Parable of an Immigrant, Part 2


Parable of an Immigrant Part 2

You can listen to the audio HERE

In our previous post, Johnny was hit by a car while jaywalking on his way to a better school and a better life, and injured severely. This is our tale of immigration and we left his mother leaving the scene having the guilt laid on her for his demise.

Simple explanation…she was the responsible party for Johnny and she broke the law.

“Illegal Immigration is…by definition…Illegal.”

Why would so many, moral and law abiding citizens of their own countries make a blatant action that puts them at risk and is clearly and obviously wrong?

One part of the puzzle, is that it comes down to law enforcement. An un-enforced law tends to loose its’ legality over time. And this lack of enforcement of the rule of law begins in their home country and pushes many…not all, but many to seek to break another law by entering the nations to the north illegally and also at great personal risk and cost, both to the immigrant and to the extended family.

And one example that I can make comes from a grandson of one of our pastors in Usulután a rural department in the east of El Salvador. Just over a year ago, I received a Facebook message from a young man in the Dallas Texas area. As is typically the case, they have a different name then what I know them by, so always check if we have friends in common, then check the pictures to see who they are. Honestly, we visit so many churches that we know hundreds of faces, but have a tough time keeping up with everyone’s names. Add to that the common practice of using one name with family and their second name with others, and apodos, or nicknames which everyone has makes it confusing, to say the least. Often to save a few cents on calls, people will have different phones from different companies, they are getting new phone numbers, new Facebook pages, etc. and it is hard to keep up with.

But this time was very different, this was a young man that I have worked with a lot, played music with him at church services, and have worked along side his father and grandfather on several occasions over the past 4 years. He had been part of the last three of our youth camps. He was part of the leadership team of the youth group at the church. I asked myself, what is he doing in Dallas?

On my next visit to Usulután I found out why. One of his friends boarded a bus and was asked by a couple of intoxicated young men for some of his belongings. For whatever reason, he had had enough, had a hard day at school, or just didn’t want to give up his cell phone again…he said no. These youth empowered by their gang affiliations and the sense of power they have when in their “territory” took care of business at the next stop of the bus. The youth’s dead body was found that day, right in front of our Pastor’s house. A couple phone calls later, in the matter of a week, our Pastor’s son-in-law, who is now a legal resident and owns a contractor business in the Dallas area came up with the majority of the 50% cost of paying a “coyote” for his safe passage. (They normally get 3 attempts to cross on this fee).

With the conditions surrounding his migration, he has a pretty good case of getting asylum status and is currently working on this process. I had a chance to connect with him last year during a Pastor’s conference and he looks good…he was a good couple inches taller than last time I saw him and the rich Texan food has done a good job of filling his figure out some more. I brought some traditional hymnals that they can’t get in the U.S. and a couple of gifts from his mom. He is studying and working on weekends with his uncle. But, the meeting was challenging, as his family doesn’t let him go out on his own. They are very weary of any interaction outside of the family until his immigration status is secure. As I spoke with him I sensed an odd mix of sadness and gratefulness. He was not comfortable living in an unsafe canton in Usulután where any day he could lose another friend, where the laws of the street take precedence over the rule of law. But neither was he comfortable living in quarantine with his extended family in a city larger than any in his home country, where effectively he was “illegal.”

In this same canton, a year earlier, we had gone to bury his grandmother who died of natural causes. The Salvadoran tradition is to walk behind the vehicle (usually a pickup in the rural areas), which has the casket. The problem being, we needed to go the 1-kilometer from this canton to the next where the cemetery is. Most made the walk, but for her half-dozen grandsons, they can’t walk into this canton, because it is of an opposing gang. (None of these youth are actually in a gang, they just live in opposing gang territory it entirely depends on where they live). We fit 17 people in our 11-passenger van, so that they would not be seen. Out of respect for their deceased grandmother, they felt obliged to be at the burial.

In the past year, we have lost 3 youth leaders from just this one church who have immigrated because of the violence.

This post will no doubt cause some uncomfortable feelings, because it goes deep into the realm of law and ethics, and that area, at least for me, where sometimes ethics and law don’t seem to agree. I too, grew up where laws were black and white…legal and illegal…right and wrong, and for the most part, I thought it worked well. I grew up where police were good and showed up when you called them, and they were “good.” In the 1980´s in California this was almost always the case. But, we don’t have to go far in history to find that this is not always the case.

And now, under the assumption that current laws are in fact “good” we are left with the other question, of un-enforced laws. An unenforced law loses a bit of its legality. Unenforced jaywalking laws encourage jaywalking. Unenforced traffic laws encourage speeding (if you don’t believe that, come spend a week in San Salvador). Loopholes in tax laws encourage accountants to save their clients money. You get the picture.

I felt it important to lay down this personal story to explain that the above-mentioned sign oversimplifies the problem. There exists a huge gray area between black and white and millions of people currently live in the gray.

This becomes a question of ethics…not just of legality. And questions of ethics are not easy questions to answer. Here are a few examples?

  • If someone broke into your house, would you take action, what if that action was illegal?
  • At what point does “temporary emergency residency” or asylum require a path to permanency, 1 year, 5 years, 20 years?
  • What types of illegal activities warrant the removal of residency status?
  • Is offering emergency asylum to a young man like our example “the right thing to do?”

Does the Bible weigh in on these areas where ethics and law are at odds? Yes it does, here are a few examples.

Proverbs 30:8 – 9

Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me,

lest I be full and deny you
and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal
and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 6:30 – 31

People do not despise a thief if he steals
to satisfy his appetite when he is hungry,
but if he is caught, he will pay sevenfold;
he will give all the goods of his house.

Other verses regarding taking advantage of the under privileged.

Exodus 21:16, Exodus 22:2 – 4, Nehemiah 5:1 – 13 (Where Nehemiah confronts those who are taking economic advantage of their Jewish brothers)

The Bible speaks very extensively about taking care of foreigners or “aliens.”

Thank you for taking time to consider…and pray for this important topic.

And maybe this week you will get an opportunity to meet, encourage and maybe pray for someone who currently lives in this gray area.

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