I am in Meridian, Mississippi this week visiting my grandma who is very sick. And while it is not under the most ideal circumstances, I have loved coming back to my childhood home. The sights, smells, and food have brought back to life so many memories tucked away in my mind. It's funny how seeing a certain bridge or sidewalk or the smell of your grandma's car can send you into instant nostalgic flashback. I love that our brains can do that.
Anyways, I spent the first few years of my life in Laurel, Mississippi about an hour away from where I am now. It's a little city known for its southern charm and its family appeal, but it is often over-shadowed by neighboring Hattiesburg, and rarely makes national ripples. So, I was surprised to be laying in bed tonight and to find a huge article about Laurel on the front page of Yahoo. Laurel, Mississippi? Really? I had to read it.
The first line said this: "The largest single-workplace immigration raid in U.S. history has caused panic among Hispanic families in this small southern Mississippi town, where federal agents rounded up nearly 600 plant workers suspected of being in the country illegally."
My heart sunk.
The article went on to describe how Immigration and Customs Enforcement raided Howard Industries Plant Monday morning in a blast of chaos. People running, hiding, crying, and some even believing a bomb had gone off. Pregnant mothers looking for their husbands and kids as young as eighteen being shackled and led out of the building in tears. The illegal immigrants were from numerous countries including Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Germany, Honduras, Panama, and Peru.
The associated press interviewed a local minister who has about 40% of those arrested in his congregation and he said this, "We have kids without dads and pregnant mothers who got their husbands taken away. It was like a horror story. They got handled like they were criminals."
Wow. Thank you government for protecting us from these evil illegal immigrants who have struggled to get into this country because of sheer, utter, and hopeless poverty and destitution; the people who are actually willing to work (and do horrific jobs like slaughtering cows in unsanitary and unsafe work environments without benefits and with very little pay) unlike many of the poor in our nation who rely on free handouts and selling drugs; and the people who spend what little they have on their families, mainly their children who they are hoping to free from the bondage of oppressive governments and the continual cycle of poverty.
Wow. Really. Thank you so much for saving us from them. Whew. That was close.
I am from Mississippi. It is the Bible belt, I can attest to that. Mostly everyone goes to church. Or pretends to go to church. And when I lived here, my life revolved around the church. As did most of my neighbors, schoolmates, and random strangers I passed in the store.
I wonder what the church is doing for these families who are grieving? I wonder how these Christ followers will embrace other children of God who are made in God's image? Will they shun them? Pretend that it has not happened? Help them? Or maybe applaud the authorities for ridding us of this evil?
People were herded out like cattle. They were traumatized, surprised, embarrassed, and mostly scared. And do you know what it says the other Howard employees did while these fellow humans were being treated like barbaric criminals?
They put their hands together and cheered.
Shame on you Howard Industries. Shame on you every man and woman in that building who arrogantly clapped with a smug and elite look on your face. Shame on you for having no grace. No class. No heart. And for the Christians who were in that room, and believe me, there were Christians in that room who somehow in their twisted thinking have come to believe that all humans are not equal... shame on you the most.
And to the government and local officials who found some sort of twisted pleasure in asserting their authority over people in such a degrading and inhuman way unbefit of our great American ideals...shame on you too.
Shame on each of you.
No matter what your position is on illegal immigrants and the penalties they should face, would you for one minute remember that these people are here to work hard so that they can give their families a second chance? Would you slow down enough to imagine yourself as a mother or father in their shoes? And mostly, would you take a second to pray that God would show you his opinion of those people? That he would remind you of how Jesus would have treated them? Those who are cheating the system, like the tax collectors did...He showed love.
Do there have to be rules and laws? Yes. Should our taxes, schools, and health care be able to provide for American citizens? Yes. Do we need boundaries and enforcement of some kind? Yes. But at the end of the day America represents the dignity and value of each human life, the right to pursue happiness, and the promise that all men, who were created equal, have the right to democracy, due process, and basic unalienable rights, whether citizen or not. These men and women did not receive that.
So tonight I am laying in bed forty five minutes away from 600 people who have been arrested and well over a thousand family members who are scared to death. I am not sure what I can do. But my heart is aching for them as I lay in my bed certain of what tomorrow will bring for me, knowing that they have no idea what tomorrow will bring for them.
If you live in Mississippi I encourage you to reach out to this group of people. Jesus would because they are the broken, the destitute, the poor, and right now, they are scared and in need of help. Contact their church (601-426-3473) and see what support you might be able to offer. Meals? Legal advice? Help with their kids? Trauma services? Or just grace and a smile instead of a clap and a dirty look.
They clapped. How inhuman and cold hearted is that? Shame on you.