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An immigration article worth the read

I stumbled upon Stephanie Simon’s work late last year, when I read her November 2005 LA Times article, Offering Abortion, Rebirth. The article was incredibly well-written and well-crafted, at once informative and disturbing (if you haven't read it, do so). While she drew some fire from both abortion advocates and opponents, she drew praise from journalists, like GetReligion’s crew (read here and here and here). Since reading that piece, I’ve read everything she’s published since. What makes her so good? Besides her incredible skill, she is knowledgeable about and takes faith seriously—and that will get her noticed by this blog.

Today, the LA Times published another Simon piece, this one on immigration. While it's not as powerful as the abortion article, it is worth the read. In Faith Shapes Views at a Church of Immigrants, Simon gives us a glimpse inside the views of a Laredo, Texas Pentecostal church when it comes to immigration. I almost hate to excerpt it, as I think it’s better read whole. But if you don’t have the time, take these tidbits. She begins:

The congregation is made up of immigrants and the children of immigrants; they live within a few miles of the border, where an enormous Mexican flag juts into the clouds just the other side of the Rio Grande. The stakes are high, but many here do not dwell on how changes in immigration law could affect their families. They ask instead:

What would please God?

Most come to an answer that represents a middle ground: not unequivocal amnesty but not mass deportation of illegal immigrants, either; better policing of the border, but not a wall stretching hundreds of miles. A similar proposal is stalled in the U.S. Senate. The House passed a bill focused on enforcement; it would make it easier to detain and deport the estimated 11 million to 12 million illegal immigrants in this country.
Simon goes on to explore the politics of the congregation (their pastor, Rev. Gilberto Velez, is also the policy director of the influential National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, made up of 15 million Latinos) but doesn’t get bogged down in it. She ends the piece with something I just love about her style: a story that illustrates the complexity of the issue. This one is told Velez:

A few months ago, Velez looked up from his desk at the church and saw three men stumbling through the waist-high brush. He knew at once that they were trying to cross the border without papers.

Inviting them into the sanctuary, Velez gave the men food and water — and a lecture.

He warned them that America is not the promised land, that they'd face great hardship here. He told them they were wrong to come across illegally; he offered to pay their way back home so they could apply for a visa.

The men did not want to listen. They were headed, on foot, to Houston — 300 miles northeast — to live with relatives and to find work. "God will bless you and God will help you," Velez told them. "Even though it's illegal."

He packed them a bundle of food and cash, and prayed as they set out across the scrub.
Treat yourself and read the entire article. Not only will you have a good read, you’ll be more informed on the immigration issue. (To read more about what this blog has published on immigration, type “immigration” into the search bar above and click “search this blog.” It will give you a listing of posts associated with that topic.)

(Image: USDA ARS Image Library)