“Recuperando el sueño americano,” Reclaiming the American Dream

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This past weekend I was blessed to be on a wonderful panel with two other U.S. Latino Theologians. The theme for the entire panel was “Latino/a Religiosity and the 21st Century American Political Experience.” The moderator of the panel was Paul A. Rodriguez, current Claremont Graduate University student in the Philosophy in Religion department and professor at California State University, Dominguez Hills. Panelists included myself, Sammy Alfaro, Pentecostal pastor and professor at the Grand Canyon University in Arizona and Patrick Reyes, an up-in-coming U.S. Latino scholar currently enrolled in Claremont Lincoln University’s Ph.D. program in the field of Christian Religious education. The themes that threaded all three presentations were the misuse of ideologies and power in U.S. Public Life. Personally, I critiqued the Jewish Christian term, “alien,” that I argue is re-appropriated in the full title of the Dream Act, “Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors,” to support an anti-immigrant agenda against visitors residing in our country. In my research I discovered two things with regards to the term alien as it is used in U.S. legislation and the Bible. First, I was appalled to learn that our government has created a caste system of the term alien in our country. The Immigration and Nationality Act castes residents of our country as follows, “resident” and “non-resident aliens,” “immigrant” and “nonimmigrant aliens,” “documented” and “undocumented aliens” and “refugee aliens” seeking asylum in our country. I emphasize the term alien in each category because it best relays the power of the word in labeling a person and limiting their humanity in the process. Interestingly, I also discovered that the Hebrew term, “ger,” used to describe individuals residing in ancient Hebrew territories is best translated as “stranger,” not “alien.” For me, this nuance has the potential to create a counter narrative to a U.S. anti-immigration narrative that oppresses visitors currently residing in our country. I also learned that the origins of the term alien dates to the fourteenth-century and thus cannot truly reflect the authentic meaning of the Scriptures. It’s origins come from the Latin term alienus that is most often associated with the term alienated. In terms of a U.S. Public Theology, I believe that religious educators today are obligated to use our educational training in theology and Bible to help individuals within our faith communities to discuss this term in light of our respective faith traditions. Further, as religious educators I believe our role is to give a voice to the migrant peoples residing in our land. To do so, I invite religious educators to engage the biblical principles of our individual faith traditions so that we can offer a counter narrative to the U.S. anti-the-alien narrative in our country. I ended the presentation with the following two quotes. The first is cited in the proposed Dream Act for 2013. It says, “[T]here needs to be a final solution for Dreamers and other immigrants in the U.S. to legalize their status in 2013.” The latter quote is a prayer created by a group of ecumenical theologians and pastoral leaders associated with the group the, “Evangelical Immigration Table.” Their prayer is: “God, guide our leaders in 2013 to write legislation for immigration reform in line with your Word, and give us the persistence to contact our legislators and press for biblical reform.” Amen Image

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