Tuesday, October 30, 2007

religious freedom: immigrants need not apply

Kevin Johnson summarizes this Daily Tar Heel article, and asks, “What have we come to as a nation?”

The pastor of the María, Reina de las Américas parish in Mt. Olive, North Carolina has a majority Latina/o congregation, including many of undocumented immigrants. The church is less than two miles from al slaughterhouse, where many parishioners work. Several months ago, local law enforcement officials set up roadblocks three weekends in a row on the two roads that provide access to the church. Parishioners were stopped and asked to show their driver's licenses on the way to and from services. Attendance at Mass eventually began to drop as the roadblocks increased in frequency.

The contradictions of this story are heightened when you consider the history each American learns in grade-school about immigrants escaping religious persecution to begin a new experiment in government. Now new immigrants can expect to encounter religious persecution in the country founded on the principle of free expression of faith.

Religious freedom, like any other kind, depends on the legal status of the individual. Without meaningful access to the courts, the ballot box, or law enforcement, the Bill of Rights is essentially worthless to these individuals, though technically, it applies to them, too. The restrictionist vision of the world is one where American values and freedoms are tightly restricted to citizens, but are more broadly transmitted to the outside world primarily by example. It’s an incoherent, indefensible view that, unfortunately, makes some sense in the context of the existing state-based international legal/political system. That system is gradually and painfully changing, but traditionalists (excepting those out-of-status traditionalist immigrants trying to get to mass on Sunday) will fight these changes tooth and nail. They always have.

[Image: Daily Tar Heel/Julie Turkewitz]

1 comment:

kyledeb said...

It's a question that migrant advocates ask themselves everyday, I think. What has the U.S. come to? Only hope for a better tomorrow keeps us going.