobs in 2011–a year of high unemployment.  Over 90% of them were hired, but only 163 showed up for work on the first day!  And of the 163 who worked, only 7 completed the harvest season–less than 5% of those who had started!  Comparatively, 90% of migrant workers completed the season.  You can read the entire report HERE.

Right now, vegetable farmers are struggling to find anyone to harvest their crops due to the anti-immigrant environment, oppressive state and local laws and fear of ICE detainment and deportation.  If workers cannot be found, you can be sure that we’ll all feel the pinch at the grocery store!

Questions for Reflection

Why do you think native workers (U.S. citizens) don’t take these available jobs?  Or make it to the end of the season?

If you were a grower, would this report impact your hiring practices?  How?

How does this report challenge prevailing attitudes about migrant workers and/or immigrants?

Day 25 – Stranger Love

Genesis 39:1, 7-20a

Now Joseph had been taken down to Egypt. Potiphar, an Egyptian who was one of Pharaoh’s officials, the captain of the guard, bought him from the Ishmaelites who had taken him there.

…After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house. When she saw that he had left his cloak in her hand and had run out of the house, she called her household servants. “Look,” she said to them, “this Hebrew has been brought to us to make sport of us! He came in here to sleep with me, but I screamed. When he heard me scream for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.”

She kept his cloak beside her until his master came home. Then she told him this story: “That Hebrew slave you brought us came to me to make sport of me. But as soon as I screamed for help, he left his cloak beside me and ran out of the house.” When his master heard the story his wife told him, saying, “This is how your slave treated me,” he burned with anger. Joseph’s master took him and put him in prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined.

Joseph is Hebrew newly arrived in Egypt.  As a slave, he ends up in the household of Potiphar, but things quickly go badly for him.  He is accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife and he is arrested and incarcerated.  Twice, he is referred to as “that Hebrew.”  His “other” status put him at risk for false accusation.

Often immigrants are easy targets for false accusations because we are told stories of immigrant criminality.  But we also have a long-standing cultural narrative of African-American men as sexual predators (consider the original “Birth of A Nation” movie).  When these two narratives come together, it is disastrous for the 2.5 million African immigrants living in the U.S.–the fastest growing segment of the immigrant population.

Africans are at special risk for being suspected of crimes, stopped for minor traffic infractions, and questioned because they are black in America.  In a report by the Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), it is noted that “Black people are far more likely than any other population to be arrested, convicted and imprisoned in the U.S. criminal enforcement system — the system upon which immigration enforcement increasingly relies.” African immigrants are more likely to be deported for criminal convictions than from other regions.  In 2015, 1,293 Africans were deported.  And it is becoming more common to see ICE agents in African-American communities, questioning and detaining both immigrants AND U.S. citizens.

Questions for Reflection

According to CNN, there are over 50,000 “illegal” immigrants in the U.S. from Ireland, and there are estimates of 70,000 “illegal” immigrants from Poland in the Chicago area alone!

What assumptions you do you have about where “illegal aliens” are from?  Do you think there is a double standard for treatment of “illegal” immigrants from Europe?  If so, why?

Day 24 – Stranger Love

Exodus 22:21

“Do not mistreat or oppress a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.”

On February 16, 2017, thousands of immigrants participated in a national work stoppage called “A Day Without Immigrants” to demonstrate how important immigrants are to the U.S. economy and to protest the president’s proposed “Wall” and deportations.  The restaurant and fast food industry was particularly affected by the ‘strike’.

Three days earlier, thousands of immigrants took to the streets of Milwaukee, WI, in what was dubbed “A Day Without Latinos.”  They were protesting Sheriff David Clarke’s efforts to turn the county police into ICE agents.  The Wisconsin dairy industry has come to depend upon the contribution of Latinx immigrants from dairy farms to cheese factories.

While some employers supported the national and local actions, others took action of their own, firing employees that did not come to work that day.

Questions for Reflection

What effect do you think “A Day Without Immigrants” and “A Day Without Latinos” have on those who make decisions about immigration policy and/or enforcement?

What impact, if any, did it have on you?

Do you think work stoppage actions make the general public more or less empathic to the conditions and needs of immigrants?  Why?

Day 23 – Stranger Love

2 Chronicles 2:1-2

Solomon decided to build a temple for the name of the Lord, and a royal palace for himself. Solomon conscripted seventy thousand laborers and eighty thousand stonecutters in the hill country, with three thousand six hundred to oversee them.

Solomon embarks on an ambitious building project that included thousands of workers.  However, it is clear that the workers did not voluntarily enlist for the project–they were very likely slave labor (or close to it).  Where did Solomon get all the workers?  According to 2 Chronicles 2:17-18, all 153,600 workers were “aliens” residing in his kingdom.  The temple and the palace were built by immigrants.

Throughout U.S. history, labor intensive construction jobs have often been given to slaves (the White House) or immigrants.  In New Orleans, work on the 60′ by 3.17 mile New Basin Canal began in 1832 using the labor of newly arriving Irish immigrants.  The construction was back-braking, dangerous work–often in waist-deep water.  Over the course of the 6-year project, it has been estimated that 8,000 – 20,000 Irish laborers died–many of them succumbing to mosquito-borne Yellow Fever.  The true number will never be known as most of the men were simply buried in the levees that lined the canal.

Our current immigration policies give highly skilled immigrants preferential treatment.  However, most of our fruits and vegetables are harvested by low-paid migrant workers with little protection.

Questions for Reflection

“Immigrants are taking our jobs!”  We often hear that statement in the immigration debate.  How do you respond when you hear it?

What jobs are most likely to be filled by immigrants today?  What do you think would happen if immigrants just stopped working?

The “Undetermined” Death of Ben Keita

Eighteen year old Ben Keita went missing from his small town Washington home in November 2016.  All that was found was his car, his cell phone and his wallet.  After weeks of searching, Ben was finally found–hanging from a tree 8 feet off the ground.  Initially, his death was ruled a suicide by the county Medical Examiner’s office.  But several weeks later, officials changed the cause of death to “undetermined”.   His family and his community believe he was lynched.  Ben is black.  Ben is Muslim.

Since November 9, 2016, incidents of attacks on Muslims, Jews and people of color have increased.  Mosques have been burned, Jewish cemeteries vandalized, immigrants have been attacked.  And our president has either been silent or has tweeted that America needs to “get smart” about our immigration policy.

Today, we remember the story of the “Sons of Thunder” who wanted to call down fire from heaven to obliterate a Samaritan village that did not welcome Jesus who was on his way to Jerusalem.  But Jesus rebuked them.

Today, let’s rebuke the spirit of bigotry and hatred in ourselves, in our nation, and in our world that leads to violence and death.  Today, let’s choose life.



Day 22 – Stranger Love

John 4:4-9

But [Jesus] had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)

Jesus crosses a literal territorial boundary (Judaea/Samaria) and then crosses soci0-cultural boundaries (male/female, Jew/Samaritan).  Jesus unexpectedly (from the woman’s perspective) takes on the role of the immigrant/stranger in need of hospitality and welcome.  Jesus frequently crossed social lines, and was roundly criticized for it.  “He welcomes sinners, and even eats with them.” (Luke 15:2)

While the Teachers of the Law were like border patrol agents determining who was “legal” and who was “illegal”, Jesus joined those who were deemed “illegal” and showed solidarity with them.  Jesus blurred the lines between insider and outsider by blurring his own identity in relationship to those on the outside. (See Philippians 2:5ff). It is within this new place without boundaries that grace is extended and received.

Questions for Reflection

Even if we choose to cross a socio-cultural boundary, we often maintain the prevailing power dynamics–refusing to become vulnerable.   How does Jesus’ actions challenge your relationship to “strangers”?

Are you more likely to act as the “Border Patrol” determining who is “legal” or as Jesus who doesn’t seem to care about status?  What pulls you toward one or the other?

Day 21 – Stranger Love

Genesis 11:1-9

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, “Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly.” And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built. And the Lord said, “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another’s speech.” So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

Ched Myers in his book, “Our God Is Undocumented”, makes the case that cultural and linguistic diversity is God’s plan for humanity.  Interpreting the story of the tower of Babel, Myers suggest that cultural and linguistic homogeneity is the plan of  the powers of the city-state (“let us…”) to unite and mobilize human capital to build a monument around which all life will gravitate and from which all life will be ordered.  Babel is more than simply a beautiful skyscraper.  Babel represents the imperial center of the world that controls global life socially, economically and spiritually.

God’s response to what Myers calls “the problem of imperial monoculture” is to “confuse their languages”.  God “decentralizes” Babel by dispersing and diversifying the people once again.  Rather than the scattering being an act of punishment, Myers sees it as an act of liberation.  Diversity (as seen in all of creation) is God’s will.  Yet humanity continues to centralize and homogenize, to assimilate and dominate to fulfill imperialist agendas.

Interesting Fact:  According to Ethnologue, there are currently 7,099 languages spoken in the world.  However, 43% of them are considered endangered.  In fact, 1 language becomes extinct every 4 months. (Languages have disappeared at this rate for the past 40 years.).  In the words of the Linguistic Society, “when a language dies, a world dies with it.”  For more information about world language diversity, go to Ethnologue.

Questions for Reflection

Do you see “the problem of imperial monoculture” in our day?  How?  Do you think it really is a problem?  Why or why not?

How does the pull toward centralization and homogeneity inform our policies regarding immigrants and refugees and what we expect of them when they come to the U.S.?

Though we talk of the value of “diversity”, do you think we truly encourage it?  Explain.

Day 20 – Stranger Love

Ruth 2:14-18

At mealtime Boaz said to her, “Come here, and eat some of this bread, and dip your morsel in the sour wine.” So she sat beside the reapers, and he heaped up for her some parched grain. She ate until she was satisfied, and she had some left over. When she got up to glean, Boaz instructed his young men, “Let her glean even among the standing sheaves, and do not reproach her. You must also pull out some handfuls for her from the bundles, and leave them for her to glean, and do not rebuke her.”

So she gleaned in the field until evening. Then she beat out what she had gleaned, and it was about an ephah of barley. She picked it up and came into the town, and her mother-in-law saw how much she had gleaned. Then she took out and gave her what was left over after she herself had been satisfied. 

The field of Boaz becomes a place of provision and security for Ruth.  Boaz welcomes her to glean in his fields throughout the remainder of the harvest.  Naomi rejoices that Boaz has shown them favor, suggesting that not every field (or owner) would be a refuge for the poor and the immigrant.

There is a growing “sanctuary” movement in many cities across the country to protect vulnerable immigrants by providing a place of safety.  While controversial, many churches have identified themselves as “sanctuary” for immigrants.  In some states, laws are being proposed to ensure the safety of immigrants.  Twenty-three Illinois state representatives have signed on as sponsors of the Safe Zone Act which would ensure that ICE agents could not enter schools or healthcare facilities without a warrant.  (Churches were included in the original legislation, but have since been removed.). Another proposed law, the Illinois TRUST Act would limit local police involvement in federal immigration enforcement.

In other states, immigrants have become increasingly vulnerable.  In Milwaukee County, WI, Sheriff David Clarke wants ICE  (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) to immediately authorized his officers to enforce U.S. immigration laws through its 287(g) program.   In a letter to ICE, Sheriff Clarke wrote, that he is “deeply concerned about the potential threat posed by illegal aliens to the safety and security of the citizens that reside within the nineteen cities, towns and villages in Milwaukee County.”  Read more about Sheriff Clark’s involvement with ICE HERE.

Questions for Reflection

Where are the places of refuge for immigrants in your community?

Would you include your faith community among those who protect immigrants?  On what do you base your answer?

While Sheriff Clarke seems most concerned about undocumented immigrants, how do you think his actions impact immigrants that have documents?  How would you feel as an immigrant living in Milwaukee County?