Refusing to be Silent

Fabiano de Oliveira, a Brazilian man detained by immigration officials, was allowed to come home.   Karah de Oliveira, his wife, found out around 2:30 p.m. Friday that he was being released, when her husband called from the Plymouth County Correctional Facility, the maximum security prison where he’s been for the past month.

The family, who lives in Beverly, MA, were reunited at the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office in Burlington, Massachusetts on Friday night. It was the first time Fabiano was able to hold his wife and their five-year old son.  The family is reunited as Fabiano goes through a legal process, hopefully resulting in permanent residency.

The de Oliveira family live in the city I call home.  Fabiano’s story is that of countless others.  He left poverty in Brazil in 2005 and came with the dream of making a better life.  He worked hard to send money back to his family.

He and Karah (a life long resident of Beverly)  met in 2010 and married in 2016.  They have a child.  Fabiano has worked hard, paid taxes, kept out of trouble.

By all accounts he is a loving family man, a good employee.  The kind of guy you’d be happy to have as a neighbor.

The only problem is he lacks the proper documents.  This makes him illegal in the eyes of the Trump administration and resulted in his arrest and detention for the last month.  Arrested ironically when he went to an ICE office to fill out paper work for legal status.

That he was released is great news.  But the reality is that tens of thousands of others with similar stories remain incarcerated.  Most like Fabiano are loving parents, hard workers, good neighbors.  The truth is that the rate of criminal activity is far lower for undocumented immigrants, than those of us who are citizens.

On Saturday a dozen of us gathered at the ICE office in Burlington for a prayer vigil.  We had heard that morning that Fabiano had been released.  Our vigil continued for those who remained incarcerated.

Imagine our surprise when Fabiano and Karah showed up to say ‘thank you’ for supporting them and ‘thank you’ for continuing to stand with and for other families  being torn apart by the current immigration policy.

It has been said that the nation we become is determined by regular citizens like you and me.  We stand vigil for those who are most vulnerable.  We refuse to be silent.  We refuse to be complicit with an unjust immigration system.

America has always been as much an idea as a place.  A place where if  people work hard and respect others, they find a welcome.

Mr.Trump is putting in place an infrastructure of prisons and an increase of ICE officers, that will result in a more than doubling of those detained or deported by the end of 2018.  The capacity for annual arrests and deportations will soon reach 540,000.

Each of these numbers has a face.  Each has a story.  Each life detained and deported has a ripple effect that affects countless others.  That tears at the fabric of a community.

Here in the small city of Beverly, Massachusetts, we got a taste of what this ruthless policy looks like. It was visited upon one of our own families.

That enough of us stood up and said ‘no’, ‘not in my name’ gives me hope.

The nation we become requires constant vigilance and persistence.   There are many more families who look for people of conscience to stand with them.  To stand up for the American dream.

When Faith and Politics Meet

Some friends on Facebook who share my Christian faith have suggested that I’ve crossed a line between politics and faith.  In particular it has been suggested that I’ve become too political by supporting the upcoming Women’s March https://www.womensmarch.com and critiquing President Trump’s stated policy on deportation, climate change, women’s rights.

I offer this response.

‘Dear Friends:   Thank you for sharing your concerns regarding the upcoming Women’s March.   You are correct in pointing out that this Women’s March in Washington D. C and similar marches taking place in cities across the United States are supported and being promoted by a wide variety of groups. Some of these groups are explicitly political.  Many others are rooted in their faith.  

This reminds me of the Civil Rights movement in the 1950’s and 60’s  when a wide range of groups, some overtly political, secular and some faith-based  worked in common cause to ensure civil rights for all.  While there were surely differences amongst such groups, their shared desire to protect and expand civil rights was a uniting factor.

At the church I serve,https://www.fbcbeverly.org/ we  have several members who will be in Washington D.C and many more in Boston. Each are going at their own expense guided by their faith and conscience.  Dr. King said ‘that the church is to be the conscience of the state’. 

Jesus said in Luke 20: 25 ‘Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s and to God the things that are God’s’.  The rub is discerning when to follow the emperor and when our faith says ‘no’.

For many of us, the policies voiced by President Trump will have profound implications for us and our neighbors:  Deportation of up to 11 million undocumented neighbors; roll back of climate change treaty, undermining of Women’s reproductive rights, potential loss of affordable health care etc.   The question for all of us as people of faith is:  How does our faith inform us as citizens?  What would our faith have us do?  What do we do when our faith informed conscience is at odds with the policies of our government? 

 I believe that people of good will can come to different conclusions as to how ones faith speaks to the policies of our time.  I respect if your faith leads you to a different conclusion.  The creative tension is that we are each responsible for listening for the leading of the Holy Spirit. 

 The challenge for all of us is to remain in respectful relationship.  Remain in relationship even as we disagree.  Believing that in our passionate disagreement the Spirit remains at work…expanding our hearts and minds as to what is possible.

 I share with you a love for this nation and a love for God.   I join you in praying for wisdom and for the  well-being of President Trump and his administration and for all elected officials of whatever political persuasion.   With you I commit to helping our nation become more loving and just.

Grace and peace be yours’. ~ Kent