Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ransom the Captives

This image of Our Lady of Good Remedy portrays Mary, the God-bearer, holding the infant Christ on her lap while handing a bag of money to St. John de Mattha, founder of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity (Trinitarians).  The money is to be used to ransom prisoners in keeping with Jesus' announcement of his mission:  
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. (Luke 4:18-19; cf. Is 58:6, 61:1-2)
Recalling Jesus' proclamation, the Trinitarians' motto is "Glory to you O Trinity and release to the captives."  God is glorified when the oppressed are liberated.  Originally, the Trinitarians ransomed slaves and Christians captured during the Crusades.  Today, the Trinitarians focus on victims of human rights abuses.  In the United States, their ministry is primarily one of welcoming immigrants from Latin America.

I was reminded of the importance of their witness by a report on NPR's Morning Edition program.  It turns out that Arizona's recent anti-immigrant legislation was the product of the for-profit, private prison industry.  Anticipating immigrant detention as their next big market, the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) essentially wrote and named the Arizona law that would allow police to lock-up people they stop who cannot prove that they are in this country legally.  

Through a secretive group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a consortium of conservative state legislators, organizations and corporations such as Exxon-Mobil, tobacco giant Reynolds American Inc., and the National Rifle Association, CCA drafted Arizona Senate Bill 1070, the Orwellian named "Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhoods Act."  Some 200 companies pay thousands of dollars to meet with legislators like Tea-partier Russell Pearce, who sponsored the bill in the Arizona State Senate.

In fact, 24 members of the Arizona State Senate are member of ALEC.  And 30 of the bills 36 co-sponsors received campaign contributions from CCA and other prison companies and lobbyists.  Creating prisons is big money and prisoners have now become investment opportunities.  The privatization of the prison system has created a huge incentive to criminalize large sections of the population.  With so many black men already imprisoned in numbers far exceeding their percentage of the population, I guess brown men, women, and children are the new hot prison commodity.

Anti-immigration sentiment is thinly disguised racism manipulated to make a few people rich at the expense of a lot of poor people of color.  This isn't about justice or the rule of law.  This is about greed. 

The Courts need to uphold the decision that this law is unconstitutional, and the Congress needs to pass humane, comprehensive immigration reform legislation.  And we need to get private companies out of the prison system so that the public good rather than profit can once again determine policy making. 

Otherwise, we are going to need a whole lot more Trinitarians.

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