A Cuban-born Baptist ethicist told a recent interfaith audience that the religious obligation in dealing with America’s immigration crisis runs deeper than showing “the virtue of hospitality.”
“Hospitality assumes that I own the house, and out of the goodness of my heart I will allow you, stranger, to stay in my house,” Miguel De La Torre, professor of social ethics and Latinx studies at Iliff School of Theology, said during a Sept. 5-7 immersion experience at the U.S. border in El Paso, Texas.
De La Torre — an ordained Baptist minister and graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary who in the past has written for Baptist news outlets including Baptist News Global – cited a “problem” with that line of thinking.
“When one nation builds roads into another nation for the express purpose of stealing their raw materials and their cheap labor, why should we be surprised when the people of those countries take those same roads following everything that has been stolen from them?” he asked during a “teach-in” portion of a gathering of interfaith leaders from across the country protesting the detention of immigrant children in the borderlands.
Iliff, a United Methodist seminary located in Denver, Colorado, joined other groups including Auburn Seminary and Faith in Public Life to sponsor the multi-day El Grito de las Fronteras (Cry from the Border) event in the El Paso area.
Activities included a prayer vigil, rally, educational sessions and screening of Trails of Hope and Terror, a 53-minute documentary on immigration written by De La Torre and directed by his son, Vincent, that was released in January 2017.
De La Torre, brought to the United States as an infant by parents fleeing political persecution in Cuba, said undocumented immigrants pouring across the Mexican border are simply following resources that have been plundered from them and their ancestors. The immigration crisis has been going on for centuries, he said, and it may take centuries to find a full remedy.
“It is so ironic that the last immigrant group in this area, to enter into these lands, who killed the Indians, who invaded Mexico, who created a gunboat diplomacy which in the last century overthrew governments and surrounded the Caribbean over 52 times – in just 100 years — who created a NAFTA policy that has destroyed the agricultural basis of Central America and Mexico, they see themselves as the victims of this immigration crisis,” De La Torre said.
“Our labor and our resources built this house,” he said. “Bishop Tutu once said ‘if you steal my pen and apologize, what good does it do if you still have my pen?’”
“I do not want your hospitality,” De La Torre said. “I want my damned house back.”
Previous commentary by Miguel De La Torre: