Editor’s note: The Oklahoma City chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens held an immigration rally on the steps of the state capitol April 16. Bruce Prescott was one of the speakers. Below are his remarks.
4,000 years ago God told a man named Abraham to go to a land that He would show him. Papers? Abraham didn’t need any stinking papers. He just went.
3,300 years ago God told Moses to lead His people to the promised land. Papers? They didn’t need any stinking papers. They just went.
2,000 years ago God told Joseph and Mary to get up and take their baby boy to Egypt. Papers? They didn’t need any stinking papers. They just went.
390 years ago the Pilgrims were convinced that God wanted them to set sail for America on a boat named the Mayflower. Papers? By that time men thought that they might need some papers to make them legal.
The Pilgrims got some papers authorizing them to settle in Virginia Territory – but they didn’t land in Virginia, they landed 400 miles north of Virginia in Massachusetts. Turns out, they didn’t need any stinking papers. They just did it.
380 years ago the first Baptist preacher in America, Roger Williams, pointed out to the Pilgrims that they were “illegal aliens.” He told them that to be legal they ought to get a deed for their land from the Native Americans.
The Pilgrims didn’t want any stinking papers from the Indians. They just banished Roger Williams from their colony.
122 years ago the “Boomers” who entered the land run to settle in Oklahoma discovered that the “Sooners” had already staked out the best homesteads. As it turned out, all they needed to do to get their papers was to be present.
Today the descendants of all these “undocumented aliens” want to outlaw immigration. They have already made it so complicated and so expensive that only the wealthy need apply.
I know because my son married a girl from Mexico City. I know how difficult and how expensive it was to get her “papers.” It was almost impossible.
Our laws were designed to intimidate, bully and persecute the loyal, honest and courageous poor who only want an opportunity to work hard and make a better life for themselves and their families.
We have news for the people in our legislatures. People have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness wherever they were born and without regard to the nationality of their parents.
If I were born in a land where there was no place to live, no food to feed my children, and no way to work to provide for my family – I would move someplace where they had jobs and food and houses. God would expect for me to do that as a good husband and father.
If the law made it impossible for me to provide for my family within the law, I would decide that it was the law that was unjust and illegal.
Then I would conclude that under God and under all that is just in the universe, I didn’t need any stinking papers.
Every day hundreds, perhaps thousands, of immigrants do what I would do if I were in their shoes. It is not my place to blame them. My place is beside them. That is why I am here today.
We who have been blessed to be born in this land of opportunity have a responsibility to share our blessings. To whom much has been given, much is required.
God expects us to welcome the stranger, to encourage the pilgrim and to show hospitality to the immigrant.
We need to tell the people who work in the statehouse behind me that we want them to change the immigration laws.
We want laws that are just and fair. We don’t want to live in a country where it is impossible to get documentation and it is illegal to be an immigrant.
We want them to help us create a world where everyone can live and work and prosper together.
Bruce Prescott is executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists, president of the Norman, Okla., chapter of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and host of “Religious Talk” on KREF radio. He blogs at Mainstream Baptist.
Bruce Prescott, now retired, served as executive director of Mainstream Oklahoma Baptists from 1998-2014.