Thursday, December 1, 2011

Not Exactly SF CARE, but . . .

The Earth is but ONE country and the humankind its citizens” – From Pancho Ramos Stierle’s Facebook page.

Two weeks ago our nation’s broken immigration policies became very personal when my friend Pancho was facing deportation. Suddenly I wasn’t just signing a petition here and there as I have done in the past, but blogging and emailing people and trying to drum up all the support I could for him. Fortunately Pancho didn’t have only me to rely on. He had a great team of friends who hit the ground running and had a campaign going to keep him out of ICE custody before I saw the first email about his arrest; protests, petitions, a letter writing campaign all got up and running very quickly. In short order Pancho was released on his own recognizance until his court date and I’m grateful and glad.

I want to turn our attention to all the immigrants who don’t have that well connected base of support, don’t have the story that plays well to a crowd or a judge. There were a lot of other people in that same ICE prison without the same network Pancho has, and they are still there, or they have been deported.

We all know we can’t all go to protests, sign petitions, or launch a letter writing campaign for every single one of them individually. We don’t even know their names. And, lets face it, most of us don’t get all that worked up if it’s not someone we know, or some one whose story we know. It’s human nature to draw our circles small. It keeps us feeling sane. But it doesn’t help solve big problems like the way we handle immigration in this country. In our globalized world only, drawing our circles wide will help us. It’s the only way for us to actually be sane.

And I do mean all of us, not just those who are uprooted from their homes here in the states. A recent New York Times editorial about the results of the new immigration law in Alabama noted:

Farmers can tally the cost of crops left to rot as workers flee. Governments can calculate the loss of revenues when taxpayers flee. It’s harder to measure the price of a ruined business reputation or the value of investments lost or productivity lost as Alabamians stand in line for hours to prove their citizenship in any transaction with the government. Or what the state will ultimately spend fighting off an onslaught of lawsuits, or training and deploying police officers in the widening immigrant dragnet, or paying the cost of diverting scarce resources away from fighting real crimes.

Keeping the large circle in our heads helps our own small circle, too. Pancho is not wrong when he says that the Earth is but one country and we are all it’s citizens. Even though we don’t know all the stories, every person in ICE custody has a story just as compelling as Pancho’s. Even though we do not know and love them personally, they have friends and family who do. And even if a person’s story about one bad decision after another and even if they have no one who cares, they are still, as Pancho says, citizens of the world. The Christian side of my practice claims them all as my family. The Buddhist side of my practice tells me there is no separation between they and I. But whatever your faith tells you, they are your fellow citizens.

So what can you do about it?

To sign petitions to help individuals and regarding legislation, you can go to and search ‘immigration’ (Be sure to read each one carefully, some are in favor of irrational immigration policies)

To find out about political actions happening near you, check out or

And if you want to write your representatives, you can go to and search on immigration to see what bills are pending at the national level. For California, you can get similar information at if you search immigration.

And, of course, you can educate yourself. A few resources (shamelessly cribbed from No Longer Strangers: The Practice of Radical Hospitality by Wendy Taylor and Margaret Kimball Cross -

Just Hospitality: God’s Welcome in a World of Difference Letty Russell, John Knox Press 2009

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