What do Legality, Ethics and the Media have to do with it?
(In writing this series of posts, I do not intend to give the impression of being extremely educated on current immigration laws or topics…as a matter of fact, good friends who do this full time are having a hard time keeping current. As missionaries in Central America, however, one of the regions sending the largest number of youth to seek better futures across the northern border, we wanted to weigh in on the discussion and help encourage a broader picture of the situation…south of the border)
We have learned a bit too late in the day that action springs not from thought but from a readiness for responsibility. Dietrich Bonheoffer– Letters and Papers from Prison
We are picking back up on a short series earlier this year, starting with a brief Parable of an Immigrant named Johnny or Juanito. I wanted to begin this blog post following a place of tension that we left unresolved in the last post Parable of an Immigrant, Part 2. That tension was the question of ethics in the midst of conflicting philosophies and ideas, specifically the issue of immigration. What is “right” and what is “wrong” when the ethicality of laws is being argued on both sides vehemently, and even upper level law makers are choosing to deliberately disobey laws, and doing so publically.
I have quoted Dietrich Bonheoffer several times, and will continue to, as he is one of the most upright examples of a Christian leader I have found, who was forced to grapple with this question of legality verses the Biblical and ethical thing to do. In one of his deepest and darkest hours, he realized that to truly obey God you have to let go of your innate desire to be right, and in serving God, you may need to let go and find yourself in that tension of possibly being dreadfully wrong…or right…and not knowing which you are…this is what it means to trust and fully serve God. (but that is a topic for another time)
I want to start of by saying that El Salvador is a beautiful country. You can see a panorama of our personal experience in the following VIDEO.
Why do I make the clear point about El Salvador being a BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY? Because back in January president Donald Trump made some colorful comments about the conditions here in El Salvador, in Haiti and certain African Countries. It should have been a comment behind closed doors, but nowadays, the private and even classified information from the White House makes it’s way around the globe at the speed of the Internet. It was received as a slap in the face for many Salvadorans and offensive to just about everyone I know here.
This is one of the local newspapar’s (Prensa Grafica) article HERE as well as the response of protest from the Minister of Foreign Affairs HERE the following day. There were several more follow up articles, often more front and center in the paper than the local news.
This was a tasteless comment by the President, and I find it just as tasteless, that a closed door meeting, where a chief executive let his mouth fly, ended up published almost immediately in several languages and in other continents, and that there is so little discretion in how and what gets blasted, as long as it can have a political spin, or get emotions flaring, and I suppose sell newspapers, or get clicks on the webpage.
The following day, as I often do, I bought the local paper, already with a few “explanations” and “denunciations”. However the next day, I remember flipping through the pages from the cover (skipping over any advertisements) with the buzz of that comment still ruminating. I continued from page one, then further in, until I could find a page WITHOUT a murder, severe traffic accident or other type of travesty, basically looking for on page free from death, and I had passed page 20 before I got there.
What was failed to come out in the huge hype about this distasteful (I hope you hear my deep disdain for it) comment, was the context. The context was referring to the desperate flight from certain countries. Having spent time in Haiti, and one African country for six months, and now 4 years in El Salvador…I have seen a very unfortunate vain of truth in that comment as off-color as it was.
It IS NOT the people, it IS NOT the natural beauty, it IS NOT that these lands aren’t wonderful places to live.
It is that because of conditions, violence, destroyed infrastructure, land that once was arable and now can’t sustain its people, that youth cannot find a way to succeed or even get a job, where often the police cannot be trusted, the government becomes inept and unable to keep up with the needs of it’s people…whatever the reason, people are fleeing in the thousands with a sense of desperation…and my trip through the newspaper that morning brought this home. This is a very difficult place to live, and for some, to survive.
What for our family, is a wonderful place to work and a absolutely beautiful place to live, with some of the deepest relationships we have yet to make in our lives, with truly wonderful people, has become for others, their home, that no longer is safe to live in.
The immigration, and more specifically, illegal immigration issue may not affect you directly. My guess is that, even if you think it doesn’t – it does. For us in Central America, on the other side of the fence, it is a constant reality.
As stated at the beginning of this, and every post, I am not an expert. I am not an outspoken opponent to border enforcement, to the wall going up, nor do I oppose immigration. What I do oppose is passing the buck down, and allowing the “next guy” or administration to deal with it, while millions of people’s lives stay in limbo.
I do hold strong thoughts and beliefs and continue to learn more, but don’t want to use this as a platform to discuss my personal views on the minutia of the arguments; my desire is to encourage you, and me, to keep educating ourselves and be a part of the solution. Know how to help people, offer resources, and become a resource yourself.
Just a short while ago I finished a work by ex-Secretary of State Madeline Albright, in which she detailed several “leaders gone wrong” around the world, from WWI to the present. Democratically elected leaders who consolidated power, and in a short time made the necessary arrangements: picking scapegoats, changing Constitutions, killing off the opposition, etc. and became enamored with power. Around the world this is more common than you think. As if economic conditions, violent crime, poverty, and religious persecution were not enough, these have combined to create a global community where tens of thousands are constantly in flux, moving from one place to another for their safety and protection, and sometimes to just seek a better life…we call them immigrants.
Our family is one of them, who got a call to an international assignment and took it. It has been hard…rewarding, but hard. In the past two weeks alone, I have gone to the Salvadoran Immigration office over 6 times, our attorney just as many times, and within a month, I will be back in there again.
Being an immigrant is not easy; perhaps we can find it in our hearts to help those along who have left, for one reason or another, what is familiar – for what is not.
Who knows…with a quick turn of the tables, you may be an immigrant one day yourself.
In these past 3 blog posts, we’ve raised quite a few questions so far. In the next post I want to look at some potential solutions and positive areas that can be focused on. Until next time…