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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Immigration Reform Any Old White Man Would Love

I read this morning (Tuesday, June 25) that in approaching the likely cloture and final votes on the Senate immigration bill later this week, any amendments that are brought up will have to be "non-controversial." I am struck by that thought especially in light of yesterday's (Monday) action by the Senate, which passed the Corker-Hoeven amendment. The Corker-Hoeven amendment will add a staggering $38 billion on southern border security to the already staggering $4.5 billion in the base bill, S. 744, to the already staggering $18 billion spent on border security in 2012 alone. This amendment will add 20,000 patrol agents - in addition to the 19,000 that will already be there - to the border. This will add even more militaristic hardware as well as 700 miles of fencing to the border. Senator Corker himself called this bill "overkill" and I could not agree more. And remember, this isn't about keeping out our Canadian neighbors to the North. This is about the southern border. This is about people of color and protecting a (currently) dominant white country against their entrance to ease the discomfort that too many mostly old, white men who populate too much of the Senate have when the discussion centers around immigration.

What struck me this week was the fact that after years of howling at the moon about how the federal government spends too much money and is in too much debt, the Senate easily, happily spent $38 billion with nary a complaint from Fox News about the cost, even while those who spoke against it derided it as not doing enough! And this gross expenditure is not seen as controversial at all. This is rightful governance in their eyes - nothing controversial about it. Just another day at the office.

Of course, at the same time, Congress is allowing millions of people - some of whom are people of color - to go without essential social services. The federal government has allowed hundreds of thousands of women and children to go without their WIC benefits and have laid off thousands of teachers for Head Start and special education. Don't you know that making sure women and children have good, healthy food to eat, and ensuring that poor children learn is far too controversial to deal with?

$38 billion is the price we just paid for a group of mostly old, white men to feel better about making sure that not too many immigrant people of color enter into their country at once. And who will pay to ease the conscience of those delicate, frail mostly old, white men? People of color of course! We must make those dastardly undocumented immigrants pay for their presence. Never mind that those who dared to come to this country, risking their lives in the process, work jobs that no one else wanted, to be part of the fastest growing demographic in the otherwise dying mainline denominations, and who strengthen the U.S. economy and culture through their presence. Yes, we are paying for enormous and unneeded border militarism through the fees and fines levied on immigrants who want to keep their families together and provide a better future for their children. How dare they!!

And speaking of making sure we bar controversial amendments, let us remember, that it was two other groups of mostly old, white men - Catholic Bishops and religious conservatives - that ensured that the bill we have before us is NOT comprehensive immigration reform because we exclude reunifying same sex families. Those two groups of mostly old, white men could not stomach reuniting families who are forced to endure the horrible existence of being separated from those they love the most because the loving parents happen to be of the same gender. Too controversial for these frail, mostly old, white men. It's not controversial at all to separate families so long as those are families of people of color and the people impacted are gay or lesbian and we do so in the name of securing the border between the United States and Mexico.

It's time we admit that the current effort to reform the immigration system is directed entirely toward easing the discomfort mostly old, white men feel when those who might benefit do not look like who they are. We have to make sure these mostly old, white men feel good about themselves, that they don't feel threatened in any way, and that we use messaging that affirms their ethnocentric, frankly racist and xenophobic worldview.

I am tired of tip-toeing lightly around the frail, delicate, feeble worldviews of the mostly old, white men who are in control and who are hell-bent on maintaining that control. I am tired of advocating tirelessly for justice for people who are vulnerable and who often are people of color, and then hearing that we have to accept half-ass reform that will fall far, far short of what is needed to protect and defend the rights of the vulnerable because the mostly old, white men do not think pushing for what is truly needed - a pathway to full citizenship and the reunification of ALL families, including same-sex families is not "politically feasible." Then we have to watch the mostly old, white men congratulate themselves for being "leaders." It honestly makes me want to puke.

Passing half-ass reform that will not provide real solutions isn't about leadership, it's about maintaining control and ensuring that the mostly old, white men can keep their worlds and their "ways of life" they talk so endlessly about preserving.

No more. Those worlds and those ways of life must and will end, in this life or the next. The Kingdom of God that I want to see will have nothing to do with preserving power or positions of status for elitist groups that want to keep it and all the benefits those positions bring for themselves. Because of the Corker-Hoeven amendment the border may belong to the 40,000 border patrol agents, and the current social, economic, and political order may belong to the groups of mostly old, white men. But rest assured, the Kingdom of God belongs to the poor. We paid an immense price to ease the slight discomfort of mostly old, white men this week. But I believe God is keeping a running tab and will be expecting payment in full one day. The Kingdom of God belongs to the poor and if the mostly old, white men do not realize it now, they will soon enough.