How sad and frustrating it is, as a pastor, to receive a call at 10:30 PM from a member of your church asking help because her husband or son was arrested for simply not being the same color or for not speaking the same language as the officer who detained him!
This young man was NOT stopped for breaking the speed limit or for not fastening his seat belt. He did NOT run a red light NOR change lanes without signaling. NO, none of this…there were hundreds of cars on that highway, but the officer only stopped these two young people who looked a little different. When they asked him why they were being stopped, the answer was, “Because I want you to show me your driver’s license.”
When I got there the saddest scene was not seeing a mother and a wife enduring this painful moment; there was something more painful. I had to see a child of two or three years old looking at me with questioning eyes that I interpreted as if the child were saying, “You are the one who stands up and talks in the church. Maybe you can tell me why my daddy didn’t come home. You can tell me where my daddy is….”
I will tell you that when I saw this child sitting in his car seat at this hour, with his eyes fixed on mine, my heart broke. He held out both his arms for me to take him out. He seemed afraid. Although I had been through many circumstances like this, this child made me ask myself, “WHY?”
What would happen if this were the reverse? What if it was I in the jail and my two beloved daughters were outside in the car at midnight with my mother and my wife? How do I explain to them that I am in prison and have to return to my country? How do I tell them they detained me for simply not looking like or speaking like everyone else who lives here? How do I tell them the reason is because they suspected or guessed that I did not have a driver’s license from this country?
I believe that this is why when they call me, no matter the time or how difficult it is, I go. For this young man in particular, I can attest to the fact that he is a good man. He is a good son, a good husband and an excellent father. In spite of his youth, he is respectful, responsible, and a hard worker. I have witnessed his spiritual journey and have seen how he has worked to become the man that God hopes him to be. He is a man who in every way provides for his family.
I have to deal with this kind of incident every week. These people come to this country NOT to rob, NOT to cause damage, but to give a better life to their families. Instead of taking away jobs from those here, they do the work that many times those here do NOT want to do. I did what was in my power, but, unfortunately, I did not get to bring him back to his family. I will NOT lose hope. I will continue fighting!
This has happened so often that I have had to create awareness in those that are protecting us from criminals that this person they are going to arrest is NOT a criminal. Many times when you confront them with the truth, they give them a ticket and let them go. This does not erase the painful and embarrassing moment that this man had to spend on his way to work. This does not erase the feeling you have sitting handcuffed in a patrol car as if you were a criminal. The problem is they DON’T think about how this will affect a person. When ICE deports them, they don’t think about the young children who are left, like the case here, with the mother and grandmother who do not know how to explain to the children that their daddy will not be coming home tonight.
What we are seeing is injustice. Laws created by men that are unfair. The main result of this is to take people out of this country who have NOT harmed anyone. These are the laws that have broken up families and taken children who were born here from their parents.
My question is what is his crime? Is it leaving at dawn to work twelve to fifteen hours for low pay and poor conditions to be able to provide for his family? When is it optional to provide for our families? I do not see this in the Bible. Isn’t it what we are asked to do in 1 Timothy 5:8?
I ask, ISN’T this what millions of people who were created by the same God have come to this nation to do? If we were honest, we would accept that this is the reason that the majority of people came to this country. They came here to provide for their children.
If this is true, why do we keep permitting this situation? In the aftermath of the arrest, I only had one question on my mind. How does God see this? You know what I did? I asked him. I went to the Bible to read in His word what he had to say. Look at some of what I found:
Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Exodus 22:21
For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome who shows NO partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing. And you are to love those that are aliens, for you yourselves were aliens in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:17-19
Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless or the widow. Deuteronomy 27: 19
It also came to my mind what Jesus expects from us:
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. Matthew 25:35-36
Is there more Biblical evidence? Certainly! While I was studying I wondered whether some had not noticed that the Bible gives us examples of immigrants: Joseph, Moses, Abraham, Ruth, and even Jesus.
I know that some would say, “Pastor, the Bible says in Romans 13:1 that ‘everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.’”
I know! It is clear that the laws and the government have been ordered by God and that we should respect them. I am aware that illegal immigration is breaking the law, and I am not promoting or endorsing this. What I am suggesting is do not advocate this position on the basis of one piece of Scripture because things are not that simple, especially when there are inhumane conditions, corrupt governments, and abuses in many countries that cause immigration in mass to the land of the American Dream.
Have we forgotten how this nation was formed? Has the United States of America forgotten that first natives inhabited the land and that foreigners arrived from other parts of the world? These foreigners invaded and took possession of the land that was here when they arrived. My mother always said, “What is equal is NOT always an advantage.” If what is happening now has always happened, when did it become illegal for another citizen to come to this country to want more for him and his family? This is the same country the ancestors and parents of this nation wanted and most of their heirs were able to enjoy. The problem is when we want for a few what we don’t want for ALL. This is INJUSTICE.
I cannot pretend to solve this problem, but today, more than ever, I am committed not to give up. I will not give up for our brother who is behind bars, for his mother, his wife, or his son. I will not give up because there are millions that are in the same situation. For them too, Jesus died on the cross.
I invite and urge you to not ignore this problem because “It doesn’t affect me.” My father taught me to see the needs all around me. My father told me, “Son, never judge crisis, pain, or need in others; HELP THEM. You never know when you, I, or one of our family could be in the same situation.”
Instead of judging or condemning, we should be sure that with our lives (words and actions) we can answer the question that Jesus will ask us when we are in his presence, “Where were you when I was a STRANGER?”
There is NO doubt that WE NEED IMMIGRATION REFORM. We need it achieved. We see this reality as a great missionary field. This is NOT for just a few, as some have tried to teach. This is a great field of opportunity to share and demonstrate the LOVE OF CHRIST TO ALL.
Felix Cabrera is the pastor of Iglesia Bautista de Quail Springs in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and has much experience planting churches. Felix is from Puerto Rico and has an undergraduate degree in Business Administration and is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Pastoral Counseling from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Denisse, have two children: Andrea Nicole and Adriana Victoria.
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