I was in a car accident last week. I’m fine. My car did what good, new cars are supposed to do and as the woman ran into me from behind while I was stopped at a light. The bumper absorbed the impact, and I am fine.
She haltingly told me about being on the way to a doctor’s appointment (I had just left a doctor’s appointment, myself). She apologized. We pulled our cars over and I wrote down her insurance and registration information. I wrote down my name and number and gave it to her. Both cars were drivable and so we went on our way.
And then, for the first time in my life, I wondered about whether or not it was safe to file a police report.
This is not a fear of police. I have had good interactions with police in general, and with Boise Police, specifically. (I recognize there are people whose experience with police is very different than my experience). For me, this is a fear about the way the current US presidential administration is using police records to deport people who are living in the US without proper documentation.
The Trump administration often refers to them as “illegal aliens” and “criminal aliens”. Let’s attend to the way our language controls our narrative. People can never “be” illegal. They can do things that are illegal. Existentially, people are not unlawful.
I recognize people faced deportation under previous administrations as well, but in a January 25 Executive Order, President Trump allowed for the deportation of undocumented people who are charged with a crime, as opposed for previous guidelines of being found guilty of crimes.
Half of people swept up in ICE raids in 2017 have either traffic violations or no criminal record at all.
The woman driving the other car is a recent immigrant from a Muslim-majority country. Her English was much better than my Arabic, but I could tell it was still new to her. I don’t know anything about her immigration status. I wasn’t going to ask. I didn’t want her to possibly be deported because she had been distracted (maybe even worried) about her medical appointment and had done $378 worth of damage to my car.
And I am angry about this. I’m angry that I have to hesitate in my participation of the reporting of traffic violations because another government agency might take advantage of my report to deport someone who made a mistake.
And now we have the VOICE hotline (Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement) where people are being encouraged to call in and report “crimes committed by criminal aliens”. (Remember what I said about how our language shapes the narrative? Could people be more dehumanized than to be called “criminal aliens”?)
Of course, there is already a way to report crime. Dial 9-1-1 or call your local police non-emergency line.
Of course, there is no data to suggest that undocumented people commit more crimes than the rest of the population.
And, of course, the internet came to our rescue and suggested people flood the hotline with stories of intergalactic alien crime.
I was also surprised to discover that today is something called “Loyalty Day“. I was even more surprised to discover the day was first coined in 1921 to counter International Worker’s Day (which I had heard of).
I’ll let you interpret for yourself the different ways presidents have marked the day. Some speeches are posted here.
In light of my car accident, and my ambivalence of filing a police report, I’ve been thinking about my loyalty and where it lies.
“Choose this day, whom you will serve. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
I am reminded of the Theological Declaration of Barmen, the church’s response to Nazi Germany.
8.23 We reject the false doctrine, as though the State, over and beyond its special commision, should and could become the single and totalitarian order of human life, thus fulfilling the Church’s vocation as well.
Leviticus 19:33-34 and 24:22 tells us: “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”
I won’t file a police report for my car accident, even if it compromises a payout from her insurance company. I recognize people face far more costly penalties than I, in order to live out their faith in society.
My allegiance to God, my #loyaltyday, commands me to remember that I too, was an alien, and I received deliverance, hospitality, and welcome.
Marci Auld Glass is the pastor of Southminster Presbyterian Church and lives with her husband and sons in Boise, Idaho. She is a graduate of Trinity University and Columbia Theological Seminary. She serves on the Clergy Advocacy Board of Planned Parenthood and the Mission Agency Board of the Presbyterian Church USA. Marci blogs at Glass Overflowing and is among the contributors to the RevGals book,There’s a Woman in the Pulpit (SkyLight Paths).
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