Prayer Breakfast with Obama on Immigration Reform

This past week I was privileged to be invited and attend the National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast in Wash DC, a 3-day event that included meetings with policy makers, briefings in the White House, and yes, a prayer breakfast with President Obama himself. Of course, my first question when my friend Greg Yee sent me the invite: um – I’m not Hispanic? But he assured me that the Covenant wanted a broader representation standing up for the issues of immigration, housing, and jobs – which I have already been passionate about.

Now that I am back home, I can synthesize the entire trip in two phrases:

1. Your vote (alone) doesn’t matter

2. Who you stand with does

Mind you, this was no partisan event; and to prove it, we spent all of our time visiting with Republican representatives from my state of Texas to discuss an issue that is usually backed by Democrats. We abandoned “inflammatory” words such as “amnesty” in hopes of finding a via media between harsh rhetoric; we stood for securing the borders. But at the same time we kept pressing that you just can’t ignore the 2 million undocumented within our borders – it is a human issue.

The response was amazing. One Texas policymaker broke down in tears as we met with her, told her the issues and prayed over her. She was most receptive. She assured us she would do all she can on this issue. Another policymaker was icy toward us. He kept repeating the phrase, “but they broke the law, but they broke the law.” No matter how much we pushed the human dimension of the problem, here was someone who was fixed on his ideology. I cannot see how someone like that could stay in office long, as Texas grows increasingly diverse, and the Hispanic constituency increases in influence as a socially conservative force. You think the hard-right Republicans would latch onto that.

In the end we said, “so you basically are standing for the starving out of 2 million undocumented workers and deporting them all,” to which he replied after brief pause, “Yes.”

God you gotta love Texas.

To be fair, most of the Republican policymakers we met with however, were seeking an open-minded middle-way – and this was MOST encouraging. Even Newt Gingrich, who announced his running for president at one of our sessions, discussed a way forward, in “a series of bills” trying to push for some kind of legalized status of the undocumented, whether it be extended visas or special guest workers permits, so as to protect these people from exploitation. FYI, Newt doesn’t believe “comprehensive” immigration reform is possible at all.

Others begged to differ. Chuck Schumer, D-NY argued against this pessimism and begged us to keep up the good fight, pressing for the ear of legislators both sides of the aisle – which brings me back to the two points originally stated…

My vote doesn’t count. Alone, it can do nothing.

But my vote with a large (and powerful) group of people lobbying for human rights can be significant; it’s not about your vote alone, as much as it is about your vote together with… and I learned how to lobby. Not frivolously, but passionately, with the right people. I’ve always believed in immigration reform. I don’t believe these people are taking American jobs. These are jobs Americans won’t take. Even Texas Republican legislators believe that. And it takes a group of people talking to their representatives to bring about change. After a few days on Capitol Hill I can now say, “I get it” – I understand. Thank God for the political process. Thank God for the chance to push change through for those suffering in front of my eyes. Maranatha.

Arcade Fire in the Woodlands Pavilion – Lyrics that Matter

I really enjoyed my first concert in Texas @ the Woodlands Pavilion north of Houston – the headliners? Arcade Fire. Rockin out with a few buddies last night was a great way to embrace Houston as my new home. Ironically, it seemed everything Win Butler sang about was leaving Houston, and yet in a strange way serenading his love / hate relationship with it (kind of like the “I Hate Winnipeg” song that has endeared so many Canadians to the city); I understand. I’ve often felt that way with NYC and more recently the Pac NW – I love all these places – but “home” is somewhere I used to live, but not anymore.

I think that’s why Arcade Fire strikes such a chord with me.

Being a blog about faith | PLACE | race, the issues of places of dwelling, living, building, working, playing, dying – reach deep into my tri-coastal experience; so here are some of the lyrics that have struck a resounding chord with me and echo as a serenade to my new city, or as an encouragement to start a revolution, or as a slap-in-the-face rebuke, or as a vision of heaven on earth – right here in the suburbs of Houston.


The king’s taken back the throne.
The useless seed is sown.
When they say they’re cutting off the phone,
I tell ‘em you’re not home

No place to hide,
You’re fightin’ as a soldier on their side
You’re still a soldier in your mind
Though nothing’s on the line

You say it’s money that we need,
As if we’re the only mouths to feed.
I know no matter what you say,
There are some debts you’ll never pay.

Working for the church while your family dies
You take what they give you
And you keep it inside.
Every spark of friendship and love
will die without a home
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone”.

I can taste the fear.
Lift me up and take me out of here.
Don’t wanna fight, don’t wanna die
Just wanna hear you cry.

Who’s gonna throw the very first stone?
Oh! who’s gonna reset the bone?
Walking with your head in a sling
Wanna hear the soldier sing:
“Been working for the church while my family dies.
Your little baby sister’s gonna lose her mind.
Every spark of friendship and love
will die without a home.”
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone.”

I can taste your fear.
It’s gonna lift you up and take you out of here.
And the bone shall never heal;
I care not if you kneel.

We can’t find you now,
But they’re gonna get their money back somehow.
And when you finally disappear,
We’ll just say you were never here.

Working for the church while
your life falls apart.
Singin’ hallelujah with the fear in your heart.
Every spark of friendship and love
will die without a home.”
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone.”
Hear the soldier groan, “We’ll go at it alone.”

City With No Children

The summer that I broke my arm
I waited for your letter
I have no feeling for you now
Now that I know you better

I wish that I could have loved you then
Before our age was through
And before a world war does with us
Whatever it will do

I dreamt I drove home to Houston
On a highway that was underground
There was no light that we could see
As we listened to the sound of the engine failing

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside
Of a private prison

You never trust a millionaire
Quoting the sermon on the mount
I used to think I was not like them
But I’m beginning to have my doubts
My doubts about it

When you’re hiding underground
The rain can’t get you wet
But do you think your righteousness
Can pay the interest on your debt?
I have my doubts about it

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by a millionaire inside
Of a private prison

I feel like I’ve been living in
A city with no children in it
A garden left for ruin by and by
As I hide inside
Of my private prison

Sprawl I (Flatland)

Took a drive into the sprawl
To find the house where we used to stay
We couldn’t read the number in the dark
You said “let’s save it for another day”

Took a drive into the sprawl
To find the places we used to play
It was the loneliest day of my life
You’re talking at me, but I’m still far away

Let’s take a drive through the sprawl
Through these towns they built to change
Then you said the emotions are dead
It’s no wonder that you feel so strange

The cops shone their lights
On the reflectors of our bikes
Said “Do you kids know, what time it is?”
Well, sir, it’s the first time I felt like something is mine
Like I have something to give

The last defender of the sprawl
Said “Well, where do you kids live?”
Well, sir, if you only knew what the answer’s worth
I’ve been searching every corner of the earth

Suburban War

Let’s go for a drive and see the town tonight
There’s nothing to do but I don’t mind when I’m with you

This town’s so strange they built it to change
And while we sleep we know the streets get rearranged
With my old friends it was so different then
Before your war against the suburbs began

Before it began

Now the music divides us into tribes
You grew your hair so I grew mine
You said the past won’t rest
Until we jump the fence and leave it behind

With my old friends I can remember when
You cut your hair, I never saw you again
Now the cities we live in could be distant stars
And I search for you in every passing car

The night’s so long
Yeah the night’s so long
I’ve been living in the shadows of your song
Been living in the shadows of your song

In the suburbs I, I learned to drive
And you told me we’d never survive,
So grab your mother’s keys we leave tonight

But you started a war that we can’t win
They keep erasing all the streets we grew up in
Now the music divides us into tribes
You choose your side, I’ll choose my side

All my old friends they don’t know me now
All my old friends are staring through me now
All my old friends they don’t know me now
All my old friends they don’t know me now
They don’t know me now
All my old friends, wait…