comprehensive immigration reform

My DACA Story

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Ivone Guillen / Sojourners

Introduction from Lisa Sharon Harper: Every once in a great while you meet someone who carries in their very body the scars of injustice that we talk about so much at Sojourners. These scars leave permanent reminders of the profound need for every follower of Jesus to follow him in word and deed. It is my great pleasure to introduce you to my friend and colleague, Ivone Guillen. As Sojourners’ Immigration Campaigns and Communications Associate, Ivone has worked tirelessly for the passage of just immigration reform for two years. As a formerly undocumented immigrant, she bears the scars of our unjust immigration system and has experienced the healing that came from changes in immigration policy last year. Please read Ivone’s story. It reflects the stories of millions of people in church pews across the country; people made in the image of God, people waiting for that image to be fully recognized and set free inside our borders.

I remember clearly the day I heard the announcement on deferred action for childhood arrivals (DACA) as I felt an overwhelming surge of emotions in that one moment. A path to opportunity, however fragile and short-term, had finally been created for undocumented young people wanting to become full members of American society.

As I sat on the sofa on the morning of June 15 in front of the television and next to my computer, I felt anxious, excited, and dazed at the same time. There I was, listening to one of the biggest announcements ever made in my lifetime, and it directly impacted me. It was a surreal moment since I had been working with the advocacy community for almost two years and had seen difficult developments take place at the state level on the issue. Then and there, I felt that all of my work was paying off and that change could be achieved with enough persistence and pressure. It was a moment that most people wish to live and see, especially those who have worked in the movement for decades but seldom experience the ultimate triumphs of slow processes.

Immigrants Just Won't Go Away

"'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you drink? And when was it that we saw yo a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.'"

           --Matthew 25. 37-40

All this immigration talk reminds me of an encounter my wife and I had at a fast food restaurant in Atlanta. The night manager was Hispanic. He came by our table to make sure everything was all right. We started talking. I told him how troubled I was over our immigration debate. 

That casual remark opened his door wide. He told me how scared many of his friends were. Some had already left the state. He told me they only wanted to work and send money back home where things were so tight. One very sick friend, he said would not go to the doctor or hospital because she was afraid of being deported. He told me he kept reading that these immigration laws had nothing to do with racial profiling. 

He shook his head. “I have been stopped six times in the last few months mostly because I was Hispanic.”

On Scripture: We'll Walk Hand in Hand?

Interlocking hands, Praisaeng / Shutterstock.com

Interlocking hands, Praisaeng / Shutterstock.com

"The old avocations by which colored men obtained a livelihood are rapidly, unceasingly and inevitably passing into other hands; every hour sees the black man elbowed out of employment by some newly arrived emigrant, whose hunger and whose color are thought to give him a better title to the place."

-Frederick Douglass
“Learn Trades or Starve” (1853)

The Obama Administration and a bipartisan group in the Senate are making serious turns to tackle immigration reform. In addition to declaring that as citizens “our rights are wrapped up in the rights of others,” the president’s State of the Union address spoke of securing borders and decreasing the wait timeframe for the American residential legalizing process. Some 12 million women, men, and children across these United States await with bated breath to see what political deals will be made to construct either a pathway to citizenship or pave a road to deportation hell.

What is intriguing about the immigration conversation is that pundits tend to frame the argument in an "Us-versus-Them" fashion. Using rhetorical scare tactics, proponents for and against are not shy about disrobing a “more of them means less for us” stratagem. While much of this ploy has centered on how the massive number of “non-citizens” will subtract resources from persons of European descent, there is now a political stream that avers even sending “border breakers” to the back of the citizenship line will still reduce jobs among African-American low-wage earners. Words from Booker T. Washington, W.E.B DuBois, A. Philip Randolph, and the quote from Frederick Douglass, among many others, are now resurfacing as a clarion call for African-Americans to think long and hard about getting on the “brown” bandwagon. Yet, none of the language from the aforementioned historical figures specially addresses Latino immigration.

Momentum Building on Immigration Reform

In case you’ve missed the news surrounding immigration reform, here’s a brief update.

Last week, a bipartisan group of eight Senators unveiled a set of principles in support of immigration reform. The following day, President Barack Obama spoke at Del Sol High School in Las Vegas., where he released his proposal for a commonsense solution for immigration reform. Both parties see the moral and political need to address this issue.

President Obama is keeping up the pressure as he continues dialogue with numerous stakeholders to highlight the broad support for reform. On Tuesday he met with numerous external leaders hosting two separate meetings at the White House — one with progressive and labor leaders and the other with leaders from the business community — to discuss his continued support for an immigration reform package he hopes will pass this year.

A Roadmap to Citizenship Is 'Within Reach'

Ian Danley for Sojourners

President Barack Obama speaking on immigration reform in Las Vegas. Ian Danley / for Sojourners

In the fall of 2006 I saw Alfonso, one of my favorite young middle school students, walking around our neighborhood as I drove to the office. It was mid-day, and it was unusual for him to be out of school and on the streets as he was a good kid. I pulled over and hollered at him, "Why aren't you in school?" Well, he had been suspended. I told him to get in the car.

We hung out the rest of the day; we prepped for youth group the next night, buying food at Costco and making calls at the office. We walked over to my apartment talking about life and how to avoid suspension from school in the future. Talk turned to immigration and his status. I told him I was committed to giving whatever it took to fixing our broken immigration system, for however long it took, so his family and others we cared about could dream of a bright future. I asked him if he was open to working with me; still uncomfortable with sharing his status with others, he said he'd like to think more about it.

I had forgotten about this story until he reminded me of it yesterday as we boarded a plane together to see President Barack Obama speak about immigration in Las Vegas.

On Scripture: Immigration Reform and the Challenges of Generosity

Sign at an immigration rally, Jorge Salcedo / Shutterstock.com

Sign at an immigration rally, Jorge Salcedo / Shutterstock.com

Charity doesn’t leave us unchanged, which is just one reason why it’s hard to make ourselves do it.

To be more specific: when we extend generosity and justice to others, it alters our relationship to them. Especially when those “others” are foreign to us. Hospitality has ways of making the people who receive it come inside and stick around, whether we really want them to or not.

We see this on display in Luke 4:22-30, which tells the second half of a story about Jesus’ statements to a group assembled in his hometown synagogue, in Nazareth.

The story began, in Luke 4:16-21, with Jesus unveiling his mission statement: he says he intends to be God’s instrument for releasing people from oppression of all kinds spiritual, economic, political, physical, and social. This is the first narrated episode of Jesus’ public ministry in Luke’s Gospel, and so it lays a foundation for everything that follows. Summoning from ancient Israel’s scriptures grand themes about God-given justice and abundance, Jesus identifies himself as one determined to play a part in God’s intentions to free humanity from its sufferings.

Evangelical Leaders Launch 'I Was a Stranger' Immigration Campaign

On Monday a group of prominent faith leaders belonging to the Evangelical Immigration Table gathered on a press call to launch largest evangelical mobilization effort for immigration reform known to date. 

Reaching out to more than 100,000 evangelical churches nationwide and more than 875,000 followers through social media, leaders promoted the “I Was a Stranger” immigration prayer challenge and a feature video that encourages congregations to participate. During this initiative, participants are asked to read one scripture on immigration a day for 40 days and reflect on it to help inform their views. 

This campaign is part of a broader evangelical effort to help change the hearts and minds of policy makers and build the political willpower to pass immigration reform. Faith leaders encouraged our nation’s leaders — especially those who are compelled by their faith — to take the challenge and enact immigration policy that is driven by biblical principles. 

I Was A Stranger from G92 on Vimeo.

10 (More) Reasons to Support Immigration Reform

There are many reasons to support comprehensive immigration reform. As Christians, we point to the biblical call to welcome the stranger and love our neighbors as top reasons for our support. We refer to the God-given dignity of each person, acknowledging that God created and loves each person, regardless of their immigration status.

But it helps to remember that there are significant economic and political gains to be had, as well. A Politico poll shows that nearly two-thirds of Americans support comprehensive reform. As we push on our political leaders to make a decision this year, here are some of the other arguments we can use, as described in a recent article on Think Progress:

1. Legalizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would boost the nation’s economy.

2. Tax revenues would increase.

3. Harmful state immigration laws are damaging state economies.

4. A path to citizenship would help families access health care.

5. U.S. employers need a legalized workforce.

6. In 2011, immigrant entrepreneurs were responsible for more than one-in-four new U.S. businesses.

7. Letting undocumented immigrants gain legal status would keep families together.

8. Young undocumented immigrants would add billions to the economy if they gained legal status.

9. And DREAMers would boost employment and wages.

10. Significant reform of the high-skilled immigration system would benefit certain industries that require high-skilled workers.

Read the article for a full explanation of each item.

Most Americans Support Path to Earned Citizenship

With discussions looming about the Obama Administration’s supposed efforts to aggressively push for comprehensive immigration reform early next year, its important now more than ever to know where the public stands.

A recent POLITICO/George Washington University poll shows that most Americans support a pathway to citizenship for the millions of undocumented immigrants in this country.

“The national poll, conducted last week, finds more Republicans — 49 percent — support a path to citizenship than oppose it — 45 percent. Democrats favor this approach 3-to-1, 74 percent to 24 percent. And independents back it by a 26-point margin, 61 percent to 35 percent.”

 So what does this support mean for immigration reform? Read more here.

Obama Plans Push for Immigration Reform

The Los Angeles Times reports:

As soon as the confrontation over fiscal policy winds down, the Obama administration will begin an all-out drive for comprehensive immigration reform, including seeking a path to citizenship for 11 million illegal immigrants, according to officials briefed on the plans.

While key tactical decisions are still being made, President Obama wants a catch-all bill that would also bolster border security measures, ratchet up penalties for employers who hire illegal immigrants, and make it easier to bring in foreign workers under special visas, among other elements.

Read more here.

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