I saw Jesus on the park and ride shuttle yesterday.
He was tall and painfully skinny with the stoop shouldered posture some who are very tall adopt as a way to appear less threatening. His skin was the darkest brown I have ever seen and his smile was so bright and broad I could have sworn there was a glare off the bus window.
It was dusk and everyone getting on the bus was heading to their cars after a long day at work at the hospital catering to the ill and infirm and sometimes those who only think they are one or the other. It is tiring work, often thankless, and emotionally draining.
The time on the bus and my drive home usually allow me enough time to decompress before I am greeted by the needs of my children, the neurotic border collie, and my messy kitchen. So I understood why the woman seated across from me on the bus was annoyed that the tall gentleman talking to the bus driver in broken English was taking so long to understand the directions he was being given.
The bus driver to his credit, was patient beyond measure and used gestures, hand signals and a piece of scrap paper to get the fellow, newly arrived from the Sudan, to the right bus. Meanwhile the woman across from me sighed repeatedly. After the third sigh, I looked across at her and noticed the large gold cross around her neck and I said, 'I'm tired too and cold-I imagine a man from the Sudan must be very cold on a day like this..." She just looked away and ignored me.
When I got off at my stop I thanked the driver and told him I thought he had done a really nice job with the new bus rider. He looked at me quizzically until I said,"You know the tall man who said he was from the Sudan?" The bus driver just smiled and said, "Well, I'm just doing my job and after all, if Jesus got on the bus and asked for directions I'd certainly make time to give them to him, right?" Amen.
In the midst of our contentious political climate and all of the anger and misunderstandings about immigration it would be nice if we could just simplify the argument to this,"If Jesus (or Muhammed, Buddha, etc) asked to come to America I'd certainly let him in." Time and again a large portion of the American people forgets that our country is a nation founded by immigrants-that no one that call themselves an U.S. citizen actually got their genetic start here, save for those few who are truly Native Americans.
The rest of us are part of the "melting pot" mixture that makes the U.S. the frenetic, fantastic cultural mish mash it is today. The argument that immigrants are stealing jobs and committing crimes is falacious at best, outright fraudulent at it's worst. The vast majority of individuals who immigrate to the U.S. do not expect anything from this country, rather they want the OPPORTUNITY that comes with being American. The opportunity to work hard at more than one job and save and send their kids to school in the hope that someday those kids will work hard too and be able to call themselves Americans. There is no great white majority sitting around out of work because immigrants took their jobs. In point of fact, the jobs many recent immigrants are willing to take are often low paying, and are often jobs that caucasian citizens of the U.S. consider beneath them.
Congress recently had the opportunity to pass the DREAM Act, giving children of illegal immigrants the opportunity to apply for citizenship without prejudice and go on to college and receive Financial Aid and so forth, like all of the other students in the U.S. who did what they were asked to do. Stay out of trouble, get good grades, etc. Now, however, these individuals who are 17 and 18 years old are being told they can't go to college because they aren't citizens-even though they had NO choice in their cross border transport as infants or children. Kind of like my sons had no choice about where or when they would move when they were wee small-and even a year ago when I remarried-their opinions were not the deciding factor in whether or not I moved us cross country. I
t is beyond time for sensible immigration policy in the U.S. Policy that recognizes our history as a nation of immigrants, pays tributes to the value of adding to our rich cultural landscape, and doesn't penalize individuals for their parents legal or illegal behavior. Stop wasting money on border fences and shipping people out. Declare amnesty and start anew with immigration policy that is fair and sensible. Recognize that our country-flawed and incomplete in many ways, continues to be a beacon of hope for the hopeless, and that same hope remains for a country that regards it's differences and diversity as the threads that make our American quilt sturdy enough to weather any kind of tumult-including an immigration debate.