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STANDING IN SOLIDARITY WITH RELIGIOUS COMMUNITIES IN ARIZONA

April 21, 2010

A Prayer for Sister Congregations in Arizona
From a New York City Church, Judson Memorial Church

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O God, you put before us what seems to be one hard decision after another. Our congregations hear the frustration of so many with the government. It doesn’t seem to be able to fix anything. We don’t dare to know what is right in immigration policy. But we do know that what we have now is wrong and becoming moreso.

We hear the frustration of native Americans who can’t find jobs and who think their neighborhoods are over run with outsiders. We hear the shadowed fear of immigrants as well, who work hard for low pay, and wonder what they have done wrong. We sense that our members are struggling with this issue and dozens more.

Hear our prayer for a small thing, something that may be out in the field beyond rights and wrongs, fears and hopes. Hear our prayer to know that hate is wrong and teach us how to love each other. And after that love, send us the common wisdom, sufficient for a just immigration law.

Keep us from the silence that allows hate to fester. Don’t let us become like the Germans of the last century who didn’t see or hear what waas happening. And grant us each and all some peace.. Amen

An Op Ed from a New Yorker, who understands this is not just about Arizona

Senator Schumer’s Amnesia is heard in Arizona

My name is Donna Osterhoudt Schaper, and I am a German immigrant. That means many things, including a tendency to enjoy Bach and to be proud of Einstein. I also like a good Sauerbraten and I don’t like silence. I can’t forget how silent some of my grandparents’ generation were as people got rounded up, then deported, then killed. That silence was deafening, and I hear it again.

I have one history that I don’t want to forget. My state Senator, Mr. Schumer of New York, has another. My people’s silence led to his people’s death. Mr. Schumer accepted responsibility to get a Comprehensive Immigration Bill through Congress. At this writing there is still no bill. Instead there is a political and moral vacuum, which directly encourages states to enact their own laws. Senator Schumer says he has no power and that he doesn’t want to be picketed because he is “on the right side.” He probably is and if he isn’t, he should be. He is the Senior Senator of the State of New York, a place that remains proud of its immigrant heritage and sees immigrants as the gift they (and we) are to American culture.

The absence of a bill in Congress, at this late date, on Comprehensive Immigration Reform, leads directly to hate crimes on Long Island and hate legislation in Arizona. Cardinal Mahoney, archbishop of Los Angeles, has called the Arizona situation Nazi like. Now all the buzz is about whether the Cardinal over spoke when in truth the issue is that Senator Schumer has underspoke. The lack of initiative on this matter creates the space for hate to thrive. When the government doesn’t even plod along towards justice and allows an open space for pot shots and real shots, the sins of omission prepare for the sins of commission. When senior Senators say they have no power over this vacuum, they are morally and politically obfuscating, which sounds a lot like silence from here.

Senator Schumer should know better. You would think he would remember what inaction against hate can do. You would also imagine that he knows which side of the bread his political butter is on. It is not in refusing immigrants’ gifts. My own congregation, Judson Memorial Church in New York City was founded in efforts to “help” immigrants. We even taught the Italians cooking classes, which has to be one of the more humorous parts of an American history that yet has to mature into a blessed multi-culturalism. I am not pointing a finger at Senator Schumer alone. We are in this multi-cultural moment together. Neither paternalism nor silence will get us through to what we want. We want a joyfully multi-cultural nation which knows how to appreciate each other’s pasts. We want to imagine the Mexicans of the next decades to enjoy the citizenship that Italians and Germans do now. Why would we not? Is not the anti-Latin flavor of today the anti-German and anti-Italian flavor of yore? What did hate or nativism ever get us? Besides low prices on “ethnic” food?

Before we engage a truly absurd debate about whether people in Arizona are behaving more Nazi than not, let us open our mouths and beg for Comprehensive and Caring Immigration Reform. Let’s put a bill on the table. Absent that bill, with or without Republican support, we give a canny permission to the people who are truly scared to do things that will make them look like disorganized Nazis. The notice this week that the Republicans en masse will not vote for ANY immigration bill only makes the mountain steeper. The party of nope has struck again. If Senator Schumer of the great state of New York can’t wade into this water with power and hope, who can?

Anyone can understand the fear in the hearts of Americans who might lose their own jobs or have seen their neighborhoods go to multi family housing. Recession also speaks. Anyone can see how threatening the Mexican drug wars are to a border state. People can understand and see. Anyone can also understand (and remember) what it means to leave your native home to get work you and your family need. Immigration is also damn hard on immigrants, especially as they get criminalized, demonized, or stabbed. Or are sent to cooking classes. Or are underpaid and overworked. Let’s acknowledge the mess all the way around — and not demonize those who demonize or criminalize immigrants. Let’s not return the favor of hate or get into ridiculous arguments about who is a racist, who is a patriot, who is a Nazi, who is not. There is no point. Instead, Senator Schumer, get over your Amnesia and put a bill on the table. You have the seniority, the support and the savvy to do something larger than the feasible. You could do the right thing. You could make it a truly generous and American bill, the kind your forbears would have wanted and the kind you say you also want. Stalling puts you with the party of nope. You have a chance to party – and I don’t mean just a politically – with hope.

The Reverend Dr. Donna Schaper

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