- This sermon was preached at the Hispanic Sumemr Program in San Antonio, TX, 2019
The Disastrous Situation of Immigrants in US
Matthew 24: 1-14
You see all these buildings, do you not? Truly I tell you, not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down… Beware that no one leads you astray… And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars; see that you are not alarmed… all this is but the beginning of the birth pangs. ‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death. Many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But anyone who endures to the end will be saved. we raise our voices together and hold each other hands
Companeros y companeras,
Count yourself as blessed to be here at the Hispanic Summer Program. I don’t know any other place where we can meet with such a diverse group of Latinxs folks, study and worship, eat and live together. Make the most of this time! And even if something happens that you don’t like, continue to love this institution for this is one of the very few places that holds together the life of our Latinxs communities. Prof Daisy Machado has been our elder, leading the way. Her presence as a leader of HSP and the Latinxs community speaks loudly about the power of Latina women. But well, you may think, she is already established, she doesn’t have to struggle anymore. And she will laugh at you so hard.
Because there is not a single day in her life that she doesn’t have to fight the powers to continue, to pursue, to expand herself, to convince white institutions that brown people matter, that you and we all must have a place for ourselves to think, pray, ponder, wrestle, cry, struggle and live together. She fights this battle everyday, for all of us.
We are living in a very difficult time. A time where we are angered, frustrated and many times, lost. Our people has been attacked and despised, and humiliated and killed. If you know your community well you know what I am talking about.
I bet you know well the stories of our children being incarcerated and caged like dogs by the United States. Children, even little babies taken away from their families and kept in cages. But not only our Latinxs children but also the children of precious people from everywhere.
Constantin Mutus is the youngest child held in US private jails. Constantin is a 4 year-old boy. Son of Romanian parents, he has 4 siblings. He was separated from his father here in Texas. As it happens throughout the United States, those separated children are also put to foster care. It was only after national and international pressure that a US judge demanded that Constantin goes back to Romania to meet her mother. Nobody knows where his father is. How should we call the condition of Constantin? A political prisoner of the United States of America, a concentration camp survivor? An international child trafficked by US? (see https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/16/us/baby-constantine-romania-migrants.html)
As we hear this story, if we are blaming his parents, you are not paying attention to what Jesus said: “Beware that no one leads you astray…“
Constantin is one of the 52,000 immigrants held in for-profit jails around the country. Homeland Security’s own inspector general has revealed how detained immigrants are subjected to rotten food, severe overcrowding, inadequate medical care, and broken and overflowing toilets. The agency is already holding a record number of children in some 168 facilities and programs in 23 states. The Customs and Border Patrol also holds people at Border Patrol stations, which are often referred to as hieleras, or “iceboxes.” They always describe them as being incredibly cold. There were multiple violations of ICE’s own detention standards. At least 24 immigrants have died in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Trump, and at least four more died shortly after being released. 
And if you think that the problem lies only in the countries they come from, you are not paying attention to what Jesus said: “Beware that no one leads you astray… “
As if this is not enough, the Trump administration has just announced its plan to hold some 1,400 immigrant children at a site on Fort Sill Army Basein Oklahoma that was once used as an internment camp for Japanese Americans during World War II. Yes, you heard it clear: 1,400 immigrant children held in a concentration camp in Oklahoma.
And even if the situation of the Japanese people was horrendous, a witness of person who was placed there said: “I was sent to a camp at just 5 years old — but even then, they didn’t separate children from families.”Now it is even worse.
And not only that. Based on 30,000 pages document released by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School, they reported that “Migrant children under the care of United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) were allegedly beaten, threatened with sexual violence and repeatedly assaulted while in custody between 2009 and 2014. The report includes gruesome, detailed accusations of physical and mental abuse at the hands of officers. The claims were filed by unaccompanied minors, most of whom hailed from El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Honduras.
Tragic, despicable! My heart sinks to the ground. How can we even keep our sanity?
If these cruel evil measures done by this country does not open our eyes to the larger and persistent histories of horror enacted against minorities, we are not paying attention to what Jesus said: “Beware that no one leads you astray… “
If you can sing “this is our homeland,” you have to start thinking who are the ones that belong to this homeland. For our people, thishomeland is mostly the Homeland of Security! The homeland of for-profit jails! The homeland of the concentration camps. The homeland of picket line of underpaid jobs. The homeland of sexual abuses of women, afraid to say something for if they do, they are threatened to be told to immigration.
Our homeland is in the shadows of our societies, back home and here too. Our homeland is the land of fear, abuse, distraught and humanity taken away. Our homeland is the land plundered from 500 years. Our land is the work of coloniality, decoding our imaginary, shifting our practices, moving our beliefs, exploding our centers, reorganizing our subjectivities, destroying our ways of survival, killing our joys and devastating our hopes.
If you are pledging allegiance to this flag and still singing “this is our country, this is our homeland,” you are not paying attention to what Jesus said: “Beware that no one leads you astray… “
For our homeland are in the borders. Thrown into the borders of so many crossings, it is there that we must survive and find our sustenance. As Christians, our allegiance is not to flags or national anthems or any country. Our flag is our people, whenever they are! Our allegiances are the most vulnerable ones. They are our country! Among the undocumented we write our passports! Among their religious spiritualities we cry out their pain, we sing a song of sadness, we pray a prayer of victory.
The 52.000 people in jail in this country… they are the citizens of our country! The 11 million undocumented people living here, they are the homeland of security! All of the separated children from their parents and now in cages, they are the homeland of my heart. Their fragility is our collective strength! Their lives are our flags, their cry our national anthem.
Have you heard about the art installation done by the social organization RAICES? The art project was called “No Kids in Cages.”They placed cages throughout the streets of New York City. Inside of each cage, a figure of a child sleeps covered by a foiled blanket. Along with it, there is an audio with a child crying. I wish I had a video system to show it to you. You will see a picture passing around.
Passerby people said that the audio was so “haunting” and “disturbing.” One said: it “Brought me to my knees just now.”
What do we need to know to bring awareness of our disasters and more, to engage?
It seems that those trying to work on the side of immigrants, we all on this side of the front, have two main strategies to show this country that immigrants are… people. Our first strategy is to show that immigrants are humans! Against the massive violation of the basic notions of humanity, immigrants being called animals, carriers of diseases, rapists, bad hombres, we have to counter these narratives by telling stories of real people, with real feelings, with beautiful hearts and wonderful stories. We come to the point that we have to show that children are human beings and not some alien beasts that are going to grow and devour us all and take away everything. The plea to make immigrant human beings is fundamental to responding to the speeches of hatred spread around this country.
Then, concomitant to the use of the “human card” for immigrants, we have to turn immigrants into monetary gains! We have to give numbers to why it is good to have immigrants here: The strategy is to say: immigrants are good business! They bring trillion of dollars to the country, they revamp entire abandoned cities, they create labor, they are cheap labor, they do what we don’t want to do, they pay taxes that will never go back to them, and so on and so forth.
These two perhaps necessary but horrendous strategies only show how deep we have sank into a lack of collective sense of humanity. How much we are lost in our own considering of others as human beings and perhaps, neighbors. How much we have lost our connection with ourselves.
There is so much to do… My God, there is so much to do. And to be. And to become.
I know we feel paralyzed and we do not know what to do. The challenges are overwhelming. But somehow somewhat, we have to engage more fiercely and participate more fully with those who are actually on the ground doing the work of resistance, awareness and transformation.
Everywhere we have precious people trying to help, to bring a light of love, a body of resistance, a narrative of love. People who do care for the asylum seekers, immigrants and refugees. Churches, organizations, NGO’s, lawyers, journalists and so on.
Like Scott Warren, a 36-year-old geography teacher who helped a pair of migrants from Central America who had arrived here hungry, dehydrated and with blistered feet. In 2017, in a summer that saw a brutal heat wave, several volunteers with the group No More Deathswere arrested on federal misdemeanor charges for placing water in a federally protected wilderness area. The stakes were raised significantly in 2018, when Border Patrol agents set up surveillance near one of the humanitarian bases and filed three felony charges against Scott Warren. Mr. Warren’s case resulted in a mistrial Tuesday, after jurors said for a second day that they were unable to reach a verdict.
When a jury is unable to reach a verdict on such a case, when people cannot plainly say there is nothing wrong in helping another human being to survive and what is wrong is a judicial case like this, it is because we are indeed living in really difficult and scary times. What made us even think that bringing water to someone can be a crime? What measure of humanity have we ended up with?
If that doesn’t affront you, you are not paying attention to what Jesus said: “Beware that no one leads you astray… “
The political strategies of the rich and the powerful is to use the law to protect themselves and say that they are doing the best to protect the people. There is a worldwide movement of governments criminalizing social resistance and humanitarian rights.
I was in Europe to hear about the refugees, asylum seekers and immigrants coming from Romania, Syria, Iraq and all around Africa and the situation there is a huge disaster. Europe is now paying Libya to hold the immigrants so Europe has nothing to do with it.
Just this week, as German Boat Captain was sentenced to 20 years in prison for saving refugees. The people running this organization said: “We have only followed international law, especially the law of the sea, where the highest priority is to save people from distress.” Human dignity is not a priority. Priorities are based on accumulation of money, protection of land, greed, control. And for that
Sea Rescues are criminalized.
Desert rescues are criminalized.
Environmental rescues are criminalized.
Immigrant rescues are criminalized.
Climate change refugees are criminalized.
Feeding people on the streets are criminalized.
Queer communities are criminalized.
Receiving homeless people in buildings during the winter has also been criminalized under the banner of liability.
What are we becoming? OR what have become? To criminalize those who are trying to safe life is to establish a racist measure of who matters and who don’t.
What is the measure of our religion? What do we criminalize? What is the measure of our own notion of humanity? Who can be included? I was a pastor of an undocumented community and I there heard people saying: Oh amnesty should be given to immigrants but only to those who arrived by the year 2011, after that it would be too much, too many people. And when I asked: when did you arrive here? He said: 2011.
“Beware that no one leads you astray… “
We have to be very critical within our own communities so we don’t just pray imprecatory Psalms against those who we are afraid, or praying against our own communities. We have to examine our own selves and see what is it in us that can’t deal with difference, with those whose identities are not ours, whose belongings are elsewhere, whose lives are structured in ways that radically differ from ours. Where is our homeland? Who are our homeland?
‘Then they will hand you over to be tortured and will put you to death. Many will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because of the increase of lawlessness, the love of many will grow cold. But anyone who endures to the end will be saved.
The situation of our latinxs community is so dramatic. Not only in US but throughout Central and Latin America. Corruption, stealing of natural resources, climate change calamities, the death of the earth, hunger, violence. The only way for us to move forward is to move together. We have to think and feel together about who we are and how we must respond and move ahead.
That is why we are here!
To gain intellectual, moral and spiritual power. Not to be easily fooled. Not to be swallow by powerful narratives. Not to live as if we have nothing to do with it. Not to forget our raices.
We are here to learn that we come from a wealth of indigenous people whose knowledges are present in all of us. We are here to remember our his and hertories, to learn about a knowledge that is marginal to the academy. Nobody cares. Who read Latinxs thinkers? We are here to become stronger. With intellectual, moral and spiritual power. These are our gifts! We are not a social agency in the strict sense of the word. We are not a political party. We are all teachers and students, learning and teaching together. And these are our powers! As our precious Cornel West have recently said: “Even when intellectual, moral and spiritual power are under siege, they have the potential to be the most profound.”
We have the most profound power in our hands!
To be here at Hispanic Summer Program is to be blessed to learn together about these powers and NOT to be led astray. We will give attention to our hearts, our bodies, our minds and our souls. We will care for each other. We will raise our voices together and hold each other’s hands. With each other’s wisdom, singing each other’s songs, praying each other’s prayers, learning to love, blessing one another, being gentle and fierce.
Together, we will find collective hope, community sustenance and spiritual resilience. And we will respond to Jesus: Yes Lord, we will continue to Beware that no one leads u astray…
For we move together! We will old each other’s hands! No one will be left behind!
With the companion and the power of the Holy Spirit among your people.