Friday, November 09, 2012

A path home


After Tuesday's stinging rejection Republican leaders are saying the GOP needs to tackle immigration reform. Its about time.

For too long, immigration reform has been a political football. If Social Security is "the third rail" that politicians have been afraid to touch, then immigration is the subway train. Mention "reform" and you run the risk of getting run over.

There haven't been many in the GOP that were willing to even consider a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. The mere whisper of the idea sets off a howling chorus of "Amnesty! Amnesty!" among the far right. Out come the posters of the handful of immigrants who are convicted murderers. News reports of emergency rooms in border towns being overrun by uninsured Mexicans and South Americans run non-stop on Fox News.

I welcome the change -  even if any turnaround has more to do with the shifting demographics of the electorate than the call to "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free." If it takes 70% of the Hispanic vote marking their ballots with a big "D" to get Republicans to do the right thing then I'm all for it.

I know, I know. You're thinking: "I thought you said you weren't going to write about political issues; I thought you said that the election was over and it was time to move on." And you're right to note the inconsistency. But this is an issue I've been writing about for some time. In a post back in 2006 I wrote about the dilemma. I've been talking about it much longer.

My first mission trip was with Amor Ministries back in 1998. We traveled to Tijuana to build a house for a family living in a squalid border encampment. Their "home" was four garage doors salvaged from the local dump with a fifth laid across the top for a roof. It had a dirt floor. No running water. A backyard baƱo.

As hard as their life was, there was a family living up the street with one that was much harder. This family had a tiny seven-year-old daughter. Shorter than the rest of the neighborhood children; she couldn't have weighed forty pounds. Our team brought some gifts to her and the other neighborhood children. A toothbrush and toothpaste. Crayons. Coloring books. She was too sick to show much enthusiasm.

Through our interpreter we asked what was wrong, and learned that she had a heart defect. One that, if not corrected, would likely kill her before she became a teenager. It broke our hearts. We felt so powerless. And though we tried to make some contacts when we got back to the states, Indiana was too far away and were unable to connect with the right people to make anything happen.

I still wonder about that little girl.

The thing is, if that is my little girl, I swim any river, climb any fence; I do whatever I have to do to get her to an American doctor. Just across the border is a modern American city with the finest hospitals, and the finest doctors. Three miles north that little girl gets the heart surgery she needs to change her life. If all that separates my little girl from a life saving surgery is a line, you'd better not stand in the way, because I'd immigrate illegally, and so would you.

There has to be a common sense approach that allows us to embrace people that want a better life for their children. That's how you and I (read "white people") got here, after all. Some ancestor fled a potato famine or a repressive political system. A great-great-grandparent sacrificed and saved enough Shillings or Francs or Deustche Marks to get on a boat and sail west toward hope.

Given how great a body of water the Atlantic is, and how far our ancestors had to come, why are we surprised - and resentful - when someone wades across a drought-shallow Rio Grande?

I say we welcome any and all who will pledge their allegiance to the flag. Any and all who will work hard, pay their taxes, and raise their families to love this nation that has said, since 1903, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free."

For too long this issue has been a cauldron of political poison. What do you say we get back to the America our great-grandparents knew - not a boiling kettle of political frustration, but a hope-filled melting pot of ethnic diversity.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Frank...I don't think we've ever met, but I'm sure we have a lot of friends in common. My name is Mike Farra and I've spent a lot of my life working with and for AMOR over the the past 40 years. Scott and Gayla are dear friends. Thanks for writing these words. I found them as I was surfing around today. They reflect my soul completely. I live in the Republic of Texas now, but my heart is will always be planted at the border. I grew up south of San Diego and have always submitted my American citizenship to my greater calling as a disciple of Jesus. Stand tall. This pastoring business is not for the faint of heart! Mike