Saturday, March 10, 2012

Do the words, “When you did this to the least my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” ring a bell?

The community owes a debt to Jack Pugh for his enlightening series of columns on the recent immigration raids in Cheyenne. It was a story that needed to be told because the irrationality of the national political debate over immigration reform has come to our doorsteps. Sheriff Danny Glick should also receive kudos for his open and honest response to Jack’s inquiry, contrasting with the unwillingness of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement office (ICE) to answer tough questions.

 Regardless of our political positions on immigration, we in Cheyenne are left with two dead bodies, a frightened mother and her innocent daughter. Do the words, “When you did this to the least my brothers and sisters, you did it to me” ring a bell?

Emile Durkheim was a 20th century psychiatrist, the first to understand the sociological implications of suicide. Durkheim called suicide “the ransom money of civilization.” He argued some must die for the sins of the society in which they lived.

When someone dies for the sins of another, the issue is no longer political. It becomes theological. Immigration was a theological matter centuries before American politicians set claim to it. More recently, it’s been the talking points of candidates for public office but hasn’t made their “to do” list since Al Simpson did the heavy lifting in the mid-1980’s to actually get a bill passed.

Why does this issue get more talk than action? Politicians have far more to gain by talking about it than they do in acting on it. To actually go through the process of writing a law exposes them to political dangers with which they don’t have to concern themselves by just talking.

On occasion, talk produces a law but not one anybody believes will actually work. They are not designed to work but to gain political points. Take Arizona’s law for example, the result not of political compromise, but of a dogmatic adherence to the talking points. Piece by piece the federal courts are dismantling the law. Rational people knew that about which the advocates did not care. It’s unconstitutional.

Erica Delgado and her daughter, Miriam Ortiz, died for these sins. Our failure to act with justice is a sin. Scripture says so.  Leviticus quotes God. “When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born.” In the Book of the Exodus, “Do not mistreat the alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not oppress an alien; you yourselves know what it feels to be aliens, because you were aliens in Egypt.”  God is perfectly clear in Deuteronomy. “Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien.”
Most view immigration reform as a political issue, taking sides with the politicians. We stand on the sidelines or sit in the cheap seats and holler slogans. But now in our community, amongst us, there are two dead bodies. Now what?
For my fellow Christians this is our season of Lent, a time for reflection on what it means when someone dies for our sins. Justice will not likely be found in courts or legislative halls. What if we look beyond the political squabble about the lives of undocumented neighbors and took begin to view this matter from a faith perspective?
Use Matthew 25 for a Lenten meditation? “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I needed clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me; I was in prison and you came to visit me”.
We must choose between political beliefs and faith. As Robert Frost said, those two roads diverge in a yellow wood. Sorry, we cannot take both. Take the one less traveled by; it will make all the difference.


  1. It sure does make you want to stop and reflect on what you really stand for as a human being. Sometimes that is difficult because it takes energy, the fact of the sad matter is that too many people do not take the time because the energy is easier spent by not being an individual thinker. Thanks for being a catalyst Rodger, you have a gift that encourages others to think about what is within.

  2. I appreciate your post very much. You make tremendous points, and while not religious, I don't mind your use of Biblical references - they are spot on. What I would expand of your discussion is that it isn't between faith and politics. It is betwen morality and ethics, and politics. I am a free thinker - and I have a code of ethics, values, and morality. Faith is not exclusive to these things. Thus, I would say it comes down to politics and ethics/morality. On the other hand, faith is an excellent motivator for the religious.

    I wrote a letter to the editor of the WTE in response to one commentator in the letters to the editor section who was going on about the law as if those women deserved the way they were taken into custody, but they didn't publish it.

    Again, I am not religious or conservative, but I believe that WWJD is a good question to ask Pugh's critics, and then give them a mirror to see their hypocrisy. The law is not meant to be black and white. It is a guide for justice, and one would hope that a case like this would be handled with that in mind, recognizing that the harm done to the lives of the children is not worth enforcing the law in this manner.

    They could have handld it differently, compassionately.

    I am so annoyed with bigots complaining about immigrants. They don't know the circumstances leading these two women to cross the border, and they should not judge.

    I see human beings. I do not see immigrants. If anyone can justify seeing beyond the human being, then please oh please, tell me they do not claim religion.