During one of our days of the pilgrimage I was approached by a handful of concerned immigrants. We were in a 287(g) county (a county where law enforcement are authorized to act as immigration officers) and the immigrant pilgrims were troubled because they alleged that one of our police escorts was a “racist cop” who likes to harass Latino drivers by following close behind them so as to make them nervous and then wait for the smallest moving violation so as to pull them over and take them to jail and possible deportation. The distressed immigrants wanted to know what we should do in response to his presence…
As I thought of possible options I immediately recalled basic nonviolence theology which states that without a prophetic imagination we may only consider two reactions – fight or flight.
The fight option: Let’s confront the officer. Let’s shame him. Let’s turn the focus of our public prayer with feet to a public confrontation of a cop.
The flight option: Let’s ignore him and just pray he won’t ever tail you and pull you over.
But Jesus’ way is neither fight nor flight. Jesus calls his followers to find what theologians call a Third Way – nonviolent conflict transformation. Immediately a “third way” option came to mind; here’s what I proposed.
Unlicenseable immigrants know all about roadblocks. A roadblock is an external show of force that causes all of us to pause. “Do I have my license on me?” “Where’s my insurance card?” “Yikes, I don’t have my seatbelt on.”
But for immigrants, a roadblock can be a terrifying experience. “Will I go to jail?” “Will my car be towed?” “Will I be deported?” “What will become of my children?”
My proposal was simple and the immigrants loved it – it was a “third way” option. “Let’s give this police officer a roadblock of love.”
I encouraged the scores of immigrants to shower this cop with love upon love. Offer him water. Offer him your lunch. Every time you see him tell him how much you appreciate his accompanying us on this prayerful pilgrimage. Tell him you’re praying for him and his family. Tell him God loves him and you’re glad you’re his brother or sister in Christ.
The countenances of the once-concerned immigrants were transformed. The cop was stopped by a roadblock of love and was detained for the duration of the walk; forced to be treated as a fellow human beings he was alleged to be profiling.
We didn’t fight the cop nor did we flee. Will the police officer act differently when he encounters an unlicenseable immigrant driver? Our actions were faithful, redemption was offered, the seeds of justice were sown.
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”