Immigration, Hospitality, and the Foundation of Liberty

Immigration, part 3

The demographer's term "immigrant stock" refers to all US residents who either were not born in the US or have at least one foreign-born parent. Thus, this category would include "Sam," a poor 30-year-old who just arrived in the US after spending his entire life up until a week ago within 10 km of the Mexico City barrio where he was born. It would also includes "Tina," a wealthy 70-year-old natural-born US citizen; whose mother was born in England, came to the US as an infant, and became a naturalized citizen years before Tina was born; and whose father and her father's ancestors including both parents, all four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, sixteen 2nd-great-grandparents, most of his 3rd-great-grandparents, and some of his 4th-great-grandparents spent their lives as natural-born citizens of the US. "Immigrant stock" includes people of such widely different circumstance and cultural self-understanding that one may wonder whether it is a useful term. Nevertheless, the relative rarity of cases like "Tina," and the fact that the fear and hatred of immigrants is directed not merely at the foreign-born but also at their US-born children, make "immigrant stock" the most significant grouping for understanding US immigration numbers and trends.

A look at those numbers ought to assuage the fear. The US "immigrant stock" constituted about 34.5% of our population in 1900. Then it began a long decline. By 1970, the percent of our population that was immigrant stock was about 17% -- half of what it had been in 1900. Since then, it has been rising again. Today, it's about 26% of the population -- still below what it was throughout the seventy years 1880-1950. Immigrant stock is projected to reach 36% of the population in 2065. In other words: after 47 more years of increasing, our percentage that is immigrant stock will be only slightly higher than it was in 1900. (Projections were calculated in 2015 and assume a continuation of the policies in place then.)

We need those plucky individuals who go far in search of the lights of a distant city. Certainly, we also need the settled, the deeply-rooted, the sustainers with a sense of place grounded in generations of belonging where they are, serving the claim of their land, keeping lit those lights that attract and welcome the brave wanderer.

Immigration brings a productive vibrancy among us. It does us good. Their presence presents us with a spiritual choice: we can shrink our souls, be petty and protective, succumb to the myth of scarcity; or we practice the arts of welcoming and hospitality, expand our spirit, and realize (both "become aware of" and "make real") abundance. The come-heres, then, not only benefit the narrow interests of the been-heres, they give been-heres an opportunity to change, become better people, more vibrantly engaged with our world rather than withdrawn, insular, and distrusting.

In migrations within the country, the "come heres" may be the privileged ones.

Immigration is usually good for the come-heres, and usually good for the been-heres, yet we are ceding ground to fear, to hate, and to plain cruelty. The number of immigrants seized in the interior of the country rather than at the border – many of them wrenched from their families and communities – was more than 13,000 a month in 2017, up 42 percent compared to 2016.

In 2017, immigration arrests of people with no criminal convictions were nearly triple what they were the year before – growing to almost a third of all arrests.

“Long-term immigrants with strong US ties are aggressively and systematically being scooped up and deported,” says Clara Long, senior US researcher at Human Rights Watch. “These are not outliers or a smattering of cases; instead, this is the brutal, destructive face of Trump immigration policy.”

Behind the statistics are human beings.
  • Linda C., a 29-year-old mother of three US citizen children. She came to the US when she was 4 years old. She was deported after a traffic stop.
  • Manuel G., a father with US citizen children and a local leader in Alcoholics Anonymous. He was deported after 29 years in the US after he was stopped by police for making a wide U-turn.
  • Sergio H., a US military veteran, a lawful permanent resident, and owner of an auto body shop, was deported after convictions related to drug dependency.
  • Omar G., who had lived in the US for over 20 years and who cared for his common-law US-citizen wife, who is disabled by crippling pain in her arms
And on and on. (SOURCE HERE)

They come at tremendous sacrifice, leaving behind their home. No one chooses that unless their conditions are unbearable. (US policies, usually at the behest of US corporate profits, have had a lot to do with making and keeping those conditions unbearable.) They embark on journeys of tremendous risk and uncertainty.
In the mountains of Chiapas, they hear a train.
There's no way of really knowing what's on that train.
It could bring death and desolation.
It could bring food to this nation.
Tell me, which train will come?
Which train would you be on?
To go with these words, as beautifully sung in Spanish and English, Rev. LoraKim Joyner added photos, about 2/3rds of which she took herself.

Among our pernicious policies is section 287-g, which in 1996 was added to the Immigration and Nationality Act. 287-g allows federal agencies – as I.C.E. (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) now does – to give local officers the authorization to identify, process, and detain immigration offenders they encounter during their regular, daily law-enforcement activity.

This might sound like it’s up to the arresting officer whether to take steps leading to deportation, but that’s not the functional reality. In localities that participate in 287-g, any arrestee not born in the US – even if they are naturalized citizens – is subjected to the 287 process review. The notorious Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa, Arizona used his authority under 287(g) to conduct sweeps that illegally racially profiled Latinos. In Alamance County, NC, sheriff’s deputies established checkpoints at entrances to Latino neighborhoods where Latino drivers were ten times more likely to be stopped than non-Latino drivers.

Between 2006 and 2015, over 402,000 immigrants were identified for deportation through 287(g). President Trump’s executive order of January 2017 calls for expanding 287-g partnerships. The ACLU, the next month, urged I.C.E. to discontinue 287-g on grounds that it leads to numerous instances of violations of civil rights and constitutional rights, including patterns of racial discrimination. The number of localities that participate in 287-g peaked at 72 in 2011, fell to 37 in March 2017, but by last August was back up to 60. One of those participating local agencies is the Mecklenberg County, North Carolina, Sheriff’s office, where Charlotte is. My son Yency is now a police officer in Charlotte, and he tells he feels terrible about 287-g. If he stops somebody for driving without a license, he knows if he arrests them, and they weren't born in the US, they'll go straight into a 287-g review, and could well end up deported.

"Sometimes though, on the nicest of days, somebody would whistle, and my friends would run away.
They were yelling, 'La migra, la migra, la migra viene! Andele! Andele! Run! Run!'"

The American poet Emma Lazarus was Jewish and would have known well that teaching, do not oppress the stranger for you too were strangers in the land of Egypt. In 1883 she wrote a sonnet called "The New Colossus" which was later inscribed on a bronze plaque, displayed inside the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, 1903-1986, and now displayed in the Statue of Liberty Museum, located inside the base. The closing lines read:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Certainly no person is refuse. Lazarus and Lady Liberty are saying: "Even if you have been treated as refuse, I welcome you. Even if your ethnos or class has been regarded as refuse by the prevailing prejudices of the powerful for centuries, I will take you in. Even if you have come to think of yourself as nothing but wretched refuse, I show my light for you, shine the way to the door of freedom for you, and thereby announce to the world, and to you, that you are nothing of the kind."

We do have in our hearts a yearning to be a hospitable and welcoming people – engaged and open-hearted, unshackled by fear and hate. As a people, I think we know, deep down, that our hospitality is at the foundation of our freedoms -- for isolationist distrust doesn't stop at non-citizens, but expands to a generalized distrust that erodes our capacity to be a free people. Hospitality is at the base of liberty. It's fitting, then, that words of hospitality are at the base of our Statue of Liberty.

* * *
This is part 3 of 3 of "Immigration"
See also
Part 1: Fifteen Years Ago, Out West
Part 2: Immigration: The Theology, The Facts

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