The crisis at the US/Mexico border is hard to miss in the media these days. For many people, however, it is not an article you read online or hear on the radio, but a daily reality and deep fear that you and your loved ones might be separated all because of a piece of paper. Or a deep grief of not knowing when you and your family might be reunited, if at all. How will you pay the bills for your kids if detained? Who will feed your kids? Put them to sleep? Help them with their homework? These are daily fears that live inside the bodies of immigrants and their adjacent communities.
Advocates for Immigration Rights and Reconciliation (AIRR) spoke this past Sunday at The Open Table on this very crisis in our nation and how it is not a new issue, but it is worsening for many in the system.
We began the evening with a prayer and story from Pastor Rick and his work with immigrant communities in KC. Then, Trinidad gave a brief spiritual history of immigration and welcoming those into our midst, referencing the Jewish Torah and Christian Bible as well as many Hispanic theologians throughout history:
Deuteronomy 10:18-19 “He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.”
Angela Ferguson, local immigration lawyer, spoke on the history of immigration in the US and how it has shifted and changed in the last few years, making it all the more difficult for individuals or families to become citizens. For instance, what use to take only six months for a person with an immediate family member in the US to receive papers, is now taking up to two years. We are seeing more refugees in the world than ever before, and our country is only slowing the system down. As Angela stated on Sunday night, “[America has] created a whole class of unfixable folks” with little hope of finding a home amongst our borders.
Facts and information are important when learning about a major issue or crisis, but let us not forget the faces behind the facts. We heard from Carla and Yazmin as they spoke about their personal experience with immigration and deportation.
Carla immigrated to America as a young child with her parents; now, as an adult woman, she is having to navigate citizenship in a country that seeks to punish her for a decision her parents made. Replaying the terrifying journey across the desert as her and her parents sought safety here and the confusion she felt as a young girl, tears rose in her eyes at the memories. However, the questions did not stop once they made it to their new home; her early years were spent questioning what the point of their move was. If at the end of her schooling, she couldn’t get a job to support herself or a future family, then why did they even immigrate to America in the first place? Her family moved here for a better life, but to what extent would that actually benefit her? Carla’s story is one of sadness, but also of joy, as she is almost done on her journey towards citizenship. The same does not go for every family.
Yazmin shared alongside her son about her husband’s deportation years ago. She choked back tears as she recounted the painful nights where her sons would ask when their father would be returning. Unsure of even how to answer to their dad’s disappearance, she is now left as a single mother of three boys she must support, raise, and feed all on her own.
Deportation does not account for real people, with real stories, real lives, and real pain.
We ended the night with a Q&A and action steps. A few that AIRR gave at the end of the night were:
- Email, call, write to Congress. Tell them to hold the 14th Amendment that states are trying to repeal.
- Form study groups on one aspect of immigration to become more educated. (Resource list to be added to in the future)
- Support immigrant workers. Most immigrant workers are working minimum wage jobs, and the minimum wage needs to be raised to $15. Organizations such as Stand Up KC are doing great work towards this.
- Families need to be prepared- Do you have powers of attorney in place?
- Letting immigrant families affected by violent crimes know they are protected under certain laws in our country which could help them gain documentation status sooner.
- Call, write, email our local district and demand that we need an Article One Court for immigrants immediately. (Sample statement coming shortly from Angela Ferguson)
- Become a Rapid Responder with AIRR through their training programs. A Rapid Responder checks on potential I.C.E. sightings around the area to ensure that sightings are accurate and true and help limit the fear that is already present in the community as well as record arrests made by I.C.E. to help with those affected in their court case.
Looking for some more information and resources regarding immigration and the border crisis?Join us on September 8th as we hear from Immigrant Justice Advocacy Movement (IJAM) as our Standing with Immigrants series continues.
In the meantime, check out this 3 part series on immigration from Radio Lab and hear direct stories from the US/Mexico border, as well as a Family Plan from PCUSA for immigrant families to use as a resource and communities working with immigrant families.