Friday, July 11, 2014

Signs I'd like to see at next protest blocking buses of immigrant children

“U-S-A! U-S-A!”

My heart swelled when I heard this communal roar of support last week from fans of the U.S. soccer team.

Then, the same week, I heard the very same chant from flag-waving protesters in Murietta, Calif. They turned “U-S-A! U-S-A!” into an angry taunt, directed at 140 women and children from Central America.

This time, my heart sank.

As these protesters illegally blocked U.S. Border Patrol buses, they insisted the undocumented immigrants on board were lawbreakers.

Maybe so, though many were fleeing such dangerous conditions in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras that they may yet qualify as refugees.

Do we have a broken immigration system that needs fixing? Absolutely.

But whatever the legal issues, the protesters’ rush to dehumanize these vulnerable women and children struck this faith and values reporter as a violation of the one rule – the Golden Rule – enshrined by all the world’s great religions.

Watching the protesters on TV and on YouTube, I didn’t see “Love your neighbor” on any of their signs. I did hear one woman, wearing an American flag blouse, chant “Not Our Kids, Not Our Problem.”

Most of the country’s religious leaders have not forgotten that their holy books teach that immigrants, documented or otherwise, are their brothers and sisters. So there’s now a broad faith coalition – including evangelical preachers, Catholic bishops, rabbis and mainline Protestant pastors – that has been lobbying, so far to no avail, for comprehensive immigration reform.

But apparently some in the pews, including the protesters in Murietta, remain unconvinced.

Perhaps, I thought, some competing signs at the next bus-blocking protest could get them to reconsider. Or at least tone down the hostility.

So, to answer “Go Back Home!” how about this sign: “You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself. – Leviticus 19: 34.”

To compete with “Save Our Children from Disease” and “Agents: Secure Our Borders, Not Change Diapers,” I’d suggest this: “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me. – Matthew, 25:35.”

And to counter “Deport Illegals!” and "America is Being Invaded," here’s a sign-worthy sentiment that many seem to have forgotten: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. – The Statue of Liberty.”

-- Tim Funk