Monthly Archives: April 2017

Am I That Kind of Person?

Am I the type of Christian who would shelter and aid an undocumented person to prevent a great injustice from occurring?

One of my predecessors was That Kind of Person. William Hanby, the United Brethren denominational editor in the 1840s and 1850s, and also a bishop for four years, spent 20 years helping runaway slaves who came across his path in Ohio. It was illegal. Hanby–an ordained minister, a bishop–was intentionally breaking the law, risking imprisonment. But today we view him as a hero.

I’d like to know the first time Hanby was faced with fugitive slaves, with pursuers close on their heels. Perhaps he tried to talk himself out of helping–it would be so easy to rationalize it away. But in deciding to help, he learned that he was That Kind of Person.

The incredible book “Conscience and Courage,” which I read many years ago, tells the stories of ordinary Europeans who risked their lives to shelter Jews. Author Eva Fogelman says rescuers didn’t fit a particular profile. Most didn’t set out to be rescuers, or consider themselves heroic or even sympathetic to Jews. But when presented with Jews on their doorstep, they decided to help. Only then did they realize they were That Kind of Person.

Today–EVERY DAY in our America–Hispanic families are getting ripped apart. Great injustices happen EVERY DAY. A few days ago I wrote about the Beristains in South Bend, Ind. They are just one example. What happened to that family happens EVERY SINGLE DAY. Enormous trauma is happening to families all around us because of government policies, but most of us never encounter it.

I have practically no contact with the Latino community. But if presented with a family threatened with being ripped apart and thrown into the ICE gulag, would I discover that I was a William Hanby Kind of Person? I could easily rationalize myself out of helping. Most evangelical Christians would. Would I?

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An Injustice in Trump’s Twisted Version of America

beristain-family

I’ve been following the sad case of Roberto Beristain, an undocumented man from South Bend, Ind., who was separated from his wife and three daughters–all American citizens–on February 6 because of Donald Trump’s dispassionate, devoid-of-humanity orders. For two months, he was shuttled around to detention facilities in six different states, while a loving family could do little but try to keep track of him. Then, at 10 pm last Tuesday night, he was dropped off at the border at El Paso, and he walked into Mexico.

President Obama was tough on illegal immigrants, earning the nickname Deporter in Chief. But he injected discretion and humanity into his actions. Trump removed all of that. I knew he would be tougher on undocumented people, but never did I dream that he would tear asunder families. Like he did with the Beristains.

The way things work, the family will never be reunited. At least, not in the United States.

This should not happen in America, and to American families.

Beristain came to the US–yes, illegally–in 1998. He met his wife, Helen, in Fort Wayne, Ind., where I live. They were married in 2001, relocated in Mishawaka, and brought three daughters into the world, all of whom are now teenagers. And US citizens. Roberto is owner of Eddie’s Steak Shed and employs 20 people.

A mistake by immigration officials back in 2000 got him classified incorrectly, making it difficult to get a green card. They’ve tried to fix it over the years, but no luck. He got by on a work permit, and followed all the laws. He has no criminal record. Everyone describes him as a perfect citizen…except for not being, technically, a citizen.

President Trump: this is dispicable. And I see no indication that you care one iota.

Breaking up this family doesn’t keep anybody safe. It doesn’t protect American workers. It’s not a matter of expelling a “bad hombre.” It’s just a rule. A rigid policy.

This is only one such case. It’s getting press attention because the wife was a vocal Trump supporter. She never imagined Trump would rip apart her family.

I realize that many supposedly family-values Christian will rationalize ways to applaude this, and spout things like, “Your sins will find you out.” Some are Facebook friends. This saddens me, but not nearly as much as I’m saddened by what the Beristain family is suffering, as a loving father has been torn from their lives because of our President is playing to his base.

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