May 02, 2010

Latino Evangelicals Call for New Activism!

By Reverend Miguel Rivera

Today, thousands of Americans around the country marched with pride and commitment in support of legalization and freedom for millions of immigrant families, relatives and friends who live in the United States.

"Legalization and freedom" was a campaign promise by (then Senator) President Barack Obama that he repeated during his first year in office. A promise not fulfilled. Instead, we’ve seen thousands of arrests and a dramatic increase in deportations since the Bush Administration.

States such as Arizona, Georgia, Oklahoma, and others have resorted to creating their own immigration laws, frustrated by the lack of action by Congress and their increase immigration enforcement. These attempts at creating “effective” local immigration law and enforcement has resulted in a contemptible local policies that encroach the civil liberties of all people, but more so, individuals who’s skin is not white, creating distrust of the same local law enforcement that is meant to protect them.

Latino evangelical churches, caught in the midst of this struggle, recognized that this problem adversely affects more than 37% of its church members. For thousands of Latino pastors, this is an exhausting political dilemma that is also full of complex spiritual and moral implications.

Church leaders are witness to families devastated by the brutal separation that occurs when confronted with the voluntary or forceful exile of good Christian people they have learned to love and respect. These Christians are being labeled as illegals, criminals, and drug lords, and now- in Arizona they will be pursued as criminals, assumed guilty by reason of skin color, economic background, and language until proven innocent.

Pastors have had enough! There is other recourse than to fight back and defend their flock; it’s a matter of principle, knowing it would be immoral to look the other way. Compelled by today’s heightened animosity and public rage against hard-working, Christian families, they will and must respond to the problem.

Peacefully, we’ve marched, fought through the courts, and now will move toward peaceful defiance by acting with civil disobedience in order to sustain momentum for real and just comprehensive immigration reform.

LEGALIZATION and FREEDOM, for undocumented immigrants has become our civil rights undertaking in the 21st century. We will fast, pray and increase activism by preparing and empowering Latino faith communities. Our numbers, and powerful voice are the tools we have available, and we will use them in greater force!

Conservative and influential Latino faith leaders support the sovereignty of our nation, its people’s freedom, values, and our safety, which is why we have supported greater border security initiatives.
Even so, we pray for a spiritual deliverance and a restoration of union in the United States and a greater tolerance for diversity and social acceptance for all.

We abandon ourselves under the core of all constitutional principles that guarantees Freedom of Expression and the Right to pursue liberty and happiness for all people notwithstanding race, faith gender or color of skin.

History tells that Anglo and black churches have accomplished great victories with similar actions but for Latino evangelical churches this is a new-fangled struggle.

Sadly, most of those who oppose a comprehensive solution to immigration reform that includes a path to legalization for the 11 million undocumented people in the United States suffer from attitudes of ignorance, racism, intolerance, and for a tainted few, a false sense of nationalist supremacy. These are the main factors that have stalled the many recent efforts to seek a practical solution to fix our broken immigration system and accomplish comprehensive reform.

Republicans and Democrats in Congress alike fear losing the support of their constituents; including the racially intolerant special interests that have successfully spread messages of fear, including sickening racially prejudiced views that accuse undocumented immigrants of being invaders, disease carriers, and Anglo-Saxon Culture Assault Terrorists with a hidden agenda to destroy Americans, take away their jobs, and commit crimes against them.

Cardinal Roger Mahoney was absolutely in his right to compare the Arizona immigration law to Nazism – it indeed takes us back to that atrocious era when people walked the Nazi patrolled streets in fear.

Another example, aside from the Arizona law that permits racial profiling is the National Identification Card, being considered as a component of immigration reform. This has bio-metric requirements that could develop into a complex database that would advance an agenda of citizenship fragmentation, another tactic that could be used to single out people of certain ethnic or racial backgrounds.

It is shameful to see the retrogressive practices by local policy makers, allowing certain forms of racial profiling, a powerful weapon that was once only used by intolerant law enforcement, yet is now being integrated into local and state laws as an allowable practice. It’s shocking to witness segregation and social inequality that is becoming more acceptable in our communities, schools and even throughout the allocation and implementation of social services.

Legal permanent residents in many states cannot vote and many elected officials are using this to their advantage, with false political rhetoric, thinking that once becoming elected there is nothing else that "those people" can do.

We must do more to become effective political activists and vocal constituents. Churches and community organizations need exposure to legislator's voting records. Voter's registration drives are a must and continuing applying pressure with peaceful actions of civil disobedience need to be exercised immediately. Court legal actions and becoming more vocal at local community council meetings is also a must. Elected officials at all levels must hear more and more about our struggle for Legalization and Freedom for all immigrants.

Churches and Christian oriented families should become "Sanctuary" for those in need of legal shelter and with special attention for children American citizens, whose parents are being deported.

We have being warned by President Obama about the lack of political commitment in Congress toward this matter. This cannot and will not stop us from moving forward and advocating for what is legally and morally right.

Learning to vote for independent candidates and empowering our communities with a local solid knowledge of every political affair affecting our neighbors, families and in the best interests of all Latinos (The New Americans) is a MUST.

Yes, today We Marched but the Undocumented Immigrant Civil Rights struggle has just begun.

Legislative solution seems many years apart. Moving forward with a pro active mission of learning English and becoming more knowledgeable about what America is truly all about, needs to start at every Latino kitchen table and our churches as well.

We will embark ourselves on a long journey of becoming better Americans. Our children should not learn to hate but should be encouraged to faithfully commit to be their best and embrace others into a path for a New America of the 21st. Century.

Yes, at stake is the future of our children; we must learn from our most prominent civil rights leaders to trust in our faith in GOD that we shall win this victory!

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