Mississippi Employment Protection Act: Faith or Fear

Appeasing opponents is a dangerous game in politics, it sometimes backfires.   When Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance (MIRA) met with state representatives regarding the negative impact 37 anti-immigrant bills would have, not only on immigrants, but all of Mississippi’s citizens; they were told that ” ‘at least one bill dealing with immigration’ to relieve the political pressure being put on the members by right wing forces in their districts” (from MIRA en ACCION! newsletter April 2008) had to be passed.    What was not known to MIRA that the most heinous, the most inhumane, the most un-Christian [and I use this term in the most biblical sense of the term] of these bills would be the one.

Senate Bill 2988, the misnomered Mississippi Employment Protection Act, was passed by unaninmous vote in the Senate and almost unaninmously in the House. This law would criminalize undocumented employees with a felony and employers would lose their license, permit, or certificate to do business in the state for up to one year,  lose government contracts and placed on a government contract ban for up to three years and shall be liable for any costs incurred by the agencies or institutions by such cancellation of contract or loss to permit to do business in the state. 

The right wing forces are quick to quote scriptures to justify their actions against a woman’s right to choose, against same gender marriage, and to justify the actions of our government against innocent people in other lands.   Here is the scripture that I am going to use to state this action by Mississippi Legislators is unjust, unlawful, and against the moral code of how we are to live with each other.  

Leviticus 19:33-36.  (King James Version)  And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. Ye shall do no unrighteousness in judgment, in meteyard, in weight, or in measure. Just balances, just weights, a just ephah, and a just hin, shall ye have: I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt.

This law criminalizes people who have come here to find work that the US government  and US corporations denied them within their own lands with the passage of NAFTA.  Since the dawn of time people have traveled the globe looking for a better life.  This is a right that is the birthright of every human to be able to choose  where they want to live. 

We have taken from these people their livelihoods in their countries by exploiting their laws against them, stealing their lands and their resources out from under them for our American consumerist greed.   And then when they come here looking to better their lot, we tell them they are not welcomed here.   We respond not with the remorse of what we have done to their homeland by our greed, but with the arrogance of supremacy, of being rulers of the world, of being gods in our own sight. We seek them out instilling fear with our guns brandishing in the air in public and private arenas. (see Mira en Accion! February 2008) When we do hire them, we pay them below generally acceptable standards.   We ignore and violate Leviticus 19:33-36 by these actions. 

Remember from whence you once came.  Our nation is a nation of immigrants.  Some here by their free will, others sold into slavery and degradation by the wills of others. We have struggled against our racist past to proclaim that freedom is a value we bestow to all people who live here.  It does not show our freedom, our highest moral ground when we treat these new immigrants to this land with such distain and fear.  

What this law does reveal is that America (because similar laws are being passed across this land) and specifically Mississippi is fearful and insecure.  To have to resort to such heinous acts with this legislation is an act of fear not faith.   It reveals that the people of this state have little faith their needs will be met even though Jesus (whose name is proclaimed on every hillside and street corner in this state) taught that even the sparrows who neither tarry nor toil are well fed by their heavenly father who loves them.  It makes me question the people in this state who shout “Lord Lord” on Sunday and cheer the passage of this law on Monday what Jesus are they proclaiming Lord.  

Certainly not the Jesus who claimed to fulfill Isaiah 61:1″The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners. ”  Later in the chapter it reads:  “Aliens will shepherd your flocks; foreigners will work your fields and vineyards”  This too, is a result of the message that Jesus claimed to have fulfilled.   

If this is the Jesus they have faith in, then they would have sought another solution than this law because they would know that the two greatest commandments according to Jesus is to Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul.  The second is to Love your neighbor as you love yourself.   

This means to me, that I want my neighbors, documented and undocumented, to have the best life possible here in Mississippi because that is what I want for myself.   I don’t want to be criminalized for working in this state.  So why would I want someone else to be criminalized.  I don’t want to lose my certification to work in this state so why would I want another person to lose their certification, their livelihood, because they hired someone capable of doing the job.  

Governor Barbour has claimed to have created 50K jobs in the last four years with thousands more in the pipeline.   http://www.governorbarbour.com/speeches/2008SOS.htm.  He claims that there are more high-paying skilled jobs than ever.  So why the irrational fear of not enough jobs in this state when every indication is there is plenty and more on the way?  I know the reports that are saying we are moving into a recession, and penalizing employers with loss of permit to work and contracts in this state helps prevent deepening a recession how?  

Jesus did not come only to give a ticket to the here-after.  Anyone can offer eternal life because it is an unprovable claim on this side of death’s door.  Once death has occurred, how are you going to take umbrage if the claim is false?   Or as Universalist Christians believe; everyone has entry to the life eternal so the exclusive ticket offer is moot. 

But Jesus’ message had a more important here and now component.  His message states we are to have life and have it abundantly–on this side of the pearly gates.  His message proclaims the hearts of men and women no longer need to to live their lives with fear and despair, but could be transformed to live with generosity of spirit, with love and compassion, with a desire for justice to flow through the land.  These are his teachings.  Or do the right wing forces of Mississippi not believe the truth and power of their savior’s message? The right wing forces who pressured the state into passing this heinous act must not because this anti-immigration law convicts them of their unbelief. 

I am not a Christian and yet I believe this message. I see the rightness in doing unto others as I would have them do unto me.  It is a transformative message.  It is a message that would seek to humbly and compassionately find another solution to undocumented immigration.   I for one will pray this law is repealed when it is discovered it is unenforceable and unfundable.  May we live our lives with the integrity our faith convictions offer us… even if it means to live life along a narrower path…one that recognizes the abundance of grace for all of us immigrants in this land.   Blessings, Rev. Fred L Hammond


Published in: on April 8, 2008 at 11:49 pm  Comments Off on Mississippi Employment Protection Act: Faith or Fear  
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