Sunday, August 20, 2006

Small Town, Big Problem

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about Riverside and its efforts to deal with a large influx of illegal immigrants. Since I have lived in the same zip code as Riverside for 8 years, attended church there for 14, and had my children in a parish school there, I've seen plenty of what goes on.

It's not all about illegal immigrants. A lot of it is just about immigrants. It's about people who don't look or talk or act the same as the rest of the people in town. There are plenty of people who would rather see the downtown completely boarded up than see Brazilian flags festooning busy storefronts. Every little thing that goes wrong--guess who gets blamed?

Brazilians, with or without green cards, have not been welcomed in Riverside, and that is obvious. I do not stand on the side of those who knowingly came to this country illegally, have no plans to stay here, and are trying to get the benefits of being here without taking the steps to do things the right way. But I also do not stand on the side of those who carry anti-Brazilian posters to town meetings.

Today in Riverside there is going to be a media circus immigration rally. Organizers with the National Coalition of Latino Clergy and Christian
Leaders, a Washington-based advocacy group with branches throughout the
country, said supporters would include members of the New Jersey
Conference of Catholic Bishops
. Busloads of people are expected to attend. I'm sure the news helicopters will put in an appearance.

The downtown area will be blocked off; streets will be closed during this assembly. I won't be surprised if things get nasty.

Today, if it were not Sunday, would be the feast of Saint Bernard of Clairvaux. How appropriate to celebrate a man who was known for settling a schism in the Church. There's certainly one in Riverside right now.

And the proper prayer for today, the twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time, is even more appropriate:
Almighty God, ever-loving Father,
your care extends beyond the boundaries of race and nation
to the hearts of all who live.
May the walls which prejudice raises between us
crumble beneath the shadow of your outstretched arm.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


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