In our post 9/11 fear, America seems to be becoming less and less hospitable to strangers. If this happens, the terrorists have succeeded in instilling terror into our system. The Christian response needs to continue to lift up Jesus’ call to welcome the stranger in Matthew 25.

Current pending bills the Texas legislature will basically have Houston law enforcement looking for people with brown skin, checking citizen status for anyone who they suspect to possibly be an undocumented immigrant. Becoming more unfriendly to immigrants will devastate our economy, our spirituality and rich and diverse culture.

Legislation racism is an ugly, longstanding tradition in the U.S. “Old black Joe’s still picking cotton,” as Leonard Cohen laments in “Everybody Knows.”

Immigration has accounted for Houston’s robust economy. They have filled the economy’s desperate need for low-wage workers. The Anglo population in Harris County has fallen from 37% to 33% in ten short years. Latinos now account for 41% of the population. Asians and African Americans make up most of the rest. We are becoming a microcosm of the U.S, and the U.S. is becoming a globally diverse microcosm of the world. As Rice University’s Stephen Klineberg says, “We are a free people, and we are from everywhere.”

Our fears are unfounded. Immigrants are paying taxes. They are contributing to the economy. They are learning English (at a much faster rate than my German immigrant ancestors). They commit less crimes than citizens. None of the horrific acts of terrorism in the last few years were committed by Mexicans crossing the border in search of hard work. Here are the myths and facts: http://www.lirs.org/atf/cf/%7BA9DDBA5E-C6B5-4C63-89DE-91D2F09A28CA%7D/Mythbuster%208-23-10.pdf

So, one wonders, why all the fuss?

Today’s Chronicle reported a comment by the cofounder of Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas that reveals what I have long felt is the racism driving the issue:

“If you want to know why we can’t pass legislation in Texas it’s because we have 37, no 36 Hispanics in the Legislature. So, that’s part of our problem and we need to change those numbers,” said Rebecca Forest, a co-founder of Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas. “We need to do something about that in fact.” (http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/7609073.html)

Not everyone resisting the influx of strangers feels this way of course, but racism is a powerful undercurrent in the U.S, and always has been. Blacks, Native Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Latinos. There is an underlying feeling, often unconscious, that there “real” Americans (white descendants of Europe), and then there’s everyone else, essentially aliens, even if thee families have been here 250 years. In Texas it’s amusing. I once heard a white Texan descendant of Germans ask a Latino man when he moved here. This fully bilingual man had lived here his whole life. His ancestors had ranches this land before English-speaking people starting coming over, and long before Texas was part of the U.S. She was only third-generation.

I don’t get to make laws. Not my job. But as Americans we have the right to discuss them, and as Christians we have the responsibility to challenge unjust and uncharitable laws. This stuff smells bad to me. I hope our people will talk about what it means to welcome the stranger in Texas and Louisiana.

Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows that the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get richThat’s how it goes
Everybody knows…

And everybody knows that you’re in trouble
Everybody knows what you’ve been through
From the bloody cross on top of calvary
To the beach of Malibu…

Everybody knows
Everybody knows
That’s how it goes
Everybody knows

“When I was a stranger you welcomed me…”