Linescratchers strives to be a neutral platform for our artists to speak their minds on issues facing members of the Church. Linescratchers consists of a group with great variance of opinions, and we have no official stance on social or political matters. Opinions expressed by our artists do not necessarily reflect the position of Linescratchers.
There are few issues more explosive in America and the Church than the issue of illegal immigration. Strong legal measures against illegal immigration have been taken in the state of Arizona, and the ripples of that legislation have reached the shores of Utah. Much has been said by faithful members on both sides of the debate, and we needn’t go into all that here at Linescratchers, but I recently got an email from Angel David Lindes from our favorite Latin supergroup Rumbo Rumba about a song they had recently recorded called “Mi Terra.” It is a bold pro-immigrant protest song, and David realizes that this could potentially polarize their potential fans, but Rumbo Rumba feels so strongly about this issue that they couldn’t hold their peace. The song is available at their website, along with some of their thoughts on the issue of undocumented immigrants. I had a chance to ask David a few questions about the song, and he was kind enough to answer them (and send me an English translation of the lyrics).
Stop me on the street, on the way to work
Ask me for my papers, and send me to hell
Make me seem responsible for your bankruptcy
Call me a wetback if it makes you feel patriotic
But this is my land, even if it’s forbidden
I risked my life to find it
And though you say it’s illegal
I won’t stop loving it
This is my land, I’ve labored over it
I’ve suffered through it
I’ve sweated over it
And even if I’m from another country
I, too, deserve freedom
YOU wash the dishes, YOU clean the bathrooms
YOU sweat in the fields, and waste away YOUR years there
YOU leave your family to come clear weeds
And then cast the first stone
I’m a Turk in Germany
A Lebanese in Paris
A leaf that fell so far from its root in autumn
A Moroccan in Barcelona
A Mexican in Arizona
But with or without papers, I’m your brother
What recent events led you to writing this song?
A: The immigration debate has been boiling over and then cooling off for a few years, and I’ve always been aware of it to some extent. Recently, though, I felt a new sense of indignation, a feeling that I had to say my peace. I think that was triggered partly by Arizona’s recent bill, and ultimately by its little brother drafted by Stephen Sandstrom here in Utah. I guess I realized it was now, inescapably, my business and it was time to act. These laws are looking to destroy my community – the Spanish-speaking branch I attend, even my extended family – and I need to at least, like I said, say my peace.
What makes you feel so strongly about the issue of illegal immigration?
A: First, I’m an immigrant. Now, I’m not undocumented because my family was fortunate. My aunt had a somewhat wealthy and tremendously kind uncle, who in 1991, decided to pay for all of the expenses of the legal process and help us apply for permanent residence. He even paid for our plane tickets! I owe my future to that man, you know.
So, why do I feel so strongly about illegal immigration if I came here legally? Well, I guess I realized at some point that I’m no different than my undocumented neighbors. We were all born abroad, and many of them are here looking for peace, work, and a promising future. See, perhaps for some Americans it may be easier to think of illegal immigrants as “them”, but for me, that’s impossible. I’m not different from them at all. Skin color, native language, culture, we’re very similar.
I’ve grown up around dear, dear friends and family members who are undocumented. They’ve taught me some of the most memorable lessons of my life, particularly when it comes to hard work and an enterprising spirit. I know a man with two prosthetic legs from the knee down who worked in California’s central valley picking cotton for 15 years. He sent two of his sons to serve missions. Is he unworthy of peace, work, and hope because he doesn’t have a few scraps of paper at home? I refuse to accept that. And I hope he does too.
How would you respond to critics who would say that if these immigrants are breaking the law, they should not be allowed a political voice in the country?
A: I would say this is a complex debate. Some people are concerned that by establishing a path to permanent residence for undocumented immigrants (even if they only the ones without criminal records), we’re promoting amnesty and future illegal border crossings. I would say that by sending these workers home we’re dealing a coup de grace to our flailing economy and our shrinking workforce (as baby boomers head out into retirement-land if they can afford it).
I would also call for a bit of empathy. I believe many of us (and I include myself intentionally) would cross borders illegally if the lives of our children were at stake on a daily basis. I know I would. In fact, I feel like our pioneers did that. Their lives were threatened, so they crossed the prairies in wagons and handcarts, lost many lives along the way, to cross into what was then Mexico, fleeing unjust laws, insecurity, and violence; seeking peace, work, and a promising future. We revere their story as the stuff of greatness, and rightfully so. But why are we so unwilling to recognize that same greatness, that bold desire to seek and find freedom and peace, when we see it in the eyes of a Mexican immigrant?
Is it because they broke the law? Well, our pioneers, in fact many of our very prophets, broke laws in their search of religious freedom and the establishment of Zion. The Prophet Joseph Smith spent most of his life fleeing unjust laws and bogey mobs of enforcers. Pres. Woodruff was in hiding from federal agents on anti-polygamy charges for part of his life. Yet we revere them, rightfully, as a prophets of the Most High. Why are we so eager to send undocumented immigrants to their tattered homes? Have we forgotten the pain and travails that led to the flourishing of our own religion? Have we forgotten what it’s like to BE the disenfranchised? We are drinking from wells we did not dig, and should be grateful. Part of that gratitude should come in the form of empathy and mercy for those who are traveling similar paths today.
How do you think the church should respond to this controversy?
A: I think its response has been appropriate. Their support of the Utah Compact is enough for me. I don’t expect more from the Church, and I don’t want to burden it with this issue.
Does your faith influence your opinions in this matter?
A: My faith teaches me that we are all children of God. It teaches me that this is a chosen land of freedom, and that everyone who comes here is brought by the hand of a wise God. My religion also teaches me that “we believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the ten tribes, that Zion the new Jerusalem will be built upon the American Continent.” Further, I know that Zion’s capital will be Jackson County, Missouri. Now, if the capital of Zion is north of our borders, and most of the literal descendants of Lehi are south of the border, this makes one of the major tenets of our faith an immigration question. We better figure it out!
Your band has members from many countries. Do you all share the same ideas as expressed in this song?
A: Yes. This is why we’ve decided to publish this song as a group.
It is clear that such a politically charged song might polarize your potential audience in Utah. Are you afraid that you’re never going to get a gig again?
A: Sometimes, when you love someone, you have to tell them something they don’t want to hear. We love our Utah community, and that’s why we’re speaking out on this. Our intention is not to destroy or alienate, but to speak the truth even if it’s not something people want to hear. It takes courage to do that, and I hope we can find some of that :) .
I will also say that we do realize many of our current fans will disagree with the message of this song. I respect that. At the same time, I believe it was Aristotle who once said “To avoid criticism say nothing, do nothing, and be nothing.” I can’t do that, and I hope no one expects that of me. If so, this will only be the first of many disappointments.