Tuesday, April 26, 2011

My Letter to President Obama

A blog post by Bill Mefford
Please consider writing your own letter to President Obama.

Dear Mr. President,

Last week you made an eloquent statement in response to the Republican budget plan that would take away important programs that benefit the most vulnerable in society and give even more tax breaks to the most powerful and affluent. You said, "Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless, or don't have lobbyists, or don't have clout. I don’t think that’s particularly courageous.”

Your statement powerfully expressed what so many people of faith feel, including myself, as we watch a national debate regarding the budget that so often ignores the marginalized and vulnerable. These are the people for whom Jesus came to share good news and with whom he incarnated himself among.

Yet, as I listened to you last week I could not help but take note of the stunning hypocrisy in your statement. I fully agree that what is easiest and least courageous is trying to solve national problems on the backs of the poor and most vulnerable. Yet, that is exactly what you are doing in your attempts to solve the broken immigration system.

During the brief tenure of your administration you have deported more immigrants than during the entirety of President Bush's time in office. You have dramatically expanded enforcement programs like 287 g and Secure Communities, which force local law enforcement to act as immigration officials thereby eroding trust by immigrant communities in their local police. These programs have resulted in racial profiling and have made the public less safe. You have also refused to grant deferred status to DREAM Act students and the families of citizen children, though you repeatedly make statements of your support for immigrants and their families.

I know immigrant families whose loved ones have been deported, whose families have been torn apart because of your extreme focus on brutal enforcement programs as the primary means of fixing the immigration system when other solutions such as providing administrative relief to DREAM Act students and families of citizen children are readily available.

The fear of local officials has become so intense that I know of one immigrant family in Iowa whose house was on fire and they called their pastor before they called the fire department in order to find out if they would be in danger of deportation for reporting the fire. I know of countless stories where immigrants are afraid to call the police to report crimes committed against them and their neighbors because they are afraid they might be detained and deported. I know of stories of immigrant women who endure domestic abuse because they are more afraid of themselves or their loved ones being arrested than they are of the continued abuse. The programs, such as 287 g and Secure Communities that you have dramatically expanded, are not bringing greater security to our country. They are simply state-sponsored terror.

You are attempting to solve an enormous problem on the backs of the most vulnerable in our society. You have chosen the easiest and least courageous path and that is through promoting the idea that the problem with our broken immigration system is immigrants. Not US foreign and economic policies which have caused millions of immigrants to flee north for the prospects of economic security; not on US businesses which have thrived on cheap labor. You are punishing the victims and the duplicity is shocking.

And so as I listened to your powerful words last week in response to the proposed Republican budget plan, I could not help but feel extreme sadness. Not even anger – not yet, though I am sure that is coming. The sadness I feel – and I know felt by all people of faith who are incarnated among immigrants and their families – is the same sadness felt by the prophets who came face to face with such blatant hypocrisy and abuse of power against the poor and vulnerable in their time.

Whether it was Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, rebuking Israel’s King for caring more about building his palace than caring for the poor, or Nathan accusing King David for abusing his power for sentencing Uriah to death in battle so that he could take his wife Bathsheba as his own, or John the Baptist’s condemnation of Herod, or Jesus’ denunciation of the Pharisees, prophets have been misunderstood as angry and irrelevant; someone to tolerate as long as possible, but then ignore, if not eliminate entirely. Prophets are irrelevant to those who want efficiency and who prize order above justice.

The truth is that as people of faith incarnated among immigrant communities, we are not irrelevant if the subject is justice and that is the case here. We are also not out-of-touch. We are quite in touch with the sufferings that immigrant families are enduring at the hands of your policies. And as the prophets who came before us, we are not angry – not yet, I would stress. That is assuredly coming though. We are deeply saddened and disheartened by the promise of someone who seemed at one time dedicated to the welfare of immigrants and their families and now seems bent on tearing those families apart.

Mr. President, you are choosing what is politically the easiest and least courageous pathway forward in refusing to provide administrative relief to DREAM Act students and families of citizen children. You, Mr. President, are choosing what is most politically expedient and least courageous as you continue to dramatically expand programs like 287 g and Secure Communities that are terrorizing immigrant communities. These are people who have no clout, who do not have lobbyists. They have looked to you for leadership and up to this point you have given them nothing. We hear your rhetoric about supporting comprehensive immigration reform, but it rings hollow as your policies continue to wreak terror and bring destruction to immigrant communities and immigrant families.

And so we must request - we must even demand Mr. President – that you heed your own words in regards to the broken immigration system. "Nothing is easier than solving a problem on the backs of people who are poor, or people who are powerless, or don't have lobbyists, or don't have clout. I don’t think that’s particularly courageous.” Amen, Mr. President. I do not think that is particularly courageous either. So, stop the programs 287 g and Secure Communities, and provide administrative relief to DREAM Act students and the parents and families of citizen children. Be strong and courageous Mr. President and we can once again stand beside you. But we will not stand with you today. We stand with our immigrant sisters and brothers who are daily being terrorized by your policies.


Bill Mefford

I encourage you to write your own letter to President Obama so that he can truly hear all of our voices.

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