Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Illegal Alien Claiming Sanctuary in UMC Congregation Vows to Remain

Flor Crisostomo, an illegal alien taking sanctuary in a United Methodist congregation in Chicago has vowed to remain in that church despite an impending deportation deadline:

Tears streaming down her cheeks, a defiant Crisostomo said she did not believe she was breaking U.S. law, nor did she see herself as hiding.

Really? She had no idea?

"I am taking a stand of civil disobedience to make America see what they are doing," Crisostomo said in a statement that was translated into English.

I think that you have to first be a citizen to engage in "civil disobedience".

26 comments:

Dan Trabue said...

I don't believe you have to be a citizen in order to engage in civil disobedience (or was that just a joke?).

Slaves who escaped and fled the South were not citizens and I'd call their actions civil disobedience. Many in the early church were not Roman citizens and yet they committed civil disobedience in choosing to follow Christ. Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego and Daniel all were non-citizen civil disobedients, right?

If you break a law to protest it, that is civil disobedience. I believe the "civil" is referring to the civic law, not the citizen.

John said...

I don't believe you have to be a citizen in order to engage in civil disobedience (or was that just a joke?).

No, I was being serious.

Slaves who escaped and fled the South were not citizens and I'd call their actions civil disobedience. Many in the early church were not Roman citizens and yet they committed civil disobedience in choosing to follow Christ. Shadrack, Meshack, Abednego and Daniel all were non-citizen civil disobedients, right?

Sure, slave rebellion can be construed as civil disobedience. But that analogy doesn't work here. This woman was dragged in chains across the Mexican border to engage in forced labor in the U.S. She came to the U.S. without permission (twice!) and has no proper claim to civil rights here. A better analogy would be a burglar breaking into a home. The burglar, by taking up residence in the home, is not engaging in civil disobedience.

Dan Trabue said...

Depends upon the circumstances, says I.

She came to the U.S. without permission (twice!) and has no proper claim to civil rights here.

It could be that she thinks that US policy is creating unjust circumstances in Mexico/Latin America - that it's creating a situation where people feel they have to either starve at home or break US laws to get jobs to get money to keep their families from starving.

IF that were the case, then I'd suggest that breaking US laws was an act of civil disobedience: She's disobeying what she considers unjust US laws because she thinks they are unjust.

I would agree with this sort of thinking.

Clinton/Bush "Free Trade" agreements have had measurably negative effects in Latin America. Given a choice between watching my family starve in Mexico or breaking US law, I'd break US law in a heartbeat. And in so doing, I'd consider it civil disobedience.

John said...

It could be that she thinks that US policy is creating unjust circumstances in Mexico/Latin America - that it's creating a situation where people feel they have to either starve at home or break US laws to get jobs to get money to keep their families from starving.

If U.S. policies were the primary reason for Mexican poverty, then yes, you could make a case that this was...well, maybe not civil disobedience. But at least justifiable.

Clinton/Bush "Free Trade" agreements have had measurably negative effects in Latin America. Given a choice between watching my family starve in Mexico or breaking US law, I'd break US law in a heartbeat. And in so doing, I'd consider it civil disobedience.

Alas, Mexico signed these agreements of its own free will. So she should stay home and be civily disobedience against the Mexican government, which is the cause of Mexican participation in NAFTA.

Of course, you'd have to make the case that the shimmering utopia of Mexico was shattered with the signing of NAFTA, and that large-scale Mexican illegal immigration does not predate NAFTA.

John said...

I want to correct an error in my first comment. I wrote (in part):

This woman was dragged in chains across the Mexican border to engage in forced labor in the U.S.

When I meant to write:

This woman not was dragged in chains across the Mexican border to engage in forced labor in the U.S.

Dan Trabue said...

Of course, you'd have to make the case that the shimmering utopia of Mexico was shattered with the signing of NAFTA, and that large-scale Mexican illegal immigration does not predate NAFTA.

I don't think so. All I have to do is make the case that the already depressed reality of Mexican farmers was made even worse by NAFTA, along with other neoliberal economic policies, and this, the facts support.

Here's a link to a pro-NAFTA sorta fella questioning its validity, because facts don't support the notion that it was a success. And he is being more generous with the "facts" than I think reality merits.

More info here and here.

John B said...

I've been a supporter of the sanctuary movement for years, however I'm with John in this case. If someone is seeking the protection of the church, the church should give it. But Flora is using the church to thumb her nose at the US and that's another story entirely.

John said...

I don't think so. All I have to do is make the case that the already depressed reality of Mexican farmers was made even worse by NAFTA, along with other neoliberal economic policies, and this, the facts support.

So America, which is only indirectly involved in the management of Mexico's economy is responsible for the mess there, but Mexico itself bears no responsibility for its economic condition?

John said...

I've been a supporter of the sanctuary movement for years, however I'm with John in this case. If someone is seeking the protection of the church, the church should give it. But Flora is using the church to thumb her nose at the US and that's another story entirely.

Yeah, I'd be more sympathetic to her use of the Church as a sanctuary -- or even her illegal entry into the US -- if she were just trying to feed her family. But this woman is becoming a professional activist, insulting the country which is unwillingly hosting her her. She's a rude guest, and deserves to be treated appropriately. Kick her out.

Michael said...

Not requiring a translator in order to make a public statement might also be taken into consideration. I agree with Dan in that if I were forced to make a choice between starvation and breaking US law with a chance at earning an honest living, I would choose survival. I have to say, however, that I believe US policies and practices are a little too accomodating.

Still, how does one separate the public policy issue of illegal immigration (aka, national security) from exploitation of illegal immigrants who are still human beings? Can we do so responsibly and still be faithful to our calling as United Methodist Christians? I struggle with this often.

jockeystreet said...

John,

I don't understand your stance on illegal immigration. And by "don't understand," I don't mean "I don't understand how you can be SO WRONG," but simply that I don't understand. You have what I would consider a consistently tough stance on this, and though you've explained it before, I think I still don't get it.

I would understand (if not agree with) a stance based on the notion that those who don't pay into the system shouldn't receive its benefits. The whole social contract thing, where everyone contributes a bit so that everyone gets what they need out of the system, sort of falls apart when a large group just doesn't contribute. But it seems if that was the issue, the focus wouldn't be anger or frustration with illegal immigrants themselves (who would likely be happy to pay taxes and contribute), but with a very screwy system and a slew of dishonest employers. And, given that you have stated repeatedly that you believe taxation is theft pure and simple, it's hard to imagine that this is what you see as the major problem.

So, as I say, I don't get it. At all.

Dan Trabue said...

Actually, for the most part, illegal immigrants ARE paying taxes and are NOT getting many benefits from it. The studies I've read suggest that they are paying much more into the tax system than they're taking from it.

But, then, that's another topic that, as you note, John isn't raising.

And no, John, I don't think the US is wholly responsible for Mexico's poor economy. I didn't say that.

What I was saying was that our policies have made things worse in an already bad situation. And, if you're already in a bad situation, things getting worse really hurts.

John said...

I'm not basing my argument on taxation or contribution into the system. I'm basing it on property rights.

My view is based on the notion that there is a civil right to property: that people as individuals and collectives may own and therefore control material. A person may, for example, own a house. The owner may determine who may enter that house and under what conditions. If an owner finds another person in his house, watching his TV and eating his cheetos without his consent, the owner may remove the interloper from his property.

In the same way, a soveriegn nation has a propertarian claim to control its borders. It may set any restrictions upon immigration and citizenship that it (as expressed by the polity in which sovereignty is expressed) desires. Many nations, such as Japan, Mexico, and India have very restrictive immigration policies. That is within their rights, because it is their property.

And the U.S., being a sovereign nation, may likewise, through its polity, set any immigration or citizenship requirements that it so desires. It may require that the immigrant find work in the U.S., learn the English language, or even learn Klingon and dance the fandango -- because it is, after all, U.S. property. And the U.S. may restrict or remove immigrants who fail to abide by its rules, just as a homeowner may set rules ("Hands off my cheetos") for guests.

And because immigrants are guests, it is important to make this distinction: immigration and citizenship are privileges, not rights. No one has an inherent right to immigrate into any country, or to demand citizenship of any country. The polity of that soveign nation may set any expectations for immigration and citizenship, just as the homeowner may set any expectations on houseguests that s/he desires. The owner may toss out any offending guest at will without violating the rights of the guest.

Now these are matters of civil rights. But are they compatible with Christian ethics?

Provided that one ascribes to Just War Theory: yes. Just War Theory hinges on political sovereignty as a real concept in Christian thinking. There are soveieign political authorities that may make decisions for the territory over which they preside. Furthermore, Just War Theory accepts that aggression includes the violation of the boundaries of those sovereign political authorities. Certainly the present of unauthorized persons across those boundaries constitutes a form of aggression.

So under Just War Theory, (1) a homeowner may expel a guest violating his household rules and (2) a sovereign nation may legitimately deport illegal immigrants from within its borders.

John said...

And no, John, I don't think the US is wholly responsible for Mexico's poor economy. I didn't say that.

What I was saying was that our policies have made things worse in an already bad situation. And, if you're already in a bad situation, things getting worse really hurts.


It's Mexico's responsibility to preside of its own economy, and among these responsibilities is to sign good trade agreements that benefit Mexicans. So this woman should blame Mexico, not the U.S. And so should you.

Anyway, the NAFTA argument doesn't wash, because the Mexican economy was already impoverished long before it was enacted, and large-scale illegal immigration into the U.S. was taking place loooong before NAFTA. I understand the desire to blame America for every problem under the sun, but it won't stick here.

Dan Trabue said...

So under Just War Theory, (1) a homeowner may expel a guest violating his household rules and (2) a sovereign nation may legitimately deport illegal immigrants from within its borders.

But we're talking what's most right from a Christian point of view, not from a JWT nor nationalistic point of view. Biblically speaking, foreigners had some pretty basic rights, including a right to take food from fields belonging to landowners and some other basic human rights. There's nothing in the NT to object to this sort of thinking and much to think that, if anything, it's expanded upon.

For in Christ, there is neither Jew nor gentile, nor Greek, nor Roman, nor man, nor woman.

As to this:

It's Mexico's responsibility to preside of its own economy, and among these responsibilities is to sign good trade agreements that benefit Mexicans.

Yes, absolutely. Unfortunately, in the real world, some nations hold more power than other nations. Some nations can force other nations to go along with their wishes. It is not an even playing field. That makes a difference.

Again, in the Bible, when those with the power arranged Systems that benefitted the powerful at the sake of the poor and oppressed, it is the Powerful that are held accountable. (Can you see Isaiah or Jeremiah saying, "And the poor cried out to God, but God would not listen, for they had submitted to the demands of the powerful oppressors, so it was basically their own fault..."???)

Time and time again, over and over, consistently, this is the message of the Bible. Thou shall not oppress the poor.

jockeystreet said...

John,

I appreciate the explanation. Still, it doesn't exactly clear things up for me. It provides the justification of "why you can," but doesn't give the motivation of "why you want to" (does that make any sense?). I have the "right," I suppose, to tell my mother that she's never allowed in my house again. I don't have any real reason to do that. I could ban her, and if she argued I could say "it's my right," but I don't think it would help her to understand. If she did some awful thing to bring that on herself, I guess it would be a different story. And so I guess I'm in part looking for the awful thing that requires us to invoke our "propertarian" rights to tell poor people that they can't come to the land of plenty to work for a better life. I don't understand what stirs the strong, anti-immigrant reaction in people.

The whole discussion of "property rights," while perhaps valid, makes me a little nervous, too. You're right... it's a good solid argument in civics. It seems to fall short of any more spiritual ideal and strikes me as a very amoral outlook(maybe not immoral). It brings to mind the MLK quote, "I am aware that there are many who wince at a distinction between property and persons-- who hold both sacrosanct. My views are not so rigid. A life is sacred. Property is intended to serve life, and no matter how much we surround it with rights and respect, it has no personal being. It is part of the earth man walks on; it is not man."

For what it's worth.

jockeystreet said...

Dan... I like your "Jeremiah" quote.

John said...

Why would we want to?

Because we (the United States) are being colonized by Mexico with a population that is not loyal to its immigrating country, but its home country. They are not assimilating, as past generations of immigrants have, largely due to sheer numbers, proximity to their homeland, and the refusal of U.S. policymakers to require assimilation.

Unless we stop the tidal wave of illegal immigration, we are facing a Balkanized America, where we will have vast numbers of citizens who do not speak the same language, think of themselves as Americans, have deep animosity toward America.

Build a wall, push the illegal immigrants out, and wait until the current immigrant population has melted into the melting pot before allowing more in.

Dan Trabue said...

And your biblical/spiritual reasoning for taking this position?

John said...

Just War Theory, which advocates dealing with aggression humanely and gently. Which is what I'm advocating.

John said...

Dan, previously, you wrote:

Time and time again, over and over, consistently, this is the message of the Bible. Thou shall not oppress the poor.

It is not oppression to resist crime.

And:

Biblically speaking, foreigners had some pretty basic rights, including a right to take food from fields belonging to landowners and some other basic human rights.

The OT speaks at length about the importance of respecting the rights of foreigners. Are these foreigners who are illegally flooding across Israel's borders, or are these the Canaanites who were present prior to the Israelite invasion? The distinction is important.

Dan Trabue said...

Just War Theory, which advocates dealing with aggression humanely and gently. Which is what I'm advocating.

Well, I'd disagree that this instance you've cited has the first thing to do with JWT, but okay. As long as we realize that JWT is a VERY difficult thing to support biblically.

I'm not saying that JWT is not a bad civic starting point, just that it's not a very obvious biblical point.

Dan Trabue said...

Are these foreigners who are illegally flooding across Israel's borders, or are these the Canaanites who were present prior to the Israelite invasion?

1. I don't believe the OT makes a distinction. This was how Israel was to treat foreigners. Period.

2. Since there were no laws against foreigners crossing borders in Israel, there could be no "illegal flooding across the borders."

3. The closest thing to a rule about Canaanites would be perhaps that they were amongst some of the people who were to be slaughtered wholesale. Which action, of course, fails JWT standards miserably. Not to mention NT standards.

jockeystreet said...

"Because we (the United States) are being colonized by Mexico with a population that is not loyal to its immigrating country, but its home country. They are not assimilating, as past generations of immigrants have, largely due to sheer numbers, proximity to their homeland, and the refusal of U.S. policymakers to require assimilation."

I don't know. I think "being colonized" overdoes it a bit. And I don't know how quickly people assimilated in the past. I grew up in a city that was very, very heavily Italian. When I worked in a kitchen a while back, it was with a lot of older women who were "off the boat" about 40 years earlier. 40 years in, many of them couldn't read and write English, some of them still had trouble with certain slang expressions, etc, all of them were comfortable reverting back to Italian, etc. It seemed that in that city there was an Italian restaurant for every three residents. The streets still have little Italian flags here and there, everybody celebrates their Italian holidays, there are an awful lot of Roman Catholic churches with pews lined with Italian-speaking Italians. I mean, it's a really, really Italian town.

Which is cool. I like that town. I liked hanging out with those women and hearing their stories about how things were back home. Great. But I imagine that at some point, there were lots of people not at all happy with those people moving in, eating their ethnic foods, building their Catholic churches, speaking their foreign language, and "colonizing" the area. The sky was probably falling.

But it didn't.

Same thing happened next town over when the Bosnian refugees started arriving. I heard trash talk daily about how the Bosnians were ruining everything, the town couldn't handle it, etc, etc, etc. A few years later, that city has a very, very big Bosnian population (at least 20%, last I knew), and, go figure, sky still hasn't fallen. Nobody's been forced to worship strange gods or eat strange food or learn a funny language. Nobody's been colonized.

I have a hard time believing that the sky is going to fall this time around. And if there are problems (and I agree that there are; some) with the current immigration situation, I think those problems may best be solved by addressing them at their roots, looking for rational but compassionate solutions, as opposed to blaming people stuck in a bad situation. I don't like the rhetoric, the hostility, the willingness of so many people to basically spit vemon when talking about those "others" who are coming here and ruining everything.

For what it's worth.

John said...

I don't know. I think "being colonized" overdoes it a bit.

I've seen enough reporting of illegal aliens marching in protest of immigration restrictions and openly, directly, and repeatedly rejecting American identity to feel confident that "colonization" is not overstating what is currently happening to the United States.

Dan Trabue said...

I don't know if any studies have been done on this or not. What I can tell you anectdotally from my experience and the experience of my friends (some with deep connections in Latin America) is that, for the most part, these folk are not interested in colonizing the US (I don't know of anyone who would express anything like that).

What they want more than anything else is to be back home with their families. They are here to get money to send back home, with the hope of one day returning themselves.

Not unlike we might do if we found ourselves bitterly poor and having a neighbor nation where we might be able to get work. Not unlike what happened in the rural parts of the US over the last 75 years, with folk being unable to make a living going to the cities for work. They tend to go with the plan of returning when things get better.

Anectdotally, that's what I hear from our Latin American brothers and sisters. And logically, intuitively, that makes sense.

At least to me.