THE BLOG
04/04/2013 02:36 pm ET Updated Jun 04, 2013

Comprehensive Immigration Reform Is Refusing Blessings

Immigrations are a blessing, not a curse. They are assets, not deficits. While they live with constant trepidation about whether their children will be separated from them, while many have been picked up for small offenses, like traffic violations and gone to jail only to luckily be released, they have STILL shown resilient courage, that miracle of guts that keeps them going. Immigrants are spiritual and economic blessings, not curses. The current bill does not help the 11 million people here. It puts them at the end of the citizenship line. WHY REFUSE THEIR BLESSING?

In the New Sanctuary Movement, we choose to focus on a certain kind of immigrant, the one who has a family who is also under threat of detention or deportation. We accompany them to their ICE check-ins. Of the 67 people we have accompanied in New York City, only nine have been deported. Attention must be paid to the 11 million, one human being at a time.

We have not only learned what assets these friends are. Nor have we just been blessed ourselves with a glimpse of human courage that is uplifting and heart making. We have also seen into the darkness of the immigration system, the way it double jeopardizes people who have done their time for previous offenses and now seeks to punish them again by detention or deportation. We have been forced to look into the stupidity of this system and see how one arm of the Federal Government, ICE, destroys the very economy that other parts are trying to build. Study after study shows that immigrants are the economic engines inside the great stagnation. Under Obama, as many immigrants are deported as were deported under Bush. The question is why? Why deport economic engines? Why deport people who show the rest of us how to have courage? Why deport people whose very difference from citizen Americans makes the stew we eat much more delicious as a nation?

Immigrants' assets are not only spiritual and economic: they also provide the cultural diversity for which many of us still hope. They melt the pot. Now it is time to melt the heart of this great nation and not just provide paths for citizenship, but much more to welcome immigrants and say thank you, for coming. We need not be just open to immigrants but also welcoming. In the United Church of Christ we call this not just "open" but "affirming."

Under sequestration, ICE is releasing some detainees for "economic" reasons. They should be releasing detainees for moral reasons.

Don't misunderstand me. I am not just arguing that we bring in the "good immigrants," those who nurture our political and cultural economy. I am suggesting that we welcome all immigrants, and get over the fantasy that we citizen Americans are somehow all great people, never having sinned or committed a crime. That conceit lies at the heart of the diswelcome of people with blessed assets. The "Host" imagines the guest inadequate when in fact it is the "Host" whose self-righteousness is immature. We need to be careful of the heart and soul of America in the immigration blessing. We need to make sure we open our hearts for our own sakes, not just for the sake of getting the blessing and asset of immigrants. Minimally, we could stop punishing people for trying to enjoy our great democratic dream with us. We punish with insults and name calling -- illegal, undocumented, strangers, exiles -- but we also punish with violence and force. We imitate the theft of the land from Native Americans, as though we were in a neurotic pattern of self-repetition. Your money must be mine. Your land must be mine. Why? Because I am obviously better than you: this is the darkest lie of all. When citizen Americans wake up to how much we need the asset and blessing of immigrants, we will find our way to ourselves and our own dreams about ourselves. Until then, we can count on walking wounded and going on to wound. There is just no good reason for the way we treat immigrants, even in the proposed "comprehensive" reform on its way. It is time to remember that we citizens are the strangers in the strange land -- and that the only way we will find our way back home is to welcome others to our home. In that welcome is our welcome and our home.

The Walking ATM, a Meditation on an Immigrant

He worked easy 50 hours for the $300 in his pocket.
On his way home, on Friday night,
Tired but not exhausted,
The thieves chanted "Juanie, Juanie, Juanie,"
And then robbed him as if they had a right to his money.
And his name.

He had no cop, no wife, no country to call.
His children were waiting at the Western Union in Chiapas.
He trudged to the place he calls home, now exhausted
And insulted.

My country is the thief.
I am a part of the rip off.
First we steal dignity and them we take the money.

His name was Juan.