The Biblical Call for Liberation


What guidelines, if any, can be derived from the biblical call for liberation? The past years have witnessed an attempt to come to terms with the presence of undocumented aliens. Regardless of the shape future legislation may take, as Christians, there exist moral guidelines by which our handling of undocumented aliens can be judged.

What guidelines, if any, can be derived from the biblical call for liberation? The past years have witnessed an attempt to come to terms with the presence of undocumented aliens. Regardless of the shape future legislation may take, as Christians, there exist moral guidelines by which our handling of undocumented aliens can be judged.

 

They are:

 

1.) Laws and regulations that criminalize a group of individuals create an environment of racial profiling where overt expressions of ethnic discrimination, specifically toward Latino/as, both immigrants and U.S. citizens, flourishes. This creates an immoral situation where possible employers and social service agencies, fearing governmental reprisals, find it financially safer to discriminate against those who appear "foreign."

 

2.) To deny preventive health care services to any human being based on documented status is both inhumane, against the express mandate of the biblical text (i.e., the story of the Good Samaritan), and places an increased burden on emergency health services.

 

3.) To refuse enforcing labor protection based on documentation status hurts all workers, including native-born, by allowing the continuation of labor exploitation. When workers' rights are denied to one group, labor standards are lowered, negatively impacting all workers.

 

4.) Refusing to seriously consider the economic realities of the immigration debate, and respond to it by creating a safe and orderly manner for immigrants to enter the U.S., creates a humanitarian crisis where those crossing the border find death in the desert, fall into the hands of unscrupulous human smugglers, or find employment with unprincipled business owners.

 

5.) To break up families is cruel and inhumane, causing psychological damage to children separated from their parents. When the well-publicized Swift plant raids occurred on Dec. 12, 2006, arresting 1,300 undocumented workers, hundreds of their children, who are U.S. citizens by birth, found themselves without a nurturing parent. Family values cannot solely focus on the family of those privileged by whiteness or class. All have a right to be united with love ones.

 

6.) The reduction of humans to unitarian formulas designed to ascertain the common good contradicts the very the image of God possessed by all humans. This Imago Dei safeguards basic human rights to (a.) earning a living wage, (b.) safety from physical or emotional trauma, and (c.) family unity. Our present immigration laws deny these basic human rights to over 12 million undocumented aliens residing in the U.S.

 

What then, are we to do? In September 2006, Elvira Arellano, a 32 year-old undocumented cleaning woman, walked into a Chicago church and requested the right of sanctuary, an ancient practice of seeking refuge in a sacred place. Her actions were a desperate attempt to avoid separation from her 7-year-old son, Saul, who is a U.S. citizen.

 

Her act of disobedience has sparked the New Sanctuary Movement, creating a possible new path to citizenship for many who are undocumented. Religious congregations throughout the U.S. are coming together as a response to the injustices faced by the undocumented. Church doors are opening to provide undocumented families with legal assistance, child care, and advice on how to locate missing families.

 

The New Sanctuary Movement is first and foremost, an interfaith movement designed to enable congregations to publicly provide hospitality and protection to a limited number of undocumented families whose cases reveal the moral contradictions of our present immigration laws. In addition, these congregations are committed to support legislation that brings about reform.

 

Families targeted are those who will be deported, even though they have a good working record and have children who are U.S. citizens. Each congregation will offer hospitality for three months, at which time the family rotates to another congregation until its case is resolved. The congregation will not be violating federal law, because the family's identity is made public.

 

Jesus, who himself was an alien in Egypt escaping Herod's tyrannical rule, is knocking at your church door. Will you, O Laodicea, let Jesus, disguised as undocumented aliens in to share a meal with you? Not so much for their physical salvation--but for your own spiritual salvation.

 

Miguel A. De La Torre is director of the Justice & Peace Institute and associate professor of social ethics at Iliff School of Theology in Denver.

 

Order Miguel De La Torre's book Reading the Bible from the Margins now from Amazon.com

 

 

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