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I wonder, in a nation that loves to identify itself as Christian, why has immigration become so complicated?
My friend called me panicked: her husband was in a car accident.
Her husband does not speak English. He is an alien in and alien land. (Leviticus 19:33). As I drove my friend to the scene of the accident, she was on the phone with her husband. I could not understand what they were saying to one another, but I knew they were afraid. Had the Police arrived?
I had assumed that since my friend was speaking with her husband that he was standing beside his crushed car, unable to speak with the driver of the other car, needing our help to relay insurance information or call a tow truck. When we arrived at the scene, I quickly realized that was not the case.
We could see from a distance the flashing lights. There were fire trucks, ambulances, police cars. My friend’s husband was strapped to a back board desperately trying to use his cell phone with his restricted arms.
The fire fighters must have seen the fearful look on my face. They quickly assured us that everyone would be okay. The EMT’s were relieved that my friend could translate so they could understand the severity of her husband’s injuries. I offered my friend’s information to the police officers on the scene: name, phone number, address. Should I give them their real address or mine? Would they find out he was undocumented?
“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, don’t take advantage of him. Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own. Remember that you were once foreigners in Egypt.” Leviticus 19:33
My friend and her husband are fine. The feds have not arrived at their door. They’ve had to do all the normal things after a car accident: insurance claims, paying the tow company to take their car to the junk yard, and living as a one car family until they save enough money for an additonal car.
The emergency workers that arrived that night were excellent. Luiz’s lack of English was treated as an inconvenience, not as something that marked him as less that human. For that, I was and am deeply grateful.
Yet the sight of Luiz strapped into a stretcher, his head stabilized, emergency workers surrounding him, clutching his phone, desperately waiting for our arrival, lodged itself deep inside me.
I had never realized how much power I possess until I saw Luiz on that stretcher. I am white. I am educated. I speak English. I am American. I have credit cards, bank accounts, and investment funds. I have many connections with other powerful people like me. I have never once felt helpless. Emotionally vulnerable, yes. Unaware what to do next, yes. But never absolutely helpless.
Luiz is a very capable man. He can do anything with his hands and can make an enormous smile flash on the face of any child he meets. Yet that evening he could do nothing. He was utterly helpless, utterly dependent on the arrival of his wife.
We can treat undocumented, non-English speak immigrants anyway we want. Like Luiz, they are utterly helpless in many, if not most, situations. We hold all the power. This awareness has left me bereft for my friend and Luiz.
What protection does Luiz have as an alien in an alien land?
I am a Christian, long before I am an American. The man I follow spoke of a totally new world order where the first shall be last (Matthew 20) and the poor are blessed (Matthew 5). He reminded his followers that we could not act anyway we like, but instead the law of love, not power, governs us (John 13 & Matthew 22). And the God of the Hebrew Bible was very clear about how to treat aliens in an alien land who had no tribal protection: the same as a native. (Leviticus 19:33)
I wonder, in a nation that loves to identify itself as Christian, why is the immigration question so complicated?
Rev. Abigail A Henrich (ehm!) is an ordained minister who earned her stripes at Princeton Theological Seminary and Colgate University. That said, Abby is really a mother-pastor-spouse who lives in a kinetic state of chaos as she moves from her many vocations: folding laundry, preaching, returning phone calls, sorting lunch boxes, answering e-mails, and occasionally thinking deep thoughts in the shower. Unabashedly she is a progressive Christian who believes some shaking up has got to happen in the church.