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

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stopping SB 1070 Laws from Spreading....

By Fidel “Butch” Montoya

As the debate over what can be done about SB 1070 continues to generate debate and controversy, other states are now beginning to look at similar laws for their states.

President Obama, who has failed to mount a serious effort to promote comprehensive immigration reform in the Congress, is left with only his bully pulpit and teleprompter. While he did call SB 1070 a misguided attempt by an individual state to enact immigration law, he also ordered his Department of Justice to review whether the law violated the civil rights of potentially many innocent men, women, and children.

In an AP interview, President Obama said that unless the federal government acts in a responsible manner to promote comprehensive immigration reform, it leaves “open the door to irresponsibility by others.”

He said, “That includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatens to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans, as well as the trust between police and their communities that is so crucial to keeping us safe.”

Republican leaders have basically shut the door for any legislative cooperation between their party and the Democrats. South Carolina Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who had joined with New York Democratic Senator Charles Schumer in writing an immigration framework for possible bipartisan legislation, has said the chances of immigration reform passing this year will not happen and that the issue needed to wait until 2012.

Graham told The Washington Times, “If immigration comes up this year, it’s absolutely devastating to the future of this issue.” He has refused to ask other Republicans to join any bipartisan effort to pass legislation this year.

This self-destructive attitude by the GOP against working for comprehensive immigration reform this year is the final nail in the coffin and Latino voters will remember at the polls the selfish and indignant attitude Republicans have shown toward Latino voters.

So it appears the game of cat and mouse by the Republicans and Democrats has reached an impasse and the lack of any federal effort to enact immigration reform will only encourage and force more states to take action on immigration reform on their own.

As of this date, seven states are contemplating introducing a similar law that recently was signed into law by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer. Brewer believes the whole controversy over SB 1070 is overblown and will soon pass into obscurity and soon forgotten by the people in Arizona. Yet, by watching the growing momentum in other states, in at least evaluating voter interest in this law, it does not appear the idea of SB 1070 is going to go away quietly.

Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, Scott McInnis said if he were governor of Colorado, he would push a similar law for Colorado. Another Republican running for governor from Georgia said he wants to mirror a similar law for his state. Other states wanting to push this racial and ethnic profiling law include Utah, Maryland, Ohio, Texas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.

No, the controversy over SB 1070 is not going to go away without a battle and a very divisive debate and political discussion at water coolers across America. It is unfortunate that the proponents of SB 1070 refuse to acknowledge that this bill is strictly a bill that is based solely on racial and ethnic profiling as the only means by which to enforce the legal status of any person “driving while brown” in Arizona.

When a reporter asked Governor Brewer if she could define what an undocumented immigrant looked like, she said no, but it was obvious that she was not going to give an honest reply to the question, even if she knew the answer. But the question remains, what exactly does an undocumented immigrant look like? Unfortunately, other states are preparing to try and answer that question with legislation of their own and debating if perhaps the color of shoes ought to be part of the racial profile.

So while we plan marches and possible boycotts of Arizona, if we do not impress upon the President the urgent need for the federal government to move forward on passing comprehensive immigration reform legislation this year, we may end up boycotting more states if they move forward with their own plans to enact twin SB 1070 bills.

What is simply appalling is the fact that more states are even considering passing legislation that is based on racial and ethnic profiling. It is even shocking that more Americans do not see anything wrong in considering passing more hate and fear bills like SB 1070. It is as if we have lost our way and have forgotten that as a nation that stands as a model for democracy around the world, we cannot ignore issues of justice and laws that violate the basic core values of civil rights.

All of the analogies of Nazi Germany and the yellow stars forced upon Jews, the rounding up of Japanese Americans after the attack on Pearl Harbor and detaining them in internment camps far from their homes and friends, and similar government efforts like “Operation Wetback” when anyone who looked like a Mexican was deported, seem to have been forgotten and erased from our collective memories.

Can you imagine having our government use “Operation Wetback” as a relocation effort to get rid of undocumented immigrants today?

Unfortunately, like the situation back in the 1950’s, many Latino American citizens will find themselves on the wrong side of the border simply because they “looked like illegal immigrants.”

If we expect to see dramatic changes that are needed in our government today, we must pray and fast and ask for Godly leaders who will have the courage to speak up for justice and righteousness.

In a recent national teleconference, Conservative Christians for Comprehensive Immigration Reform called upon the President and the Congress to move forward without delay on immigration reform.

At the present time, the Schumer/Graham immigration framework is not an acceptable alternative to fix the broken immigration laws and system we have in place now.

The Schumer/Graham framework is heavily weighted in more border security and militarizing the border. The biometric Social Security card is another bad proposal for institutionalizing a big brother national ID card, and increased “interior immigration enforcement” is code for more raids on families and further destruction of the Latino family cultural value.

The immigration system and laws in place today are simply outdated, unconstitutional, and were put in the law books based on the special interests of big business, right wing political interests, and cultural values and morals based on the racist and bigotry of the 1950’s.

I would like to think we have come a long way from a strictly ugly and racist past. It is time to revisit the broken immigration system and put in its place a systemic overhaul of comprehensive immigration reform that addresses the needs of our economy, our national security concerns, and for ensuring the long term preservation of a work force that can contribute to meeting the needs of Social Security and pension plans by being paid a fair wage, treated with respect and a sense of fair play, and that offers any undocumented immigrant the privilege of becoming an American citizen.

More than ever, let’s put a stop to the ugliness and hate of SB 1070 by not passing any more of hate and fear bills in other states. Let us reason together and as a nation and people of justice, let us say with a collective “NO” to any more divisive and hate oriented laws intended to racially and ethnically punish and profile Latinos and undocumented immigrants.

Pray we must, but as stewards of representative democracy, let’s make sure our prayers certify that we act justly, that we love mercy, and that we walk humbly before our God. Engraving these principles and values in our minds, our souls, our hearts, and in our spirits will ensure that as people of faith, we can fight to overcome any evil attempt to replicate SB 1070 in any more states.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries - Latino Faith Initiative. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Monday, April 26, 2010

And They Will Know Us by Our Love.....

By Fidel “Butch” Montoya

All across the country, the controversy and condemnation over SB 1070 continues to grow since Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed one of the most misguided state attempts at legislating immigration reform.

With the signing of SB 1070, undocumented families now face the real prospect of being stopped and questioned by the police over their immigration status. “Reasonable suspicion” will be the standard used by police to stop and question suspects. Now based on the visual ethnic and racial profiling standards, looking like an undocumented immigrant will be sufficient reason to be stopped, questioned, convicted, and deported.

Father Donald Bahlinger, of the Arizona pastoral care ministry, Kino Border Initiative, believes SB 1070 in the days ahead, will force more families without proper documentation to make the decision to flee the climate of hate and fear becoming so prevalent in Arizona. Families will begin looking to other states where immigration enforcement may not yet have reached the intensity and degree of hate, panic, and fear as it has in Arizona.

The Kino Border Initiative is an immigrant humanitarian effort sponsored by people of faith and “provides immediate and pastoral accompaniment to immigrants” recently deported from the USA back to Mexico. They also provide housing and shelter for unaccompanied women and children who are targets for human trafficking and extremely vulnerable to abuse and exploitation.

In speaking with Father Bahlinger, it is clear he understands the complexities and the consequences of a failed immigration system that is broken and focuses on separating and destroying families.

The heavy-handed enforcement of immigration laws by the Obama Administration has forced immigrants and families stranded far from home and relatives with few options for finding shelter, food, or a place safe from exploitation and fear.

The Kino Border Initiative provides a proven faith based strategy and ministry in providing pastoral care to undocumented immigrants in need of a temporary place of shelter, food, or place of sanctuary for their families.

If the prophetic voice of Father Bahlinger becomes a reality, people of faith across our country will need to draw upon their faith and humanitarian values to reach out to provide pastoral care and ministry to families seeking places of sanctuary and safety.

The need to meet the temporary assistance for families will not only allow people of faith to practice the values and beliefs of their faith, it will also challenge the Church to exemplify the teachings of Christ toward helping the stranger in our land.

The Colorado Immigration Rights Coalition was right on target in convening a meeting for people of faith from across our state to begin to consider a pastoral ministry framework prepared to meet the temporary needs of families fleeing the animosity and trepidation felt in Arizona.

I believe we must look to the leadership of faith leaders like Father Bahlinger to guide our efforts in assisting undocumented immigrants affected by SB 1070 and which clearly violates the civil rights of a group of people based solely on a racial or ethnic profile.

We must remember that as people of conviction and faith, we must provide pastoral accompaniment for the victims affected by this hate-inspired law which has created so many undesirable consequences in destroying families and homes of so many undocumented immigrants.

It is incumbent that we now come together as a community of faith and inspired by our faith, be prepared for the pastoral care and ministry to families who may find themselves in need of our love and care.

While we come together to provide shelter, pastoral care and sanctuary for immigrant families, we also call upon President Obama and the Congress to remember as they debate comprehensive immigration reform, that any proposed legislation or framework must keep as the paramount theme, we are dealing with the lives of men, women and children and not just the systemic change of laws that in the past has misled us into believing that discrimination, fear, panic, and hopelessness were eliminated.

As people of faith, we will follow the precepts of our faith and the biblical principles that require that we follow the teachings of love, care, and justice.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
Micah 6: 8.

May we have the fortitude to move forward together in ensuring that any immigrant family in need may call upon us and learn to know us by our love for them.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972. He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Boycott Arizona!

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya
El  Semanario 4/21/2010

The very fact that the Arizona State Legislature would pass SB 1070, a bill that outlaws and criminalizes undocumented immigrants as trespassers, and allows the police to use “reasonable suspicion” to stop and question a person about their legal status even if no other law has been violated is outrageous and immoral.

The worst racist and immoral piece of legislation of our time now sits on the desk of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer waiting for her signature to sign it into law.

In their feeble attempt to fix a broken federal immigration system, SB 1070 only opens the door to outright racial profiling and illegal questioning about a person’s status for being in the State of Arizona. It is frightening to see a legislative body take it upon themselves to outlaw a group of people based only on the fact that they may look like an undocumented immigrant.

This law allows law enforcement officials who have a “reasonable suspicion” to stop and question any person who looks like an “undocumented immigrant” and that may be in the State of Arizona without proper documentation.

No other law has to be violated for the police to stop and question you. It is simply the assumption that because you look like an “undocumented immigrant, you can be stopped, questioned, detained, and most likely deported.

Driving while being Latino will be the only reason the police can pull your over in Arizona. You don’t have to break any traffic or minor violations, just simply look the part of an undocumented immigrant.

The worst implications of this law are that it legalizes racial profiling and is targeted at anyone who looks Latino. If a police officer just suspects you look illegal, he will have the law on his side to stop and question your right to be in Arizona. It is the most outlandish, immoral, and illegal violation of our Constitutional rights.

Governor Brewer needs to veto SB 1070 and put an end to this legislative nightmare.

It may be if you are visiting in Arizona, you may need to wear a yellow star on your coat so that law enforcement officials will know of your status in the country. Hitler forced the Jews to wear these yellow stars so that they could be easily identified, intimidated, and sent to concentration camps.

Here we find ourselves in the 21st century in a neighboring state, which has passed a law that will deport anyone who looks like an undocumented immigrant and who is believed to be trespassing” and who will be required to carry the proper documents to prove ones legal status. Unbelievable!

By giving police the right of “reasonable suspicion” to stop you and question you, it will legalize racial profiling and lead to further police abuse and misconduct. It is wrong, it is immoral, and it is racism at its worst. It must not be signed into law and Governor Brewer must veto it.

On the other hand if Governor Brewer refuses to listen to reason and understand why we are demanding that SB 1070 be vetoed, a BOYCOTT of any business or vacation trip to Arizona will become our weapon of choice.

If the Arizona Legislature believes it can pass such a heinous law, and Governor Brewer believes she can sign it into law and not face any repercussions, they are sadly mistaken. The day SB 1070 becomes law will the first day of a national boycott of this state. Across this nation, people of good conscience and moral values will need to make it clear that all business and vacation visits to Arizona will stop.

Tourism is big business in Arizona and we will ask Americans across this country to boycott any trips to the Grand Canyon state. We can bring this state legislature and those who voted to create a climate of fear and panic in Arizona to their knees. If Governor Brewer does not veto this bill, I can guarantee a national boycott of Arizona will break the state budget and make the governor understand the implications of her signing this bill.

We can condemn the actions of the legislature, we can condemn the Governor if she refuses to veto the bill, and we can complain all we want about how immoral and racist this bill is, but unless we make a major decision to boycott this state and impact the budget and economy of this state, nothing will happen.

We call upon Governor Brewer to veto SB 1070 and condemn this bill for its attempt to outlaw a group of people who merely want a better life, or Governor, be prepared to face the biggest and most damaging boycott in the history of Arizona.

We too have economic weapons that can be used to bring the racist state assembly to the realization that SB 1070 is not only a bad bill, an immoral bill, an illegal bill, and one that might carry with it if it is not vetoed a big bill of financial loss to the State of Arizona.

Boycott Arizona starting today, and perhaps Governor Jan Brewer will see the illegality of this bill and veto SB 1070.

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA - TV Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.  He serves on the Executive Council for the Hispanic Coalition for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.


Monday, April 19, 2010

It Is Time to VETO Arizona SB 1070

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

It is time that members of the Latino Evangelical leadership call upon Arizona Governor Jan Brewer to veto SB 1070. This bill is one of the worst anti- immigrant bills recently passed by the Arizona State Legislature. It is a racially targeted bill aimed at anyone in Arizona who looks like an undocumented immigrant.

SB 1070 will criminalize every undocumented immigrant in Arizona as "trespassers" and will legalize racial profiling by police who have a "reasonable suspicion" that someone may be in the state without the proper documentation to provide their legal status.

In other words, the police will have the authority to stop anyone who is "Latino-looking" who they may suspect is an undocumented immigrant. If you are not carrying the proper documentation to prove your citizenship to the USA, or as a legal documented immigrant, you will be subject to being stopped by the police even if you have not violated any laws. The police will be able to stop you merely to perform an "immigration status check."

It is time the Latino Evangelical Church called upon the governor of Arizona to veto this bill which will exacerbate racial profiling. It is the worst bill on racial profiling ever passed in the United States.

The time to voice our opposition to SB 1070 is now! We cannot afford to wait and see what the repercussions may be when this bill is signed. Even if you are not a citizen of Arizona, you must voice your opposition to this vile bill. It is a bill that will discriminate against any person who police may have "reasonable suspicion" to stop you.

If you are visiting or conducting business in Arizona, the police will have the right to stop you even if you have not committed any violation of any law simply to check your immigration status.

It is a bill that Hitler would have loved to sign and see implemented.

SB 1070 will allow the police to do the following:

Criminalize all undocumented immigrants as "trespassers" in the state of Arizona. SB 1070 would subject all undocumented workers and their families to arrest and conviction for misdemeanors and in some cases felony charges for the new crime of "trespass" (reminiscent of HR 4437, the 2005 'Sensenbrenner bill').

Legalize unchecked racial profiling by police of anyone they "suspect" is undocumented.

Give police the authority to enforce federal immigration law and arrest people who cannot produce identification proving their legal residency in the U.S.

Give police the power to investigate and entrap employers for hiring undocumented workers.
Make seeking work illegal for day laborers and force all individuals, regardless of immigration status or citizenship, to carry identification papers or be subjected to detention and even deportation. Public agencies and service providers would have authority to demand identification documents from any person.

It is time to demand Arizona Governor Jan Brewer VETO this bill. The "immigration framework" recently introduced by Senator Schumer and Lindsey Graham last month and supported by President Barack Obama will allow the same kind of immigration enforcement as SB 1070. By calling for the VETO of SB 1070, we can send a strong message to the Congress that we will not accept this type of legislation, state or federal.

We cannot allow the "criminalization of immigrants" to become the law of the land.

The Schumer/Graham framework also "promises to 'fill gaps in apprehension capabilities' that will likely lead to the use of local police nationally to terrorize immigrant communities." By demanding that that SB 1070 be vetoed, we send a message to Senators Graham and Schumer that we do not support their "immigration framework" as well.

The VETO of this bill will let the President understand we will not stand idly by as laws are passed that criminalize immigrants and give the police the right to stop anyone who fits a racial profile of an "undocumented immigrant."

Go to this link http://presente.org/campaigns/arizona_a/org/nnirran and tell Gov. Brewer to VETO SB 1070 . Do it today!

It is time our voices are heard and time the Latino Evangelical Church assumed the leadership for demanding justice and righteousness.
Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Are we Ready to March Seven Times?

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Once again the Obama Administration has shown its contempt for the Latino community and its lack of political will to fix the immigration reform problem facings our country. In an obvious show of Para-military might, President Obama allowed over 800 police and law enforcement agents of ICE and other federal law enforcement agencies to conduct a series of raids throughout Arizona.

Reports from the areas raided describe a frightening scene as federal, state, and local police moving in to arrest and detain undocumented immigrants who allegedly were involved in illegal human trafficking of undocumented immigrants in the shuttle service industry.

Kat Rodriguez of Derechos Humanos called the federal raids “a massive show of force, with helicopters, dozens of agents, police vehicles, and weapons, assaulting our community in a fashion never seen before.” A show of force whose sole intention was only to intimidate, create fear and panic.

These raids are rapidly becoming the calling card of the Obama’s Administration efforts to enforce old and antiqued immigration laws. Instead of pushing for reform, we find the President more comfortable recycling the brutal enforcement polices of the Bush Administration.

President Obama who recently claimed to support the Schumer/Graham framework for immigration reform has allowed the federal government to use all of its enforcement tactics and arsenal to continue to crack down on undocumented immigrants. In fact, this administration has a worse human rights record than that of the Bush Administration when it comes to immigration enforcement and treatment.

Senator Harry Reid’s claim last week to have 56 votes in the United States Senate to move immigration reform forward seem to ring hallow compared to the Obama’s Administration’s show of disrespect to the Latino community by allowing over 800 law enforcement agents to descend on places of employment and disrupt and destroy innocent families and personal lives.

The President who claimed to have as a national key priority the issue of immigration reform has simply allowed the Department Of Homeland Security to become the Department of Fear and Bigotry.

While our President claims to be on the side of the Latino community in fixing the immigration problem, he has has allowed his Secretary of Homeland Security to become the master oppressor by allowing the largest display of federal law enforcement to suppress and intimidate our community.

Just last week in Dallas, Latino Evangelical faith leaders called upon the President to join with them in fixing the immigration problem. In a fairly soft spoken attempt at trying to rally this President to their side, the soft ball approach to the Obama Administration instead has been answered by what many are calling a complete lack of accountability by the President authorizing one of the largest raids against undocumented immigrants of his administration.

It is time to stop pretending as if this President is going to reward our community for voting for him and that we began to demand accountability of this President’s policies against creating familial separations, destroying families, and endearing itself to the evil forces of bigotry, fear, hate, and discrimination.

We need to stop counting the number of votes given to this President during the last election, and start counting anew the ones that will vote for true change and hope, not broken promises and phrases of false expectations.

While this Administration is quick to condemn the human rights violations of other third world governments, it is time that the American people understand that a government that can and will violate the rights and constitution freedoms of some will not hesitate to use that same force against others. It is time that we stood up and demanded accountability of this President and his polices of oppression.

Immigration reform leaders in Arizona are calling the massive federal raids “a new low in the Obama Administration’s lack accountability.”

We need to send the message to the President and Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. that we are no longer going to listen to the false promises of immigration reform that come from the shallow halls of government. The half- hearted attempts to placate our efforts to find immigration reform will not be acceptable, and we must demand accountability using the mid-term elections as a means by which to register our displeasure and anger.

In Arizona where the state legislature just recently passed SB1070, a bill that essentially allows any law enforcement official who may have “a reasonable suspicion” to question anyone in the state whom they suspect may not have the proper documents to determine their immigration status is a difficult pill to swallow.

Police will have the right to stop and question anyone even if no other law has been violated. If there is “reasonable suspicion,” that you may not have the proper documentation, racial profiling will become the norm and you will be questioned.

It is under this climate of evil and anti-Latino attitudes that the President Obama ordered the largest single immigration raid in any state. President Obama has allowed governmental bureaucrats to enforce policies of the past, and has refused to implement humane and just policies that do not separate families and create fear and uncertainty in the Latino community.

He has allowed ICE to do as it pleases in enforcing its own misguided interpretation of national immigration policies to arrest, detain, and ultimately deport not hardened criminals, but men and women who support their families and whose sole attempt is to live within the framework of our United States Constitution

It is imperative that Latino Evangelical leaders reevaluate their support of a President who refuses to acknowledge that this country must fix it immigration policies and stop violating the civil rights of Latinos.

When we allow laws that encourage racial profiling and that allow the police to stop and question any person under a racial profiling standard, we are allowing our country to slide rapidly toward the brink of becoming a police state

A few years back, Latino Evangelical pastors refused to acknowledge that we would
be facing laws that allow racial profiling, where police would be raiding homes, where Gestapo type police gangs would raid workers at their jobs, where detention facilities would be big business incarcerating and detaining undocumented immigrants without due process, and where families would be separated and destroyed by our government.

We now know that we live under a government where Gestapo type police raids are becoming the norm, where big business detention contracts are routinely approved by the government without any regard to who is being jailed, where more and more undocumented immigrants in detention are being threatened or intimidated to renounce their right to due process and as a result more immigrants are being deported, and thus allowing a government that instead of nurturing families, is out to destroy them.

The raids in Arizona only demonstrated that unless we come together and demand accountability, we will surely lose this battle against the evil forces of hate and fear.

Yet, once again last week we have found that those who claim to be our friends and allies in this fight for justice and immigration reform do not share our values or beliefs.

How then can our faith leaders pretend that the policies and governance of this President are in agreement with our vision of justice and righteousness? How can we allow this government to destroy more and more families and not raise our voice in opposition to the current policies of this government?

What will it take to create within the Latino Evangelical Church the passion to stand up for ourselves and fight for justice and righteousness?

Perhaps the best summary of the events of the Obama Raid are left to Isabel Garcia of the Tucson-based Coalicion de Derechos Humanos who said, “Instead of bringing in the Department of Justice to investigate the immigration abuses and uphold our rights, the Obama Administration sics the ICE police on our communities.”

And instead of another national gathering in Washington, D.C. to march for immigration reform again, maybe it is time we gathered together instead to demand that this President stop the raids. That he instead commit to join our fight for justice and righteousness by pursuing a policy of finding a solution to the broken immigration system that allows the fiasco that occurred in Arizona to not happen again.

Perhaps it is time that Latino Evangelical leaders take the lead of demanding Presidential accountability and stop meeting in the big house, and instead marched around the walls of the White House seven times, prepared to trumpet our demands of accountability and for righteousness judgment.

Is it time to march seven times around the walls of injustice and fear?

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Mr. Obama, Tear Down this Embargo....

By Fidel "Butch" Montoya

Many years ago, back in the early 60’s when my father and mother were the pastors of the Iglesia Cristiana A/D in Farmington, New Mexico; news of the Castro Revolution was sweeping across the country. Back then, it was the Huntley Brinkley newscasts that brought us the news of the nation and world.

The corruption of the government in Cuba was well known. The Mafia and other criminal enterprises had practically free rein in Havana with casinos, drugs, and social clubs. Dictator Fulgencio Batista, allegedly fled Cuba with $300 million in his back pocket as guerilla forces of Fidel Castro pushed the government armed forces aside.

At the time, there was great hope that the Revolution lead by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara would bring change people would embrace and wanted so badly.

During the revolution, Pedrito Torrez was a Latin American District Council missionary in Cuba. Brother Torrez came to our church showing a film of the revolution and expressing great hopes that now Cuba would be free of Batista, and that the Gospel would be able to preached more openly.

Brother Pedrito was here touring our church district council trying to raise funds for his ministry in Cuba. The expectation at the time was Cuba would be a key nation in spreading the Pentecostal message throughout Central and South America. I do remember the great excitement in the air.

Almost as quickly as the armed rebellion ended, Fidel Castro declared Cuba a Communist state and joined Russia as one of its key allies.

Russia jumped at the opportunity to have an ally nation only 90 miles from the shores of the United States. Through several misguided policy blunders after the revolution, the United States only grew further away from Cuba.

As we may know over the years, 50 years or so, the United States has tried through its embargos and political isolationism to break the Castro government. While it is the people may have suffered because of the political attempts to destroy the government of Cuba, Castro has managed to survive the embargo and policy missteps of the USA.

I am not taking a political stand in favor of the Castro government, but Castro in not allowing "capitalism" to influence the will of his government, has shocked American political policy wizards who thought the Cuban government would have collapsed years ago because of the embargo and isolationism.

The debate over the years in our country has always centered on whether or not we should re-establish political relations with Cuba. Cuba does offer an island paradise for tourist trade, for commercial development, business opportunities, and new avenues of communication with the Cuban people. In a short word, Americans have always looked at Cuba through the lens of capitalism.

Still, partly because of the political will of Cubans who were forced to leave everything behind when they fled the Castro Revolution, they have continued to put political pressure on American presidents over the years which have kept the doors to Cuba locked.

Rev. Dennis Rivera, Superintendent, Central Latin American District Council A/G sent me a recent survey which once again opens the debate about lifting the embargo and establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba.

The survey has found that "most Evangelical leaders want the Cuba embargo lifted." Recalling the enthusiasm of the missionary from so many years ago, I can understand today the reason for wanting Cuba open again.

According to the March Evangelical Leaders Survey, 63% of Evangelical leaders want the embargo lifted. That contrasts to a large number of Americans who believe the embargo should not be changed.

The BBC/Harris Poll weighs in on the debate by showing that 40% of Americans support the embargo, while 36% want the embargo lifted. The BBC/Harris Poll was released March 2, 2010.

Evangelical leaders reasons for wanting the embargo lifted are that it has failed over the years to influence the government in Cuba to resist its current policies. The impact on the poor by restricting trade for food and necessary every day goods and services is also given as a reason. But of course, according to the poll, "the potential benefit the lift would have on the spread of the Gospel are the primary reasons Evangelical leaders support the embargo's end."

The Evangelical leaders who do not support lifting the embargo while recognizing the impact it has had on the poor "stressed the value of the embargo's symbolic nature for religious liberty and against the oppression of communism."

It appears the 34% who do not support the lifting of the embargo do so based on political policy and not any spiritual perspective. It is difficult to see the rational when the people of Cuba have suffered not only because of a totalitarian government, but because the USA refuses to acknowledge the pain and suffering our "political policies" have had on the quality of life for Cubans.

Jerry Dykstra, Executive Director for the Christian Reformed Church of North America expressed the reality that the embargo has done little to bring the Cuban government down. "For more than 50 years, the embargo against Cuba has done little to bring freedom, hope, or change to Cuba. It is time to open the door to open trade and visitation. Perhaps opening the door to commerce will open the door once again to the Gospel."

I think I would have stated the reason it is time to open the door to Cuba would have maybe sounded something like this.

"For more than 50 years, the embargo against Cuba has done little to bring freedom, hope, or change to Cuba. It is time to open the door to the Gospel. Perhaps opening the door to the Gospel, it would open trade, visitation and sustained commerce for the Cuban people."

Just a minor tweak on his statement, but certainly having a bigger policy impact if you analysis the two statements.

Wonder which one the Cuban government would accept as the first step to reopening the doors to Cuba?

The Evangelical Leaders Survey, conducted monthly by the National Association of Evangelicals and its Board of Directors includes "the CEOs of denominations and representatives of a broad array of Evangelical organizations including missions, universities, publishers and churches.

The President of the National Association of Evangelicals, Leith Anderson offered his observations on the strong interest by Evangelicals to unlocking the doors to a Cuba which has endured a political and trade embargo based on political entitlement policies, and which have conveniently ignored the troubling impacts the embargo has had on the people of Cuba.

Anderson says, "American Evangelicals have a special interest in Cuba because of the large and rapid increase in the number of Evangelical churches and believers there over the past decade. We are saddened by economic suffering among Cubans but delight in the spiritual awakening God has brought. The majority of our polled leaders think that lifting the embargo is what is best for the future of all Cubans."

As I look back to those days In Farmington, I recall the enthusiasm of Brother Pedrito who came to visit our church with his old projector and film. His desire to share the Gospel in Cuba seems to have always carried with it the vision and calling to take a message of hope and salvation to the Cuban people. Even in a small congregation of believers so far from Cuba, the spirit of expectation was strong and very hopeful as Brother Pedrito shared his vision for Cuba.

I believe it is time our government revisited the need for this embargo against the people of Cuba. Often times it has been used as a means to discipline and isolate rogue governments, but this embargo has done little to bring down the 50 years of the Castro Revolution.

The United States needs to look back at the policies of this government at the time and acknowledge that we too made policy mistakes and blunders. We need to understand that by placing an embargo on Cuba, we have hurt the people who have been forced to live in poverty and despair. While it would be difficult to justify some of the policies of the Cuban Revolution, I believe it remains far more difficult to continue to endorse and justify the bad policy decisions made by this government in the 1950's.

Even our own President in the1960's was willing to be honest and open about the mistakes and blunders we made as we attempted to influence the Batista and Castro governments in Cuba.

President John F. Kennedy, in an interview with Jean Daniel, executive editor of Le Nouvel Observateur weekly, in October 24, 1963, perhaps gives us reason today to stop and evaluate our bad policy decisions to place the embargo against the Cuban people in the first place.

"I believe that there is no country in the world including any and all the countries under colonial domination, where economic colonization, humiliation and exploitation were worse than in Cuba, in part owing to my country's policies during the Batista regime. I approve the proclamation which Fidel Castro made in the Sierra Maestra, when he justifiably called for justice and especially yearned to rid Cuba of corruption. I will even go further; to some extent it is as though Batista was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins. In the matter of the Batista regime, I am in agreement with the first Cuban revolutionaries. That is perfectly clear."

I agree with the 63% of the Evangelical leaders who believe it time to lift the embargo. It is time for our government to understand, "to some extent it is as though CASTRO was the incarnation of a number of sins on the part of the United States. Now we shall have to pay for those sins."

Perhaps it is time to hear more Latino Evangelical leaders stand at the doors of the White House and proclaimed, "Mr. Obama, tear down this embargo!"

Fidel "Butch" Montoya is Director of H.S. Power and Light Ministries. He was the Vice President/News Director of KUSA Channel 9 News from 1985-1990, and worked at the news station for 24 years. Montoya also served as Deputy Mayor of City and County of Denver from 1995-1999; as the Manager of Public Safety for the City and County of Denver from 1994-2000. Montoya was Licensed to preach in 1972.