We stood outside the White House chanting slogans about immigration. Leaders of the protest kept trying to put signs and other things into my hands. I kept rejecting whatever was handed to me. The truth is that I was most interested in holding a cross.
The rhetoric surrounding immigration often centers on ideas of United States exceptionalism. I am a pastor. I am interested in Jesus above the United States. My heart regularly breaks as other nations and peoples are condemned and tossed aside to make an argument for more generous immigration policies. Jesus cares about all peoples not just those who live in the United States.
The officers closed in on us. I closed my eyes and started to pray. Though we had been sufficiently prepared as to what the process would look like, I was still a bit nervous about being arrested. Over all of the chants and the flags, I rested my mind and heart on Jesus. I knew that the love of God was the only thing that could make silence and wholeness out of the perpetual noise.
“Borders keep us safe.” “I believe that God respects our borders.” “I believe in borders.” These are a few of the comments that I heard when I shared my belief that borders are part of the problem and not the solution with other pastors and activists. There is a fundamental inability to dream of a world beyond the United States as the most powerful and wealthiest nation on earth. Why can’t all people experience power and wealth?
The zip tie handcuffs tightened and I began to have some doubts. Why do I support immigration reform when the debate is so often centered on United States exceptionalism? I knew the answer and I kept reminding myself of it. I believe that migration is a human right. I also believe that immigration reform can bring us closer to a day when all people can love each other and be one without borders.
I processed out of the Park Police Detention Center and flew home. The sight of my children when I returned to Denton was overwhelming. I couldn’t help but think about the families who have been separated for decades. I believe any border or system that separates families is evil.
Famed journalist Jose Anonio Vargas preached at the Cathedral of Hope this morning. I sat on the chancel and pondered Vargas’ “Define American” campaign. As the music thundered, I had an epiphany of what is often missing from the immigration debate. I don’t think you can define the word ‘American’ without defining the word ‘human.’