Guest blog by Tim Campbell
In mid-June 2011, my wife Angela and I had lunch with five families involved in our programs at Hope for Atlanta. All of us are Latinos–well, I guess you could say that I have been graciously accepted as a part of the ‘Raza.’ Angela is an American citizen from Veracruz, a Mexican state. But more than half of our lunch group was undocumented. I asked them how they felt about living here.
One young man (“Pancho”) told me before Sept. 11, 2001, life seemed normal. He came from a ranch in his country that had no work for him. Atlanta contractors asked their Latino workers to invite family and friends. Cheap Latino labor multiplied profits of businesses. Here he was welcomed to hard work in construction.
Like others, Pancho did not go back. Not only was there no work in his country, but also he risked robbery and death for his supposed wealth. Here his ‘normal’ life included a wife (“Maria”) who cares for their three small children. But increasingly he sees himself and Maria as “slaves in a cage.” Georgia House bill 87 was going into effect on July 1st. The cage would be locked and deported. “If we are taken, we want you and Angela to be legal guardians for our children. Please send them to us; this way we won’t lose them.”
Each one of the five families had already spent sleepless nights asking, “Should we try to go back to where we came from? Or stay?” They live in fear. Many Latinos say they won’t drive; they shop very little. They’re afraid to have American friends. Meanwhile, our local Spanish broadcasts repeat incessantly “this racist HB 87.” They say, “Why do Americans hate us? We’ve worked hard, we don’t commit crimes!”
Half-truths and myths about immigrants circulate widely. They link patriotism with anti-immigration, blame Hispanics for our economic woes. Several of my acquaintances say, “We must profile these people; they cost us way too much, and they don’t pay taxes.” One said his own son had to wait at the emergency room because an ‘illegal’ family with a baby went ahead of him. When I informed a church group that many terrorized Latinos were leaving Georgia, one person said: “HB87 must be working!”
Such remarks led me to believe that some Christians don’t care if a neighbor suffers. But did Christ gloat when others suffered, and especially the “least of these” or the vulnerable strangers among us? We must inform those who are misinformed. The truth is all Latinos pay taxes in some way. Many pay through a federally issued tax ID which the IRS not only accepts and but also encourages. Very few Hispanics commit violent crimes. Many attend churches that preach the gospel. All pray Americans will give them a chance to obtain a work permit, for the truth is that most undocumented immigrants I know have been taken advantage of, sometimes in wicked ways.
Twenty-five years ago I, a missionary, entered Mexico not speaking the language and on a tourist visa. Missionaries were “illegal.” However, Mexicans accepted me for my true purpose, even made me feel important.
Later, when Angela and I began work in Mexico City, our aduanal (immigration officer) neighbor knew my immigration status. But we helped our neighbors living on the local trash dumps; the aduanal looked the other way, even encouraged us. Eventually Mexican lawmakers had the foresight to accommodate immigrants who benefited their country.
So, I ask: why can’t we change our laws to positive solutions? Why do we permit our government to pass laws reflecting our misinformed feelings against those whom we so recently invited to work? Angela and I are heartbroken for friends whose only crime was to answer our “Help Wanted” summons.
In Romans 13, Paul reminds us to respect the law, but then goes on to say: “Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law…. These…commandments are summed up in this…: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”(Leviticus 19:18) Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.”(Romans 13:8-10).
Why do some of my Christian brothers and sisters want to see harm come to our Latino neighbors? Where is their love? Was the “aduanal” in Mexico City a better neighbor to me than we are to our neighbors? Why do we want to build walls or put our neighbors in cages–especially those who God commands us to care for–“…the orphan, the widow and the immigrant?” (Deuteronomy 24:19).
Tim and Angela Campbell served 12 years as missionaries among the poor in Mexico for and among Latinos in Atlanta for almost 15 years. Tim has both a Business degree and Bible degree from Bryan College in Dayton, TN and Angela has a Christian Education degree from Instituto Evangelistico de México (Mexico City). Angela is the Program Director with Hope for Atlanta and Tim is Director.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92 or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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