March 31, 2015

Standing with DREAMers

Yesterday I sat in the Senate Gallery in the U.S. Capitol with about a hundred immigrant youths to show my support for and solidarity with these DREAMers. And sitting with them, hands clasped, heads bowed, lips praying, the reality of their situation hit home to me. These young people, brought to the United States as minors, had known no other home than America and wanted nothing more than to serve and contribute openly for the good of the country. And this morning, that occasion, was more than just a vote for them, more than just the raising or dropping of an index finger to signify approval or disapproval. This morning’s vote was about the very lives and livelihoods of the approximately 800,000 undocumented young people who would benefit from the DREAM Act.

This morning was what I needed: a reminder that the work that we do in seeking to live out the gospel’s demands of justice, of speaking up for the marginalized and voiceless, and of welcoming the stranger, really does matter.

Moving forward, the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Theodore Parker echo in my head: “The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

I have faith that justice will be served for these young people, that they will be afforded the chance to contribute and live lives out of the shadows. I have faith because justice is at the very heart of God, because the defense of those who are marginalized and oppressed is always the right thing to do. I have faith because American progress, though often slow and tortuous, continues to rumble forward, and comprehensive immigration reform–including the DREAM Act–that demolishes and defeats xenophobic rhetoric and anti-immigrant fear mongering will have its day.

And it will come soon. Not as soon as we would like, perhaps. But soon.

[Praying with the DREAMers after the vote.]

Update from the campaign (10/7)


On Tuesday we hosted a event, entitled Panel for the Planet. It was a great success, with attendees from across the political spectrum all supporting environmental responsibility. Dr. Fred Van Dyke, professor of biology at Wheaton College, was the keynote speaker, and discussed how politics could address the environmental issues facing us.

Ben, speaking afterwards, said:

I’m thankful that everyone could be here and that Dr. Van Dyke could lead us in a frank discussion of what we need to do to create a more just and sustainable future. We desperately need good jobs in Illinois, and the clean energy economy is our best option for putting people back to work while tackling the urgent climate crisis. That is why, unlike my competitor, incumbent Peter Roskam, I strongly support robust clean energy legislation. It is just the right thing to do for our community. Clean energy is not solely a Democratic or Republican priority; it is a moral priority, an American priority, and one that I am proud to champion for our district.

Yesterday Ben spoke at three Political Science/American Government classes at College of DuPage, each time answering questions on his positions, on his thoughts on politics, and on why he decided to run (and to run the way he is running, free from special interests). Something he said really hit home: “Only when we have people who will win the right way will we have people who will govern the right way.”

Amen, brother.

(You can find some pictures from the events, and our campaign pumpkin here.)


We recently talked to a local businessman, a Wheaton grad and a pillar of the community—he’s been overseeing his company for over 50 years! He said he’s done with supporting political candidates who simply feed into the broken status quo. But, meeting with him yesterday, he said to Ben, “You’re different. You’re the only one I’m supporting.”

The fact is, Ben’s decision not to take money from interests—to run with integrity and conviction—is refreshing for many people.

If you’d like, you’re welcome to give here. This is a grassroots campaign, energized, supported and run by volunteers. This is your campaign.

Update from the campaign (10/3)

From the campaign trail this week …


Over the last few days, we’ve spent time canvassing around the Wheaton, Elk Grove Village, Glen Ellyn, and Lombard neighborhoods. We’ve handed out flyers, lawn signs, talked to folks, and it’s been real encouraging. We’ve gotten a great reception from people–Republicans, Democrats, independents–especially when we mention that Ben (1) isn’t taking money from PACs or special interests; and (2) is a newcomer to politics. People are looking for fresh insights, and for someone that challenges the status quo where money dictates politics rather than politicians being responsive to the people who elected them.

One afternoon, when I was canvassing with Ben, we spotted a lawn sign that was already up, and decided to pay a surprise visit. The couple, who’d moved out to Elk Grove Village from Chicago, were delighted to meet Ben, and reiterated their gratitude that he was running.


Yesterday afternoon, we had a “Meet the Candidate” session at Elk Grove Village Public Library. It was a smaller crowd, but what was very encouraging was the articulation of support for Ben. “It’s good to have someone who represents your views, who stands for what you stand for,” said one lady.

People talked about their concerns: poverty, often overlooked in the suburbs of the 6th; immigration reform, including young immigrants brought to the country as children and the approximately 12 million undocumented people living in the shadows; and an energy policy that continues to devastate our environment. Here too, people were excited to have a candidate who refused to be bought by big corporations, and stood up for the people of the district.

Later in the afternoon, we headed over to a fall fair at a church in the area, browsed the stalls, chatted to vendors, ate some hot dogs, and bought a campaign pumpkin to support the Navajo Indians. Once we get it carved, we’ll get a picture up!

For more info, visit Lowe for Congress.

First time on the campaign trail!

Yesterday was my first full day in Wheaton, Illinois. I’m here volunteering for my friend Ben Lowe (above), who’s running for the congressional seat in the 6th District against the incumbent, Republican Peter Roskam. While I was involved informally in the Obama 08 campaign–blogging, holding events in my tiny studio apartment, giving away bumper stickers–this is the first time I’ll be out in the field, so I’m pretty excited about that!

Having spent the last year working in faith and politics, I’ve been tasked with doing faith outreach, connecting with church and other faith leaders in the area, and making them aware of who Ben is and what he stands for. One of the unique aspects of Ben’s candidacy is that, unlike Roskam, he isn’t taking any money from special interests or PACs, nor even from the local branch of the Democratic Party. While this places the campaign at a financial disadvantage, it does mean that if Ben does get elected, he’ll be accountable solely to the people who have voted him into office.

Lowe for Congress HQ

Targetting the IL06

Canvassing the neighborhood with flyers

Find out more at Lowe for Congress; spread the word; and check back for regular updates on my campaign experience!

On Arizona, Artists Speak Up, Refuse to Play

As a musician, I’m always interested in seeing how my fellow creative types respond to injustice or need. To raise awareness of human trafficking, musician Justin Dillon integrated musical offerings from artists such as Moby, Talib Kweli, Matisyahu, Imogen Heap and more, creating the rockumentary CALL+RESPONSE. To raise funds in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, writer/director Paul Haggis (Crash, Casino Royale, Due South – yes, I loved this show) joined together with Ben Stiller, Olivia Wilde, and a host of other friends to form Artists for Peace and Justice, working with Father Rick Frechette to minister in the slums of Port-au-Prince and provide money for infrastructure and aid.

In the wake of Arizona’s immigration law, a group of artists came together to form The Sound Strike, pronouncing and demonstrating their opposition to SB1070 by refusing to perform in Arizona until it was no longer law. The list, primarily musicians, includes (as of the end of June): Tenacious D, Massive Attack, Ozomatli, Rise Against, Kanye West, Joe Satriani, Rage Against The Machine, Conor Oberst (of Bright Eyes), Cypress Hill, Billy Bragg, Ry Cooder, Ben Harper, Maroon 5, Chris Rock, and Nine Inch Nails.

As a Christian, I believe people are called to exercise the gifts and talents God has given us responsibly. I believe this means that when I see injustice or oppression that denigrates the image of God in any human being, it is my responsibility to call it out, to point to the alternative vision of what Christians call the kingdom of God, where human-made barriers — whether physical, ideological or spiritual — do not separate us.

Of course, I think most people know that Arizona is symptomatic of the desperate need for federal action – even those who back the law support comprehensive immigration reform. But even ‘smaller’ injustices need to be confronted, and so I applaud The Sound Strike for taking a stand.

As Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel said in his Nobel Prize acceptance speech:

I swore never to be silent whenever, wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant.

Original version posted on God’s Politics.

Asian-American History: 10 Facts

Asian-American history doesn’t get taught much in schools (and probably even less so in Texas), but May is Asian-American Heritage Month (in case you didn’t already know). And Jenn Fang has compiled ten facts you may not know about Asian-American history. Here are the first five:

  1. The first Asians whose arrival in America was documented were Filipinos who escaped a Spanish galleon in 1763. They formed the first Asian-American settlement in U.S. history, in the swamps surrounding modern-day New Orleans.
  2. In the years between 1917 and 1965, Uncle Sam explicitly outlawed immigration to the U.S. of all Asian people. Immigration from China, for example, was banned as early as 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed. It wasn’t until the Immigration Act of 1965 — which abolished national origins as a basis for immigration decisions — that nearly 50 years of race-based discrimination against Asian immigrants ended.
  3. Because of their race, Asians immigrants were denied the right to naturalize as U.S. citizens, until the 1943 Magnuson Act was passed. Consequently, for nearly a century of U.S. history, Asians were barred from owning land and testifying in court by laws that specifically targeted “aliens ineligible to citizenship.” Even after the passage of the Fourteenth Amendment in 1868, American-born children of Chinese immigrants were not regarded as American citizens until the landmark 1898 Supreme Court case, United States v. Wong Kim Ark, which established that the Fourteen Amendment also applied to people of Asian descent.
  4. Among the earliest Asian immigrants, virtually all ethnicities worked together as physical laborers, particularly on Hawaii’s sugar cane plantations. On these plantations, a unique hybrid language — pidgin — developed that contained elements of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino, Korean and English. Today, pidgin is one of the official languages of Hawaii, a state that is itself 40% Asian.
  5. Despite the Alien Land Law, which specifically prevented Asians from owning their own land, Japanese farmers were highly successful in the West Coast where they put into practice their knowledge of cultivating nutrient-poor soil to yield profitable harvests. By the 1920s, Japanese farmers (working their own land, or land held by white landowners that they managed) were the chief agricultural producers of many West Coast crops. In fact, the success of Japanese farmers is often cited as one of the reasons white landowners in California lobbied to support Japanese-American internment following the declaration of World War II.

You can find the rest here. And here’s a fuller timeline of Asian-American history.

Thanks to Angry Asian Man for the heads-up.

— Justin