Saturday, August 02, 2014

"Bishops on the Border: Pastoral Responses to Immigration": review

Authors:  Kirk Smith and Mark Adams as editors
Title: “Bishop’s on the Border: Pastoral Responses on Immigration”
Publication: 2013, Morehouse, ISBN 978-0-8192-2875-8, 128 pages (and 32 roman pages), paper; also available as e-book
Amazon link is here.

This book comprises a Foreword by Kirk Stevan Smith, and Introduction by Mark Adams, and then four essays on immigration.  Despite the title, and the ethnic nature of the border areas, most of the contributors are not Roman Catholic.  Smith is Episcopal, and Mark Adams is Presbyterian.  The four essays are “Immigration: A Bishop’s Perspective” by Minerva G. Carcano (Methodist); “Meeting at the Border: Restoring Human Dignity”, by Gerald F. Kicanas (Roman Catholic); “Something There Is That Doesn’t Love a Wall” by Kirk Smith (should the word order in the title be “something is there that doesn’t love a wall”?)  and “We Are All Cousins: A Biblical Mandate”, by Stephen S. Talmage (Lutheran). 
It’s significant that the book was published in 2013, before the current child migrant crisis had become acute, although the migration of minors had been going on at lower levels, unnoticed by politicians, for a few years as violence in some Central American countries escalated.  The book, however, is more focused on immigration from Mexico itself.
The Introduction, particularly, explains the history of immigration law in the United States border areas, as it was affected by all kinds of historical evolutions, including the independence of Texas and then the Mexican wars.  In the past, the free flow of workers was generally welcome, as labor was needed.  But in time, farmers and ranchers began to employ dirty tricks to avoid paying workers fairly.  The US government became complicit with this behavior. The chapters in the book pay a lot of attention to Arizona law SB 1070 (“show me your papers”) as upheld by the Supreme Court (ACLU link ).
The nature of discussion is high-level, tends to refer to scripture and unwillingness of politicians and some American landed interests to heed it.  Caracano starts taking up warm when she puts “sins of omission” in perspective with “commission”, with a focus on Matthew 25.  Talmage mentions the concept of “radical hospitality” on p. 92 and gives an anecdote as to the shutdown of an entire town in Iowa, including Internet access apparently, to round up a large number of illegal aliens in May, 2008, and incident I had not heard of.  Talmage also explains the concept that “we are all cousins” (not necessarily brothers, as in composer Beethoven’s belief when he wrote his Choral Symphony) by explaining an interesting historical link between Muslims, Jews and Christians.
The challenging question for an individual, of course, is, “What I am supposed to do about it?”  We have heard that migrant children are often being housed with relatives in the US and may be in public school systems.  I know when I was a substitute teacher, that it would have been very difficult for me to deal with these students at any personal level.  Yet, usually the discussion concerns budgets of school systems to deal with these new needs, not personal demands on teachers.  We could take the “radical hospitality” idea further, and wonder if there is some moral responsibility on those who might be capable to participate in housing minor immigrants, however illegal.  In Maryland, the governor has already put out a request for people to “volunteer” to become foster parents.  What kinds of homes would be welcome?  Singles?  Same-sex couples?  Imagine where this can go.  This sounds like the “omission” concept in Matthew 25, or the hospitality concept known in Genesis.  This concept could come up in consideration of asylum requests for various kinds of abuse (including for LGBT people).  The same idea could apply toward some sort of national readiness for really big national disasters and could be viewed as a national security issue someday. 

The violence in Central America rings another bell.  Various churches do send youth groups to Central America on missions, in Belize, Guatemala and Nicaragua; I wonder how they perceive the child migrant crisis now.     

This book was provided to me as a review sample by the publisher. 
Above is an address by Jose H. Gomez, of SDOP, the San Diego Organizing Project (20130? 

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