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Posts Tagged ‘immigration’

“First they came for the Latinos, Muslims, women, gays, poor people, intellectuals and scientists and then it was Wednesday.”

 

I saw this tweet last week.  It someone managed to sum up all of my feelings, along with the difficulty of fighting against everything at once.  As Jon Stewart said, “The presidency is supposed to age the president, not the public,” but it already feels like months.

 

Two weeks ago, almost to the day, Donald Trump was sworn in as president, and at the end of the day, I felt like, “Okay, well, we’re all still here, good start…”  The next day I was at the women’s March in Boston.  I had wanted to write a blog post about it, but, you know, life.  It was a great day, though, as a person with a disability, the standing took a toll after about three hours and I never even got to actually march…but I was there and I stood for what I believed in.  I really felt the small children who got to ride in strollers and sleep when they were bored were doing the March right…  I loved how many people came out.  There were people climbing trees in order to see the speakers, and, for all the complaints about protestors, I didn’t see a single person disrespect a police officer or engage in any sort of vandalism.  It was very peaceful.  I do want to note, though, that while I am proud of everyone for ensuring that that was the result, it is a lot easier for things to remain peaceful when no one is opposing you.  The water protectors at Standing Rock are facing an entirely different kind of protest, and it’s important to remember that instead of just patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.

 

So, what has happened in those two weeks?  Well, I could write articles on specific issues, BUT THERE ARE TOO MANY OF THEM and I have a job.  We’ll go through the greatest hits and we’ll do our best to ignore anything that’s just stupid or doesn’t happen to be to our taste (example: I wouldn’t have picked that person for the supreme court, but I have no objections to his qualifications and I’m willing to take an agree to disagree on that one (even though I remain disgusted that, with a year left in office, no one would even vote on the president’s nominee as required by law).

 

In no particular order…

 

  • EPA has been put on some sort of lock down. No communicating with the press.  No renewing grants.  No projects.  In other environmental news, the Utah senator tried to sell off 3.3 million acres of federal land and the House just repealed a regulation banning mining companies from dumping waste in rivers and streams.  I was reading about that this day and…I was just so confused.  So there are people who don’t believe in global warming.  So there are people who believe that there’s too much regulation and government overreaching.  But who really thinks companies dumping waste in our water supply is a good thing?  Where are your children getting their drinking water for schools?  This really just made absolutely no sense to me.
  • Half the federal agencies have gone rogue on twitter what would be really amusing if it wasn’t real life.
  • Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon replaced the chairman of the joint chiefs and the head of the CIA as voting members on the National Security Council. This, frankly, is insane. Neither of these people have any experience or role that qualifies them to weigh in on national security.  I assure you, also, when they’re deciding whether or not to use force, I want the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs weighing in.  When they’re debating whether or not to bomb someone in the Middle East, I want the CIA there giving the best information they have available.  Even numerous Republicans have denounced this move.
  • Apparently we all need guns in our schools to defend ourselves from grizzly bears…. In case you missed it, Betsy DeVos, President Trump’s pick for secretary of education, advocated guns in schools, citing a school that needed to defend itself from grizzly bears attacking the students.  The best part of this story was that when they called the school that was referenced, they don’t have a gun…
  • The House just repealed a regulation that prevented people with serious mental illnesses from buying guns. This again falls into the category of “aren’t there some things that we can just all agree are bad ideas?”
  • Trump announced that we are indeed going to build a wall. And who’s going to pay for it?
  • We have spent a lot of time arguing over things like how many people were at the inauguration
  • He has accelerated the approval of the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines
  • And then we come to the one that caused mass chaos this past weekend: the Muslim Ban.

 

There are numerous issues with the ban, some practical, some ethical.  First of all, the utter airport chaos indicated how poorly thought out and executed this idea was.  It targeted people who already were in this country legally but just picked the wrong time for a vacation.  People detained in airports were denied due process or the right to see attorneys, even when attorneys were provided for them or congressmen and women wanted to help intercede for them.  The ban ended up affecting numerous Christians and Yazidis, the very religious minorities that Trump suggested would not be affected by the ban.  The implication that Christians are the only religious minorities in these countries shows just how clueless Trump is about foreign policy.  If we are going to show favor to religious minorities in the immigration process, does that include Shiites coming from a Sunni-majority country?  No one has been killed by a refugee since the 70s.  Since 9/11, no one has been killed in a terrorist attack by anyone from these banned countries.  The main country that the 9/11 hijackers were from, Saudi Arabia, was not included in the ban (some people have noted that Trump has business ties in Saudi Arabia).  All of these refugees are heavily vetted, in a process that usually takes over two years.

 

But most of all, all I can say is that I felt a punch in the gut as all of this came out.  I am, like all of us who are not Native Americans, descended from immigrants, and mine are within the twentieth century.  More than that, my heart hurt for all of the people, God’s people, who were being shut out, who were being rejected, who were being damaged and ignored by this order.  All I could hear was the verse in Matthew: “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘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.’  They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”  As a nation, we have rejected God’s people and therefore we have rejected Jesus.  All I can hope is that the religious extremists who believe that the collective country bears the sins of their leaders are wrong, for our country has committed a great sin and God hears the cries of those whom we have turned away from.

 

And so, moving forward, I’m doing the best I can.  I take deep breaths.  I pray.  I work.  I hope.

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I apologize for my extreme negligence in posting. I’ve been struggling with health issues.

I am aware that I am probably incredibly liberal when it comes to Immigration. While I’m all for controlling who comes in, so that criminals, terrorists, and drugs are kept out of our country, I wish that we let in more people who wanted to come into our country to work and learn.

My feelings are biased by personal history. My family came here in the early twentieth century. We came during the massive waves of immigration from the turn of the century, during a time when, aside from the nauseating voyage to get here, if you could afford a ticket and you weren’t obviously ill, you probably were let in. During that time my great-grandparents, my great-aunts and uncles, my great-great-aunts and uncles, my great-great-grandparents, cousins…everyone, one by one, family by family, packed up their things and headed for a strange country because they wanted a better life, economically and politically. There was racism and hostility towards immigrants then too, but we were let in. Since that time, my family has worked hard, gotten degrees, served in the military…I like to think that we have contributed to our American society in our small way. I believe that the people who want to immigrate today want the same thing for them and their children. My family was given an opportunity and I feel that I am in no position to deny other families the same opportunity.

Right now, there are hundreds of thousands of children sitting in detention centers on the border, having endured far worse things than most of our ancestors did to be here, dehydration, exhaustion, and sexual and physical abuse. Right now, there are ethnic and religious minorities in places like Iraq that are fleeing persecution by groups like ISIS. This includes our Christian brothers and sisters. For any of you who don’t know, in places like Mosul, Christians were told they could either convert, pay a tax for their faith, flee with nothing but the clothes on their backs, or die.

I believe, that if any of those people want a chance here, we should give it to them. I think that our country has always been a nation of immigrants and for many years we operated under the approach that if you wanted to be part of our club, our American experiment, we’d let you have a shot, a chance to practice your religious beliefs in peace and to work your way up the ladder.

I understand the practical and political difficulties with this approach, I really do, but for me, this is a moral issue.

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus says: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘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.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angers. 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.’ They will also answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” Mathew 25: 34-45

I believe that this verse is extremely clear and for immigrants and refugees, they are the stranger that we are meant to invite in. To turn them away, it is as if we turned away Jesus, our savior, himself. It would be a sin. As Christians, our moral obligations do not stop at our borders or to be people with the same nationality, religion, or skin color as ourselves. We have an obligation to any people of the world who look to us as a haven, a place that has more opportunities and is safer than their home countries. For whatever we have not done for the least of these, we have not done for our God.

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The Muslim practice of women wearing headscarves to cover their hair and neck has become a symbol in the United States for Islamic women.  Some see it as a symbol of their refusal to integrate into American society, some see it as the exercise of their religious beliefs, some see it as a sign of their oppression by men.  For most of these young women their choice of clothing is something that is reflective of their personal faith and they hold to that even in the face of ridicule or judgment by people around them.

Let’s just start with some terminology.   There are many different types of coverings, the four major ones being the hijab, the chador, the burqa, and the niqab.  The hijab is a headscarf that covers women’s hair and necks.  The chador is a full-body wear that is similar to a cloak and it leaves her face exposed.  The niqab is a full-body covering that covers everything except the eyes.  The burqa covers the eyes as well, leaving only a mesh covering to see through.  As a sidenote, the now-infamous headscarf ban in France bans only the burqa and the niqab and not the hijab and chador (though these things are not allowed in places like French schools where wearing pieces of religious symbolism is forbidden).  Hijab is also, at times, used to refer to the overall practice of modest dress.  Modest dress is interpreted several ways, most believe that it should not be form-fitting and many believe it should cover everything except face and hands (and some believe those too should be covered).

Women and girls wearing some form of the headscarf is becoming increasingly common.  While some are resistant to our country changing, I believe that it is America’s versatility and ability to change that is part of what makes this a great nation.  Just as with civil rights, an African-American girl also started to become a face of America, along with her blonde hair, blue-eyed counterpart, or as Asian-American girls also became common to see in the media, so I think that these Muslim girls are also becoming another face of America, something that bothers a great number of people.  This girl—a young woman with a hijab covering her hair, a loose-fitting shirt with long sleeves, and slacks—she is also America.

Common misperception: only immigrant women and girls still wear the headscarf and wearing it is a sign that they have not integrated into American culture.  This is false.  A large percentage of the women who wear the headscarf were born and raised in America, just like the rest of us.

Common misperception: most girls only wear the headscarf because they are forced to by their families or husbands.  This is also false.  While there are cases where women are forced by their families to wear the headscarf (particularly abroad) the majority of women make this choice freely. For the record though, in a way, isn’t a family encouraging a girl to wear a headscarf or cover herself not that different from when our parents refused to buy us a piece of clothing or leave the house in an outfit because we were wearing a short skirt or a low top?  Or when we’ve done that to our daughter?  Standards of appropriate dress are different in every family, we know this.  While this does not excuse someone forcing their daughter or wife to wear something against their will, perhaps looking at it from this perspective we might understand better why some families strongly wish their daughters to dress in a way that they think is appropriate.

Most women who cover themselves do so out of a personal choice.  They do it because they feel it is something that is mandated by their religion.  Or some do it because it is part of their faith and spirituality, it helps them to connect with God.  Some do it because they feel that, similarly while many Christians believe in saving aspects of physicality (like sex) for marriage and in only giving that to one person, they also believe in only showing themselves to their family and husband.  And there are some who do it because they prefer to dress modestly as a way of respecting themselves and their body.  Instead of feeling commoditized or insecure about body image, they cover themselves as a way of taking focus away from their body and back to where they believe it truly belongs: their heart and mind.  Many would prefer the stares from their modest dress and headscarf than the stares of boys on a street corner.  Whatever motivates Muslim women to wear their headscarves and modest dress, for many of them it is a deeply personal choice that they make because they feel that this best reflects their faith and beliefs.  Christians should understand this since so many Christians also believe in dressing modestly.  This is just a different aspect and a different way of reflecting a similar belief and practice across our religions.

However, instead many Muslim women feel isolated or ostracized.  They feel pressure from peers and get disrespectful questions about their choices.  At times they have been shouted at, had people try to pull their headscarves off, and there are even a few cases where women wearing hijab have been attacked.  In spite of public disapproval, they have continued to express their faith and they should be admired for that.  We should be supporting these women’s choice instead of condemning them or judging them.

There is a lawsuit going forward by a young Muslim woman against Abercrombie and Fitch after she was allegedly fired because they said her headscarf did not conform with their company dress code.  She had been working without a problem for a number of months and had been sure to wear her hijab in company-approved colors until a district manager saw her.  When she refused to take off her hijab while at work she was fired from her job.  (It is worth noting that this is not the first time since Abercrombie and Fitch have been sued for discrimination).

Abercrombie and Fitch has a specific dress code that they require all their employees to wear, the idea being that the dress code is supposed to reflect their “All-American Style”.  Apparently they do not believe that a hijab is an American style, that it is not All-American.  Aside from the fact that by extension this is implying that they don’t see people who wear the hijab as truly American and the indignity of this, they are wrong.  We are entitled, under the bill of rights, to freedom of expression and that there shall be nothing to prohibit the free exercise of religion.  It is this freedom that entitles us to express our Christian faith, such as wearing a cross.  And all who value their religious freedom should do their utmost to defend it for others.   But further, that these women are free to wear their hijab and express their faith in this way is not un-American.  In fact, having this freedom and right of religion and expression (and to be able to live in a society that accepts their choice) is quintessentially American.

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