"He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water." Isaiah 49:10

Monday, May 26, 2008

Hispanic church minister in trouble for helping Latino immigrants in Iowa

Francisco Miraval

As a philosopher, I learned very early in my career that reality is not always what it seems to be. As a believer, I know that is always the case, because there is more than one dimension in our world (Isaiah 45:18, 2 Cor. 12:2-4), even if we do not see those other dimensions.

However, when a minister at a Hispanic church in a small rural town gets in trouble with federal authorities for trying to help Latino immigrants who were allegedly being abused, my notion of what is reality and what is not, what is justice and what is not, begins to crumble.

I know God works in mysterious ways, but if pastors or ministers can be summoned to a grand jury for defending the rights of immigrants, perhaps it is time to re-think what we think is the reality around us.

Let me share the story with you. Please, read all the links, and then you decide.

Ron Wahls, a guidance counselor in the Postville school district in northeast Iowa and a minister of a local Hispanic church, said to the Des Moines Register he has been summoned to appear next month before a grand jury, due to alleged “misunderstandings” regarding Social Security numbers used by Latino immigrants he helped in the past.

Wahls denied any wrongdoing and said the allegations against him “probably stem from Postville residents who resent the presence of Hispanics in their town.”

For the complete story, click here.

Postville is a city of 2,500 people (according to the U.S. Census Bureau), with 20 percent of Hispanic population. Many of those Latino immigrants came to Postville attracted by Agriprocessors, the largest kosher meatpacking company in the country.

On May 12, 2008, more than 300 hundred Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, other federal agents, and local police, arrested almost 400 people at Agriprocessors, in what federal authorities described as the “largest immigration operation in the history of the country.” (For details, click here.)

Ironically, Wahls may have been one of the persons who created the opportunity for the raid. In June 2006, Walhs met with representatives of the Jewish community to talk about the “working conditions” of Hispanic employed at Agriprocessors, including allegations of abused against immigrants. For the complete story, click here.

According to documents released by ICE on May 20, 2008, and found here and here, with additional details here, those allegations led to the investigation that eventually led to the arrest of the workers and the summons of Wahls.

If I understand correctly the sequence of events, some Latino immigrants told their minister in 2006 they were being abused. The minister contacted some people and tried to help the immigrants. That led eventually to a federal investigation. Then, on May 12, 2008, almost 400 those same immigrants the minister wanted to help were arrested. Two weeks later, all those immigrants were already sentenced and many of them will be deported soon. And now the minister is in trouble.

Do we really understand what is happening before our eyes? Are we ready for a reality that is not what it seems to be? Are we ready and willing to be pastors at a time when, as it happened many times during the past 2,000 years, being a pastor is no longer a glamorous profession, but a costly one?

Nota: Para una historia en espaƱol relacionada con este tema, ver esta nota.

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