Monday, June 18, 2012

WWJD? or WDJD?




Immigration issues, migrant farm workers and “illegal aliens” are topics here in the SW that can generally result in shouting, screaming, knock down, drag out, let me put my wagging finger in your face, free for all debate. That is putting in nicely. It is a hot bed topic.

Generally I try to be politically neutral in this blog and I will preface this post by saying that I am not a registered Republican or Democrat. I will not and I refuse to align myself with one party to the exclusion of another. Each party has merits that I admire. Conversely, each party has ideologies I abhor.

I am an Independent voter who researches issues and candidates (and their historical stance and voting practices) prior to casting a vote.

The Tea Party lost its appeal to me early on. Although I’m not even sure why, but I am a coffee snob, after all!

I, for one, am already tired of the political ads and of the money being spent to win an election. When there are children going to bed hungry in this nation and we have a national debt that should the Lord tarry, our great grandchildren will wonder “what were they thinking?” I ask myself why candidates are spending that kind of money to get elected when it could do so much good in the ‘community’ at large.

Friday, June 15, 2012 was news worthy, indeed. Via the New York Times:
There has been no significant movement toward federal immigration reform since a bipartisan effort died in 2007, blocked by conservative opposition. But it has been the subject of a fever of legislation at the state level, and a new policy put in place by President Obama on June 15, 2012 seems likely to ensure that becomes an issue in the November presidential campaign.  

Under the new policy, hundreds of thousands of immigrants who came to the United States illegally as children are now able to obtain work permits and be immune to deportation for two years at a time.  

The policy applies to people who are currently under 30 years old, who arrived in the country before they turned 16 and have lived here for five years. They must also have no criminal record, and have earned a high school diploma, remained in school or served in the military. These qualifications resemble in some ways those of the so-called Dream Act, a measure blocked by Senate Republicans in 2010 that was geared to establish a path toward citizenship for certain young illegal immigrants

It does not escape me that this move comes on the heels of a very tight and controversial election year and campaign.

I attend a United Methodist Church. This because I believe what they believe and especially because of their outreach to the community at large. They truly are a Sanctuary for all peoples, all races, all creeds and ages. Here is a statement on President Obama’s immigration policy decision via the United Methodist News Service:


5:30 P.M. ET June 15, 2012
United Methodist supporters of immigration reform applauded President Obama’s June 15 announcement that the United States would change its immigration policy, ending deportation for some young undocumented immigrants who entered the United States as children.



The action, brought about by executive order and not requiring legislation, is similar in some ways to the DREAM Act, a measure blocked by Congress in 2010. The DREAM Act’s goal is to set a path toward citizenship for certain young undocumented immigrants. The administration’s action could affect up to 800,000 people.



Under the new policy, immigrants younger than 30 who came to the United States before age 16, who pose no criminal or security threat and who were successful students or served in the military, can obtain a two-year deferral from deportation, according to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Those meeting the requirements could apply for work permits, provided they are now in the United States and have been continuously at least five years.

Phoenix Area Bishop Minerva G. Carcaño, a longtime proponent of the DREAM Act, responded with a statement.

“The Obama administration’s announcement today that some undocumented youth living in the U.S. will receive temporary relief from deportation and will be able to receive work authorization is an extraordinary way forward for much-needed immigration reform,” the bishop said.

“Among the young people who will be blessed by this action are United Methodists with whom we celebrate and give God thanks. This day comes as a result of the diligent efforts of many, including the hard work of immigration rapid response teams in our annual conferences, the work of several of our general agencies, United Methodist Women, and the clear and steady voice of our Council of Bishops.”

‘Overwhelming’ but ‘bittersweet’

“It’s really overwhelming,” said an 18-year-old woman, who was attending the Florida Annual (regional) Conference session when she heard the announcement. “I’ve been here since I was 2 years old and grew up American. And now, the fact that I can finally work and go to school here will make life so much easier.” She is a new volunteer for the United Methodist Justice for Our Neighbors program to help immigrants, and she wants to attend law school.

“But at the same time, it’s bittersweet for me,” she continued. “It’s great for everyone who qualifies, but I have mixed emotions because of my family. I think about my parents, my aunts and uncles — people who have never had a criminal record and have contributed to this society, they are really deserving of relief. So, the work isn’t finished.”

Calling it “a big day to celebrate,” Hannah Hanson, education and advocacy coordinator for JFON in Florida, said, “I truly believe that The United Methodist Church had a lot to do with this decision. We’ve been advocating for this a long time, all across the country. Tomorrow there’s a lot of work to do, but this is truly a day to celebrate.”

The president made the announcement in a news conference called Friday morning. “Effective today, the Department of Homeland Security is taking steps to lift the shadow of deportation from these young people,” Obama said.

“This is not amnesty, this is not immunity, this is not a pass to citizenship. It’s not a permanent fix,” he continued. Calling the decision “a temporary stopgap measure,” he said, “There is still time for Congress to pass the DREAM Act this year. … We still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

‘The right thing to do’

Sharing the story of a young immigrant serving in the U.S. military, Obama continued, “I’ve been with groups of young people who work so hard and speak with so much heart about what’s best in America.

“It is the right thing to do because these young people are already making contributions to our society,” the president said. Treating them as expendable, he said, “makes no sense.”

“We have always drawn strength from being a nation of immigrants … ,” he said, “and my hope is that Congress recognizes that and gets behind this effort.”

The American Civil Liberties Union said the announcement came on the 30th anniversary of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Plyer v. Doe, in which the high court made clear that all children, regardless of their immigration status, must be welcomed in the nation’s public K-12 schools.

*Bachus is director of the office of Spanish resources and Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor for United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Barbara Dunlap-Berg, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.
There were few comments on the website and they were negative and one spoke to the separation of church and state, incorrectly. So, I thought a primer in the first amendment as it relates to religion might be in order.

Separation of Church and State:
A First Amendment Primer

The right to freedom of religion is so central to American democracy that it was enshrined in the First Amendment to the Constitution along with other fundamental rights such as freedom of speech and freedom of the press.



In order to guarantee an atmosphere of absolute religious liberty, this country's founders also mandated the strict separation of church and state. Largely because of this prohibition against government regulation or endorsement of religion, diverse faiths have flourished and thrived in America since the founding of the republic. Indeed, James Madison, the father of the United States Constitution, once observed that "the [religious] devotion of the people has been manifestly increased by the total separation of the church from the state."


Americans are still among the most religious people in the world. Yet the government plays almost no role in promoting, endorsing or funding religious institutions or religious beliefs. Free from government control -- and without government assistance -- religious values, literature, traditions and holidays permeate the lives of our citizens and, in their diverse ways, form an integral part of our national culture. By maintaining the wall separating church and state, we can guarantee the continued vitality of religion in American life. (Information via the Anti Defamation League.)
Some of the general thoughts in the comment made seemed to imply that those who are religious minded should have no say in politics whatsoever. Oh, contraire my friends! What this means is the government cannot tell us how or where to worship especially as this would relate to a government or state run church.

The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) was the first corporate body in Britain and North America to fully condemn slavery both ethically and religiously. The North American body also helped to establish safe havens for slaves in the Underground Railroad. (A recommended read for children: Follow the Drinking Gourd – a children’s book by Jeanette Winter.)
Quakers in the Anti-slavery Movement
Before the eighteenth century, very few white men questioned the morality of slavery. The Quakers were among these few. The doctrines of their religion declared an issue such as slavery to be unjust. By 1775, the Quakers founded the first American anti-slavery group. Through the 1700s, Quakers led a strong-held prohibition against slavery. The Quakers’ fight inspired growing numbers of abolitionists, and by the 1830’s abolitionism was in full force and became a major political issue in the United States.

The Quakers were radical Christians. They believed that all people were equal in the sight of God, and every human being was capable of receiving the “light” of God’s spirit and wisdom. They also were against violence. Quakers were known for their simple living and work ethic. Therefore, to the Quakers, slavery was morally wrong.

It was as early as the 1600s that Quakers began their fight against slavery, and thus the beginning of the abolitionist movement. They debated, made speeches, and preached to many people. By 1696, they made their first official declaration for abolitionism in Pennsylvania, in which they declared they were not going to encourage the importation of slaves.
The issue has become clear to me. It isn’t so much WWJD (what would Jesus do?) but more WDJD (what DID Jesus do?) It is about justice. It is about human rights. It is about doing what Jesus did.
We have the book – read it for yourself: He fed the multitudes (without regard for their race or gender). He gave living water to those who thirst (even a dreaded Samaritan woman). He traveled as a migrant from place to place with no place to lay his head. He served others, to include washing their feet.
In the account of the Nativity in Matthew 2, the toddler Jesus and his parents Mary and Joseph fled from Bethlehem to another country. They went to Egypt where they lived until Herod’s death. This was for a period of years. Were they not refugees? Wanderers? Immigrants?

There is another wonderful children’s book that brought the migrant issue forefront to my mind and heart. It is Amelia’s Road by Linda Jacobs Altman. Truly, it changed me from the inside out when reading about this little girl, the daughter of migrant workers living in work camps and going from school to school without anyone learning her name.

Now why am I touting children’s books? As a former prison librarian who did a literacy program with inmates to encourage them to read to their children, these were two titles I used. Find the two mentioned children’s books at your local public library and read them to your children or your grandchildren.

These are merely more musings from my heart…
Tamara
P.S. Isaiah 59:15 CEV 
"When the Lord noticed that justice had disappeared, he became very displeased"