Friday, June 10, 2005

Report Describes Immigrants as Younger and More Diverse

WASHINGTON, June 9 - New Census Bureau figures released on Thursday show that the immigrant population in the United States is becoming younger, a shift likely to foster more tolerance for diversity and perhaps accelerate assimilation, demographers and immigration experts say.

The figures show that immigration trends are forming a unique generational divide: those immigrants over 40 are largely white, while those under 40 are increasingly Hispanic, Asian and from other minority groups.

"The older, white-dominated society is thinning out into the past," William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, said. "It is being replaced by the broad diversity of a younger generation."

Mr. Frey added: "We will become a more tolerant society as these young people move toward adulthood and a blurring occurs of the sharp racial distinctions of the previous decades."

This article encourages me to continue to advocate for a mestizo youth movement that is radical in its love and commitment to Jesus, and fully committed to a new revolution of justice for all, especially for the marginalized in our society.

One place to direct the efforts of this new movement is to focus on reforming the immigration policies of our nation, that seek to backtrack on the hope and promise that this country was founded on, that of being a land of opportunity for all, which is exactly what Latino, Asian, Polish, and other immigrants continue to desire for themselves and their families.

I continue to see the DREAM Act as a practical way for us to advocate for the most vulnerable and the most promosing of immigrants, our children and youth, that desrve the chance to gain residency and then citixenship in the USA. I was at a meeting last night where HS kids, both Citizens and undocumented, advocated for the introduction of the DREAM act.

Truly, for these young people a blurring of rigid racial distinctions is being replaced by a new solidarity as they stand up together and declare that 'a policy of paranoia must be replaced by a new policy of promise' in the area of immigration.

As a mestizo follower of Christ, this fuels my passion to see the church fully engaged in this human rights and human dignity struggle. My prayer is that years from now, we won't be seen as the only ones who stood on the sidelines and did nothing because of a lack of information, or worse yet, because of a lack of commitment to justice on behalf of our immigrant neighbors.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

How the Church can Fuel Immigration Reform that Demonstrates Biblical Justice

"Do not exploit the foreigners that live in your land. They should be treated like everyone else, and you must love them as you love yourself. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I the Lord, am your God." - Leviticus 19:33-34

The Old testament book of Leviticus is rich with instruction for God's people regarding holiness. Being a people set apart for the one true God had both individual and social ramifications that equally demonstrated His holiness and justice. In this passage, the community of faith was being instructed that how we treat the alien is in reality, an issue of holiness. If God is holy, then we reflect His holiness when we love our neighbor as ourselves, even our neighbor who is here as a stranger, and foreigner, or an alien.

It is amazing that we are to go so far as to treat these 'outsiders' as if they were permanent residents (just like us) - no distinction is to be made. And, we are to love them (these aliens), as we love ourselves.

Can you imagine if every authentic follower of Christ were to live this out today? Can you imagine if instead of being uninformed and apathetic in regards to the needs of millions of undocumented residents who live and work in our nation's 'underground economy' with few rights and no handouts, we would decide to take an active role in advocating for the just treatment of our alien neighbors who we are called to love?

Millions of believers from every denomination and ethnicity acting as champions of justice for our neighbors could fuel a revolution of justice. We could change laws to assure that men, women, and children who can demonstrate that they will be good, law abiding, wage-earning, tax-paying citizens, can have the opportunity to come out from under the shadows of our current system and pursue a legal process to becoming full citizens in our nation.

I know that there are millions of questions regarding how to do this, and hundreds of arguments that must be had in order to reach fair and reasonable policy solutions to the complex issue of immigration reform, but what I see in this Leviticus text, is that followers of God ought to be leading the charge and fueling the flames of compassion and justice.

As a pastor for many years, I have been heavily involved on the compassion side, offering to help new immigrants in any way possible regardless of their legal status. Today, I am seeing that along with these individual acts of compassion, I must also be engaged in changing the laws of our land that handicap and cripple millions of immigrants who come across our borders at great risk because they feel they have no other options.

There is a new immigration bill that has been introduced in congress , S-1033 sponsored by Senators McCain (R) and Kennedy(D), and Representatives Kolbe(R), Gutierrez(D), and Flake(R), that needs to gain support in order to have a chance of becoming law.

You and I can call our representatives urging them to support this Act. The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant Refugee Rights has great information on their website at that can help you to take action.

Also, there is a bill called the DREAM Act that should be acted upon immediately that supports the process of helping High School students who are here undocumented, and are ready to enter a 2 or 4 year college, to be able to do so paying in state tuition rates, and to eligible to apply for and receive federal financial aid. Upon graduation, they would be given the opportunity to become permanent residents. This seems to be such a reasonable first step to helping some of the most vulnerable immigrants in our nation, and the most promising new citizens (HS and college grads ready to work and contribute to our nation as good citizens). Imagine how much impact we could have if people of faith were to champion this DREAM Act? Isn't this truly loving our neighbor as we love ourselves and our children?

Finally, beyond the social and humanitarian and justice aspects of being advocates for our foreign neighbors, can you imagine the amazing spiritual revival that could be ignited by a clear and decisive demonstration of love and compassion towards our undocumented neighbors! Then, when we spoke about revolutionary love of Jesus for everyone (which is what we say) our message might actually have some bite, especially in the Latino community.

What a challenge for us today, to treat the alien as if they were one of us, and to actually show them love as we would want to be loved ourselves. Now that would fuel a mestizo revolution unlike anything we have ever seen in our lifetime.

Undocumented Worker Pays Price for Immigration Policy

Teresa Figueroa still has the laminated posters from the two times she was named employee of the month at Micron Industries in Elmhurst. In the center of each poster is a photo of a smiling Figueroa being congratulated by Micron President Don Clark for her exemplary work gluing together electrical transformers on an assembly line.

Figueroa proudly showed me the awards Friday in the living room of the Melrose Park home she and her husband bought three years ago for $184,000. A Sharp color TV stands against one wall of the room, a shelf of DVDs below, a Compaq computer in one corner and an aquarium in the other, a typical American home in most every respect.

But the 50-year-old mother of four sitting before me in a pink sweatsuit and flower-print blouse, offering me cookies and telling me she's sleepy from staying up late to watch the pope's funeral, has another distinction earned from her 2-1/2-year tenure at Micron. She's a convicted felon awaiting probable deportation.

The employee of the month posters help explain that, too. Instead of naming Figueroa, the posters give the recognition to Lucia Peraida -- the name on the false identification documents that Figueroa, a Mexican immigrant, presented to obtain her job.

Two years ago, the real Lucia Peraida complained to Elmhurst Police that somebody at Micron was using her name and Social Security number. Peraida, of Chicago, had learned this when the Internal Revenue Service accused her of failing to report income from Micron that left her with a $3,566 tax liability.

An Elmhurst detective went to the factory and confronted Figueroa, who confessed on the spot. She told him she had purchased a Social Security card and resident alien card for $200 from a guy named Alfredo who she met at a temporary employment agency in Melrose Park.

Convicted of ID theft

Figueroa, who came here in 1999 on a tourist visa that has since expired, says she was assured by a supervisor at Micron that her false identity wouldn't be a problem. The supervisor knew her real name, she says, because her son and a close family friend were already working there. The company denies it.

While it's difficult to believe Figueroa didn't know she was breaking the law, the part that rings true is that she didn't know it would be much of a problem, such false employment documents being commonplace and resulting so rarely in criminal prosecution. She says most Micron employees share her undocumented status.

But with a complaining victim, Figueroa was in big trouble.

DuPage County prosecuted her for financial identity theft and using fraudulent ID cards. A jury convicted her in August, and a judge sentenced her to 90 days in the DuPage County Jail. She served 45 days, then spent another two weeks in an immigration holding cell awaiting deportation before her family could post bond.

Figueroa might already be back in Mexico -- or still in jail -- if not for the Rev. Claudio Holzer, priest at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Melrose Park, where Figueroa has been an active parishioner since coming here from Tilzapotla, Mexico.

Support from the Church

Figueroa teaches a catechism class for teenagers and runs a seniors group at the church, where Holzer said half the 2,000 parishioners who attend Sunday service are without proper documents. Holzer enlisted parishioners to attend Figueroa's trial to show support and asked the Illinois Coalition of Immigrant and Refugee Rights, on whose board he serves, to take up her long-shot cause.

The coalition is trying to find a member of Congress to sponsor a private immigration bill to allow her to remain here. Figueroa could be ordered deported as early as April 29, when she next goes before an immigration judge.

Figueroa originally came here to join her husband, who entered the country two years earlier (also illegally) and took a job as a landscape worker. She later snuck their four children across the Texas border through El Paso. Their oldest son is now married. Another son attends junior college, while two daughters are high school honor students.

Figueroa's crime is not insignificant. I would not want anyone complicating my life by appropriating my Social Security number.

Yet, at the same time, I can't help but think that we contributed to Figueroa's entering this life of crime -- a life now being led by perhaps 10 million undocumented workers in America -- by our national failure to come up with sensible, comprehensive immigration policies that recognize the economic and social realities.

The New York Times reported last week that illegal immigrants workers are providing a subsidy of up to $7 billion a year to our Social Security system -- money they are paying in through false Social Security numbers for which they will never receive benefits, just one measure of how such "criminals" contribute to our society.

Teresa Figueroa would have made a good American, if only we had given her a chance.

Column by Mark Brown of the Sun-Times supporting comprehensive immigration reform.

This logo is from the Salvation Army's Youth Movement that were present at UYWI selling T-shirts: Jesus is the real revolutionary calling us to radical commitment to his purposes of love and justice (love in action directed at the least of these) Posted by Hello

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Mestizo Nation

"The challenge the United States faces is twofold. First, it must admit that it is a multicultural society; second, it must accept that reality and fully embrace its diversity."
- Jorge Ramos, The Other Face of America

Monday, June 06, 2005

Che Guevara Posted by Hello

Can We Learn Anything From the Life and Death of Che Guevara?

Check out this Time magazine article on the life of Latin American Revolutionary, Che Guevara. If it's true that everyone will eventually die, but very few of us ever live (for something bigger than ourselves), than a recap of this man's total abandonment to 'Revolution' may have something to teach those of us who are seeking to experience a new 'Mestizo Revolution' of love, diversity, and 'justice for all' that Jesus of Nazareth initiated when He came into our world to lay down His life so that all of us could live under His Lordship.

Monday, June 14, 1999.

By the time Ernesto Guevara, known to us as Che, was murdered in the jungles of Bolivia in October 1967, he was already a legend to my generation, not only in Latin America but also around the world.

Like so many epics, the story of the obscure Argentine doctor who abandoned his profession and his native land to pursue the emancipation of the poor of the earth began with a voyage. In 1956, along with Fidel Castro and a handful of others, he had crossed the Caribbean in the rickety yacht Granma on the mad mission of invading Cuba and overthrowing the dictator Fulgencio Batista. Landing in a hostile swamp, losing most of their contingent, the survivors fought their way to the Sierra Maestra. A bit over two years later, after a guerrilla campaign in which Guevara displayed such outrageous bravery and skill that he was named comandante, the insurgents entered Havana and launched what was to become the first and only victorious socialist revolution in the Americas. The images were thereafter invariably gigantic. Che the titan standing up to the Yanquis, the world's dominant power. Che the moral guru proclaiming that a New Man, no ego and all ferocious love for the other, had to be forcibly created out of the ruins of the old one. Che the romantic mysteriously leaving the revolution to continue, sick though he might be with asthma, the struggle against oppression and tyranny.

His execution in Vallegrande at the age of 39 only enhanced Guevara's mythical stature. That Christ-like figure laid out on a bed of death with his uncanny eyes almost about to open; those fearless last words ("Shoot, coward, you're only going to kill a man") that somebody invented or reported; the anonymous burial and the hacked-off hands, as if his killers feared him more after he was dead than when he had been alive: all of it is scalded into the mind and memory of those defiant times. He would resurrect, young people shouted in the late '60s; I can remember fervently proclaiming it in the streets of Santiago, Chile, while similar vows exploded across Latin America. !No lo vamos a olvidar! We won't let him be forgotten.

More than 30 years have passed, and the dead hero has indeed persisted in collective memory, but not exactly in the way the majority of us would have anticipated. Che has become ubiquitous: his figure stares out at us from coffee mugs and posters, jingles at the end of key rings and jewelry, pops up in rock songs and operas and art shows. This apotheosis of his image has been accompanied by a parallel disappearance of the real man, swallowed by the myth. Most of those who idolize the incendiary guerrilla with the star on his beret were born long after his demise and have only the sketchiest knowledge of his goals or his life. Gone is the generous Che who tended wounded enemy soldiers, gone is the vulnerable warrior who wanted to curtail his love of life lest it make him less effective in combat and gone also is the darker, more turbulent Che who signed orders to execute prisoners in Cuban jails without a fair trial.

This erasure of complexity is the normal fate of any icon. More paradoxical is that the humanity that worships Che has by and large turned away from just about everything he believed in. The future he predicted has not been kind to his ideals or his ideas. Back in the '60s, we presumed that his self-immolation would be commemorated by social action, the downtrodden rising against the system and creating, to use Che's own words 'two, three, many Vietnams.'

Thousands of luminous young men, particularly in Latin America, followed his example into the hills and were slaughtered there or tortured to death in sad city cellars, never knowing that their dreams of total liberation, like those of Che, would not come true. If Vietnam is being imitated today, it is primarily as a model for how a society forged in insurrection now seeks to be actively integrated into the global market. Nor has Guevara's uncompromising, unrealistic style of struggle, or his ethical absolutism, prevailed. The major revolutions of the past quarter-century (South Africa, Iran, the Philippines, Nicaragua), not to mention the peaceful transitions to democracy in Latin America, East Asia and the communist world, have all entailed negotiations with former adversaries, a give and take that could not be farther from Che's unyielding demand for confrontation to the death. Even someone like Subcomandante Marcos, the spokesman for the Chiapas Maya revolt, whose charisma and moral stance remind us of Che's, does not espouse his hero's economic or military theories.

How to understand, then, Che Guevara's pervasive popularity, especially among the affluent young?

Perhaps in these orphaned times of incessantly shifting identities and alliances, the fantasy of an adventurer who changed countries and crossed borders and broke down limits without once betraying his basic loyalties provides the restless youth of our era with an optimal combination, grounding them in a fierce center of moral gravity while simultaneously appealing to their contemporary nomadic impulse.

To those who will never follow in his footsteps, submerged as they are in a world of cynicism, self-interest and frantic consumption, nothing could be more vicariously gratifying than Che's disdain for material comfort and everyday desires. One might suggest that it is Che's distance, the apparent impossibility of duplicating his life anymore, that makes him so attractive.

And is not Che, with his hippie hair and wispy revolutionary beard, the perfect postmodern conduit to the nonconformist, seditious '60s, that disruptive past confined to gesture and fashion? Is it conceivable that one of the only two Latin Americans to make it onto TIME's 100 most important figures of the century can be comfortably transmogrified into a symbol of rebellion precisely because he is no longer dangerous?

I wouldn't be too sure. I suspect that the young of the world grasp that the man whose poster beckons from their walls cannot be that irrelevant, this secular saint ready to die because he could not tolerate a world where los pobres de la tierra, the displaced and dislocated of history, would be eternally relegated to its vast margins.

Even though I have come to be wary of dead heroes and the overwhelming burden their martyrdom imposes on the living, I will allow myself a prophecy. Or maybe it is a warning. More than 3 billion human beings on this planet right now live on less than $2 a day. And every day that breaks, 40,000 children (more than one every second!) succumb to diseases linked to chronic hunger. They are there, always there, the terrifying conditions of injustice and inequality that led Che many decades ago to start his journey toward that bullet and that photo awaiting him in Bolivia.

The powerful of the earth should take heed: deep inside that T shirt where we have tried to trap him, the eyes of Che Guevara are still burning with impatience.

By Ariel Dorfman holds the Walter Hines Page Chair at Duke University.