Immigration - A call to witness - A need for change...
February 8, 2014
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."
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I suppose it is normal for us to see issues through the eyes of our direct experience. This is even more true when these issues are repeated by the media and politicians. It seems our collective positions are molded and crafted by talking heads and paid strategy folks. Many people with heartfelt opinions on the issues of our day base these in large part on what they hear or see on the news. Real change in perspective comes when these opinions are challenged by real life experience and understanding.
Immigration reform is a hot topic and has been for quite some time. I can understand the passion on both sides of the argument, and I certainly have my own position and opinions. I could spend this time giving my opinion, explaining why I am right, and encouraging you to believe the same. However, doing so would be no different than the very thing I loathe - which is preaching to the outcome rather than preaching through the problem.
I want to share with you one story. It may challenge how you feel about this topic or it may not, but I believe seeing the problem through multiple perspectives always advances the cause of solving the problem. In this instance, I'd like to introduce you to the story of "Maria".
Maria is a 15 year old girl, who lived with her parents in the Mexican state of Sinaloa. Her mother cared for her and her little brother, while her father worked odd jobs to keep their family together. Life was tough but they had each other.
One day some men came to their village with news of a new program in the United States for migrant workers. The men had documentation indicating that Mexicans could travel to the US for 6 months of work. They indicated many people were able to cross with special passes, and that these people were able to work and save in the US for 6 months and then bring that money home to help support their families.
This seemed like a Godsend for Maria's family. After much soul searching and careful consideration, Maria's mom and dad both decided to enter with this pass in order to save as much money as possible. They would bring Maria, who could potentially work as well as continue school, and they would leave their toddler son in the care of family until they returned. They indicated to the men that they wanted to use the passes, and they paid two thousand dollars per pass. They borrowed from several friends and family to get the pass, knowing that they could earn the money back in the United States - the land of opportunity. After a tearful goodbye to their son/brother and family, Maria and her mom and dad traveled to the US/Mexican border.
Upon approaching the border 3 days later Maria's dad proudly produced the passes to the US border official. The border official immediately recognized the pass as a fraud and brought the family in for "further screening" Ultimately, Maria's mom and dad were arrested. Maria, strangely, was allowed to remain free inside the US.
Maria's mom and dad are still in jail. her father held in an immigration jail in California while mom is in an immigration jail in Texas. Maria is now staying with a friend, after being homeless for nearly a year. Maria's mom and dad continue to wait for an Immigration judge to process their case - a long process because the system is so overloaded.
Maria's situation is more common than we'd like to realize. Victims of fraud in Mexico, this family came to the states because they knew of the opportunity available here. However, since they came and engaged border patrol with the "passes" they were arrested. Why the daughter was allowed to remain free (inside the US) is unknown to me, however in this case our policies ripped this family apart, putting 15 year old girl homeless on the streets of southern CA while imprisoning her mom and dad. Meanwhile, taxpayers pick up the bill for mom and dad's incarceration, to the tune of approx. $124 a day or a yearly total of approx. $90,000 dollars.
A family in ruins, taxpayers on the hook for extened incarcerations, and a homeless teenager. Hardly consistent with the words etched on the Statue of Liberty. I truly believe that anyone, on either side of the immigration reform debate, will understand that a system that allows this to happen is a system in need of some significant change. Lets hope and pray that our political leaders have the courage and conviction to do something in the face of thousands of stories, just like this one.
And - in closing - I would encourage you to look at the photo on this post. This profiles immigration by countries from 1820 to 1985. Given the tone and tenor of our nation's current discussion over immigration, does it surprise you to see the actual makeup of our community of immigrants? Looking at this information, can you find the immigrant community in your own family... in your past? Through understanding comes the power to change... let it be our prayer that a revival of understanding take control of this national conversation.