The following was written in response to the decision of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, NC to offer shelter to Juana Luz Tobar Ortega. She fled violence in Guatemala and arrived in Asheboro in 1993. She has worked in High Point for at least the last eight years. Ortega is an undocumented immigrant. According to advocacy group American Friends Service Committee, this is the first time in several years that someone has been offered sanctuary in North Carolina. Read more here.
We really have lost our way.
We are so angry and so afraid. It’s tragic to see the world’s most powerful, most affluent nation, the nation which so proudly heralds the call for freedom and democracy becoming so enslaved to its own internal divisions and to paralyzing, irrational fears, within and without.
We have lost our way. We are not free.
Of course law is a good thing, when it actually leads to order, but we are a nation that got its start by defying the law – because our forebears said the law of that day did not lead to order and it did not, could not make them free. So, they broke the law, and ventured here, risking their lives, sacrificing their comforts and their securities and their families and their native lands, piling in boats and plying dangerous waters… to be free.
The land of the free, however, is quickly becoming the land of a kind of “law and order” that is just making us harsh and mean. For a loud segment of the American populace, the leaner and meaner, the harder and angrier, the better. You can hear the anger seething from crowds and from talking heads, the anger and the fear setting the tone across the nation for a new kind of “freedom” altogether.
Yes, we are a land of laws, and we should be – but following the letter of an immigration law that deports a grandmother who is a 20-year resident of the nation, the wife of a US citizen, a caring mother and attentive grandmother, an upstanding “citizen” in every regard except the paperwork – slavishly following that law will not make us free.
Those kinds of deportations, enacted under the guise of “law and order,” this kind of keeping the letter of the law might make us self-righteously proud, but any law that will not leave room (freedom) for compassion, that will not leave room (freedom) for common sense, that will not leave room (freedom) to let us exercise the “better angels of our nature”… will not make us free.
So Juana Luz Tobar Ortega is holed up in St. Barnabas Episcopal Church in Greensboro, which is providing official sanctuary from the immigration officials who are seeking to deport her. We will not be a safer nation if they send her back to Guatemala. We will not be more prosperous. We will not be more in harmony with the instincts and desires of our intrepid founders.
Those Episcopalians in Greensboro are following a higher law. If only our nation were so free.
Photo by Stefan Kunze