Note: I was asked to attend a local rally in Laredo to promote good relations with our neighbors in Mexico, and to remind people that many of us who live on the border of Texas and Mexico see much that is good, and much of the complexity of life with our neighbors across the Rio Grande. These were my remarks at the event.
March 25, 2017 - Feast of the Annunciation
At age 17, I had my visa revoked and made to leave a foreign country. I was there legally, and had not committed a crime. My entire family was made to leave ostensibly for political reasons. It had been my home for 5 years. So in 48 hours I went from a fairly normal life, school, sports, friends, church, family, to suddenly not knowing where I would live, where my family would end up. We each left with one suitcase each, headed for our home which happened to be the United States. Once you’ve been deported you see the whole issue not just from a political perspective but a personal one.
Two years ago, I made some visits to an immigration jail to visit someone who was being deported. That jail happens to be in Nuevo Laredo, and the person who was being deported was being thrown out of Mexico and made to return to the United States. We forget that deportation works both ways.
We do need borders, and we do need laws. But we can have better laws, and we can make our borders safer and easier for Americans, and I mean all Americans, North, South, and Central to cross. We can work to make not just our country better but other countries as well.
We are Americans. We are a creative people. We put people on the moon. Surely, we can figure our more creative solutions to illegal immigration, both future and current. There is an estimate that 11 million folks are here illegally.
What if we made people legal over time with the requirement that they had to pay a $1000 per person per year tax for the next 10 years. That comes to about 11 billion dollars a year. Let’s split that between the Federal Government and State Governments. Supposedly in Texas there are about 1.68 million people here illegally. That would be 1 billion, 680 million dollars each year.
There are probably hundreds of ways we can think creatively and see people as assets and not liabilities.
Is a wall the best solution? Again, we have surveillance technology, and transportation technology second to none. Even if we build the wall, someone has to watch to make sure people aren’t crossing over it or under it, or through it. There may be a few places where walls and fencing make sense, but growing the Mexican economy will keep more people from emigrating illegally more than a wall will.
I love my country. But I have a deep obligation to think not just about the United States. I am required to think internationally. I am required to do so because I am a member of the oldest and largest, humanitarian non-profit on the planet. We have members in every country on the planet, including closed countries like North Korea. There are more than 2.5 billion members globally.
Some of us call it “the Church”. And because I am a member of that ancient global fellowship, I am obliged to think about the members of my group who live not only in the United States, but Mexico, Canada, Afghanistan, Egypt, Madagascar, Argentina, Russia, India, and anywhere else.
Today happens to be the Feast of the Annunciation. For many of us it is a reminder of how much God loves the world, and how much the world was changed because a young Jewish teenager said “Yes” to God. And a few months after that yes, in Luke 1:46 she sings out a manifesto that goes like this.
”My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”
Mary’s words. “He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.” remind me that anytime we make a decision that will hurt the poor or the hungry, we had better be very sure that there is not a better alternative.
The founder of our organization, a guy named Jesus, loved to tell stories. One of his most famous is called the story of the good Samaritan.
Jesus was addressing his critics who were all “Israel First” folks. But when he challenged them they got the right answer to the simple question he asked. Who was the best person at being a good neighbor to a man left injured by the roadside? The irony was that it was the foreigner. Yes, some people do need to be deported and prevented from entering our country, but some people we plan to throw out might be some of the best people in our country.
We do need borders, and we do need laws. But we can have better laws, and we can make our borders safer without a wall. But it means that we need to see our neighbors as exactly that: neighbors, not enemies, friends not foes. Surely the Virgin Mary whose acceptance of the task to bear the Son of God, the Savior of our race expects us to do better.
Those you who wish, please join me in this acclamation from Luke's Gospel as we remember her "Yes" to God on this day.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen