(posted by Audrey Riley for Karen Ward, intern)
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
In 2008, the largest meatpacking plant in the United States was raided by 900 Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. 289 immigrant workers were detained, charged and quickly convicted of document fraud and related offenses. Their average sentence was five months in federal prison, followed by deportation. None of the immigrants charged had any previous criminal record, not even misdemeanors. All were in the United States to escape poverty in their home countries, support their families and work a dangerous job that most U.S. citizens are unwilling to take. The event devastated the small community of Postville, Iowa, the town Agriprocessors and its employees called home.
The documentary film abUSed: The Postville Raid tells the events of the raid and the aftermath. Through the stories of affected workers, attorneys, faith leaders (including an ELCA pastor and a Luther College affiliate) and many others, the viewer gains a sense of the injustices that the immigrants endured. They suffered from poverty and hunger in their home countries, forcing them to leave their homes to find work. Their workplace illegally employed children and enforced long hours with low pay. They endured dangerous conditions and abuse from their supervisors. Then they were charged as criminals, stripped of their human rights, forced to go months without pay and finally torn away from their families and deported back to poverty and hunger.
I highly recommend watching abUSed to learn more about the reality of immigration policy in this country. It could even be used as a great Bible study or education piece in a congregation setting.
As Christians, I believe we need to explore this topic. How did we used to be “foreigners”? How is God calling us to respond in our congregation, our community, our country and around the world? What is God’s vision of hospitality? I’d love to hear from you!