Friday, April 29, 2011

Lynn Highly Recommends...

I picked up Miguel de la Torre's Trails of Hope and Terror: Testimonies on Immigration recently, surprised it had escaped my notice since its publication in 2009.  Having found  the author's book, The Hope of Liberation in World Religion a superb study of how poverty and social justice issues are viewed through the lenses of a dozen or so spiritual traditions, I was curious what this director of the Justice and Peace Institute at Denver's Iliff School of Theology might have to say on the immigration question, given the detention center here and the recent Arizona-style bill in Georgia opening the doors to identification spot-checks to determine immigration status.

The voices in this volume include undocumented laborers themselves; Tucson's "No More Deaths" co-founder and several of that organization's volunteers; Colorado farmer Andy Grant; former Civil Rights speechwriter for Martin Luther King, Jr., Vincent Harding; a rancher, several educators, religious leaders, students and others who succeed in putting a human face on the undocumented immigrant.  The economic realities faced by the displaced farmer struggling to feed his family or the teenage girl who perishes in her
attempt to walk north to a better life are contextualized here within the historical record of policies that have contributed to the systematic dehumanization and criminalization of our southern neighbors with increased racial profiling, raids, detentions and deportations, with documentation from the late 19th century's exclusionary policies to the dumping of subsidized US corn onto the Mexican market, ultimately ripping
families apart and eviscerating the economy of impoverished millions.

The truths told here are uncomfortable ones because they challenge us to look within at our own hypocrisies when our way of life ignores the plight of those caught in the double bind of being despised as outsiders, yet at the same time, heavily exploited to do the most backbreaking labor (often literally) in our own backyards. No, it's not a cozy read, but hopefully one that can both inform and help us to recognize the caste system we
participate in and help us begin to find our way out of the widespread cynicism that perceives such injustice as an immutable fact of life beyond our control. This book is an undeniable call to conscience and heart, imbued with the ethos of Saint Francis, who is quoted as saying "Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words."  De la Torre has packed a great deal into this slim volume of only 211 pages, showing us how the
actions on the ground ultimately matter at least as much as the framing of words to persuade public opinion.  His book helps the reader to truly see beyond some of the myths in the NAFTA and immigration debate with more clarity, and to scrutinize our own part in an economy where "We are a nation of immigrants who benefit from the oppression of immigrants".


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