As a means for acclimating to our week of service, we began with an overview of immigration issues and misperceptions. The reflection was led by Deacon Juan Barajas, friend to our ABQ Norbertine brothers. Deacon Juan has spent his life both advocating for and bridging the divide of immigrants and ministry.
Throughout the Deacon’s reflection, his own life’s journey was woven in beautifully to the harsh realities many immigrants face. The notion that immigrants, particularly illegal immigrants, are criminals out to take our jobs an our benefits is wholly ignorant. Quite frankly, such opinions are just plain ridiculous. Hispanics engage in no more crime than any other group. Hispanics often take jobs that most natives refuse to do. And because of their status, undocumented immigrants do not qualify for the benefits we seem to hold so dear. As the Deacon explained, misinformation, prejudice, and blatant hatred comes from so many sources; perhaps most surprisingly, from the church.
The most poignant story Deacon Juan shared had to do with an invitation he had received to meet President Bush. When the opportunity presented itself, the Deacon simply asked, “Mr. President, what do you plan to do about immigration?” In nearly 20 minutes, President Bush detailed a plan for bridging the ever-growing divide between Mexico people wishing to become American. Bush stated, “Anyone who walks 500 miles through the desert for a job seems like a damn good worker to me.” Following their meeting, President Bush had planned to meet with the president of Mexico to begin the process of amnesty. Three weeks later, 9/11 rocked the American dream from both sides of the border. Once deemed “damn good workers,” hispanics now became criminals, terrorists and illegals.
What had changed in three weeks time? It certainly wasn’t the people.