“The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court.” Terse words for a decision that will impact the lives of millions of people and families in this country. It’s hard for me not to be broken hearted after hearing about the Supreme Court’s deadlocked ruling on DAPA/DACA earlier this morning. The indecision of the Supreme Court jeopardizes the lives of families and individuals who have come to the United States seeking a better life. Millions who have been here for years, who have known nothing but our country as their home, who have dreamed the same dream of fulfillment that all Americans take for granted as our birth right, are now at risk of having everything they have ever known taken away from them. Children whose parents arrived here searching for a better life are now at risk of being separated and torn apart.
For months, I have joined social justice advocates, friars and other religious, as well as thousands and thousands of our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters in praying for just and compassionate immigration reform in this country. The Supreme Court’s deliberation regarding the expansion of President Obama’s executive actions, which would have provide work permits and temporary protection from deportation for almost five million undocumented immigrant individuals and families, has been a key focus. We have held prayer vigils (here and here), rallies in front of the Supreme Court, worked with partner organizations, and held conferences to shed some light on the state of migration and immigration here in the U.S.
Yet, despite the efforts of so many individuals in advocating for the dignity and rights of our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters, so many more remain unmoved and unconcerned by the plight of the migrant poor. I have heard and seen so many Americans, many of whom proudly call themselves Christian, demonize our immigrant brothers and sisters as “illegal”, “killers and rapists.” We think of them as criminals, job stealers, and society’s leaches when data clearly shows the opposite.
Where does all of this hatred and fear come from?
How can any person be illegal, as if their identity is dependent on their legal status, devoid of any innate, God-given human dignity?
Why are we so afraid of those who seek for themselves and their families a tiny portion of that which we take for granted?
As Christians, we look back to our sacred texts that so often exhort us to treat all people with the utmost respect, compassion, and love accorded to them and their dignity as children of God. This applies especially to the most vulnerable among us, particularly immigrants and refugees. You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt (Exodus 22:20, New American Bible Revised Edition). We fear and loathe our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters because we forget that we ourselves were once immigrant and refugees in this land.
Leviticus urges us to treat the alien who resides with you no differently than the natives born among you; you shall love the alien as yourself; for you too were once aliens in the land of Egypt. I, the LORD, am your God (19:34). And yet our vocal, conservative Christian politicians constantly enact legislation that erodes and undermines the already fragile and vulnerable state of our brothers and sisters. They are kept in the shadows and consistently, systematically disenfranchised. How dare we then call ourselves citizens with the saints and also members of the household of God, for that would imply that we are no longer strangers and aliens but brothers and sisters (Ephesians 2:11-22).
The past few weeks have been filled tremendous sadness. It is clear that our faith calls us to uphold the sanctity and dignity of all life, including the lives of our immigrant and refugee brothers and sisters. The Supreme Court’s decision today effectively undermined the possibility of legal protection for the millions of individuals and families who call our country home. Already living in fear of deportation, working for undignified and inhumane wages, and bearing the stigma of being labeled “illegal” by a political system that is outrageously lacking in common sense and decency, they are once again thrust into the shadows of injustice.
To the four Supreme Court justices who voted to uphold the lawsuit brought about by Texas and the other states, shame on you. This was an opportunity to stand on the side of families, to provide the vulnerable among us with protections and rights. They have become innocent victims of your ideology of xenophobia, hatred, and division.
To all who work for justice and to my immigrant brothers and sisters, our fight is not over. Our work now is made clear. Let us not lose hope and become despondent by the victory that was won by those who foster fear and hate. Right now our hearts aches but let this day be a reminder that we well know how it feels to be an alien, since we were once aliens ourselves in the land of Egypt (Exodus 23:9). Like them, we await deliverance.