Some Thoughts on Why I was Arrested at the White House on July 31, 2014
Guest Post By Rev. Brian Carter, Windsor Heights, Iowa
To Friends and Curious Observers:
After days of prayerful discernment, seeking God’s guidance, and considering the example of our Bishop Julius Trimble, and the call for action from a Trinity United Methodist friend Wendy—who had been in prayer with me and others for months at Rep. Latham’s office—I decided I could no longer stand by and do nothing while many immigrants to our dear land have seen their families torn apart by a harmful immigration system and by President Obama who has directed the deportation of 2 million immigrants during his term of office. John Wesley directed his new Christians who were called “Methodists” to first, Do No Harm. And by standing by while millions were being deported, I was doing harm to millions of families.
As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so wisely proclaimed, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Our immigration system is unjust. The Prophet Micah wrote in Micah 6:8 “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Doing justice, in a kind but clear manner, and offering yourself as a living sacrifice for love’s sake is living the life of discipleship which Jesus Christ our Lord calls us to.
I had never broken the law—except traffic tickets. I had demonstrated, written, and proclaimed for righteousness sake. But I had never broken the law for justice sake. But these immigration laws are unjust, and so as a passionate and clear sign of civil disobedience, I broke the law of how we were to stand outside the White House to proclaim that our national immigration laws are unjust. It is unjust and unloving to tear families apart who come here to work to make a better life for their families. It is unjust and unloving to seek to turn children away whose parents are desperately seeking to keep them safe by sending them to a country where they will not be killed or sexually abused to avoid being in violent gangs.
And so I stood in front of the White House in the hot summer sun and when told to leave by the police, I stayed. I stood there holding a sign saying “No More Deportations.” President Obama can defer deporting those who are here seeking refuge—and those who are here seeking work—and those who are here seeking opportunity. He can defer deportation until new laws are written, and it becomes clear who may stay. I stood to pray that President Obama would find the courage to do the moral, right thing to do, and to do it now. I stood with 111 others-people of faith—many breaking the law and being arrested for the first time, like me—hoping our act of conscience, our humility, our attempt to be faithful would move his heart to act, by the grace of God.
I was the 108th person arrested, put in a paddy wagon, treated respectfully by the park police—suffering for but a brief 4 hours. As a symbolic reminder that millions of immigrants are suffering in fear of deportation, separated from family, unsure of their future—for years. May God raise up God’s people to welcome the stranger, and let the little children come to us where we may protect them and keep them safe. May God’s people seek justice for all. Amen.
Reverend Brian Carter is a retired Elder in the United Methodist Church. He is also the face of the Iowa Legislative Advocacy Team, and serves on the Iowa Board of Church and Society. This reflection is shared with his permission.