immigrants

World Refugee Day 2012: Redefine Who Deserves Refugee Protection from Christian Communities

World Refugee Day illustration, ajfi / Shutterstock.com
World Refugee Day illustration, ajfi / Shutterstock.com

Who is a refugee in our world today? How does one receive “refugee protection” and is this determination fair and just? On World Refugee Day 2012, June 20we remember those who have fled persecution because of their ethnicity or country of origin, religion or political views. 

These atrocities are serious and asylum an appropriate response. The UNHCR reports that 800,000 people became refugees in 2011, while a total of 4.3 million people became newly displaced (mostly hosted in Africa and the Middle East).

Unable to Work, Indian Immigrant Women Turn to Spiritual Practices for Comfort

A woman chanting at Bharat Soka Gakkai. Image by The India Today Group/Getty Ima
A woman chanting at Bharat Soka Gakkai. Image by The India Today Group/Getty Images.

LOS ANGELES -- Even though she met her husband through an arranged marriage, Pooja Sindhwani considers herself a modern woman. She worked in interior design in her native India for four years, and she and her husband spent a year getting to know each other before their wedding. When she followed her husband to Houston, she wasn't worried about adjusting to life in the United States.

"You feel you're going to a country that offers opportunities," Sindhwani said, "you expect that things will work out."  

Except when they don't.  

Unable to land a job in Houston, Sindhwani slipped into depression. Like thousands of Indian women, she was issued an H-4 "dependent spouse" visa that did not allow her to work.  

Sindhwani's husband was a highly skilled foreign worker, sponsored by a U.S. company on an H-1B visa. The Indian women who marry highly skilled workers also tend to be well-educated professionals. Many think it will be easy to transfer from a dependent spouse visa to a work visa.  

The constant rejections from companies that couldn't sponsor her work visa took a toll on Sindhwani. 

Work of Many Hands

Food-related coverage in this issue was supported by ELCA World Hunger (www.elca.org/hunger)
 

“Lord, you are good to all and compassionate toward all you’ve made ... You are faithful in all your words, and gracious in all your deeds. The eyes of all look to you in hope, and you give them their food in due season” (Psalm 145:9, 13, 15).

I often reflect on this message from Psalm 145 and how each of us will interpret it differently according to the experiences we’ve had in life. This is true even for the things in life that connect and affect us all.

Take, for example, God’s gift of food. We are interconnected by this thing that was created to nourish our bodies and minds, allowing us to function in our daily lives and permitting us to live a full and healthy life. Yet how often do we think about where the food we eat comes from?

When I’m at the store, I often wonder whose hands cultivated and cared for the plants that produced the piles of neatly stacked fruit and vegetables. Was it a Lupe, a Daniel, or a Jesus? How long did they have to work under the blazing hot sun in order to get the produce to the store? What are their stories and where do they come from?

I think about these things because I grew up with people who worked long, hard hours to produce the best quality of fruit for the market. Since I was very young, my immediate family has been immersed in agricultural work. My mother was a farm worker who picked fruit and vegetables. Once we children were old enough, we joined my mom and the rest of the labor force, which was mainly comprised of immigrant farm laborers. In the 19 years I’ve been around this work, rarely have I seen a non-immigrant hand in the orchards, and if I did, it surely wasn’t to help pick the fruit in bags that weigh up to 45 pounds.

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Doing it the Hard Way

“Question people who have authority, because they tend not to use it well unless you stay on top of them.”

That’s what Ana Garcia-Ashley learned from her grandmother, a seamstress and a teacher in the campo of the Dominican Republic. She was a woman who taught by example, challenging anybody in her small village who misused power. “She would not tolerate anything,” remembers Ana. “She took on whomever—even priests.”

And you can say the same about Ana.

Throughout more than 30 years of community organizing, Ana has put her Catholic faith into action by holding people in power accountable: standing in protest at state capitols, stopping predatory lenders, and blocking deportation trucks by laying her body in the road. “To me there is only one way to be a Catholic,” she says, “and that is out in the public arena, doing something.”

In 2011, Ana became the executive director of Gamaliel, a national network for faith-based community organizing. As “congregational” or faith-based organizers, Gamaliel emphasizes systemic change: engaging congregations in the work of feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, and sheltering the homeless, but also in the work of transforming the oppressive systems that leave so many people without food, health insurance, or homes in the first place.

Ana also is the first woman of color to lead a national community organizing network, faith-based or otherwise.

“I am emboldened and encouraged that leadership in the field has become more representative of our grassroots leaders and organizers,” wrote Ana during her first year as executive director.

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Fields of Denial

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images
Migrant workers pick parsley on a Colorado farm, 2011. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

About every five years the Farm Bill addresses a broad set of food and agricultural policy issues. Commodity price supports, farm credit, trade, agricultural conservation, research, rural development, energy, and foreign and domestic food programs were just some of the issues included in the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008, as the last Farm Bill legislation was officially titled.

The Farm Bill is also known for the broad range of policy stakeholders who work on it, including state organizations, national farm groups, commodity associations, conservation advocates, rural development organizations, and faith-based groups.

But even with its inclusive set of policy issues and actors, the Farm Bill is notable for one issue policymakers and advocates doesn’t touch: People who work on farms.

Welcoming the Stranger: Immigration and G92

Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/Washington Post via Getty Images.
Immigrant families are fleeing Alabama in the wake of the new law. Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/Washington Post via Getty Images.

Whenever possible, I plan my Saturday errands such that I’ll be able catch part of “This American Life” on public radio as I drive and I’ve often found myself sitting in the grocery store parking lot to hear the end of a story. 

One recent Saturday, the show’s theme — which ties together each of its non-fiction stories — was the biblical truism that “you reap what you sow” (Galatians 6:7), and most of the program was dedicated to examining the consequences — intended and otherwise — of Alabama’s controversial, toughest-in-the-nation immigration law, HB 56, which passed last June. 

Whether what is happening in Alabama as a result of this law — and, as the program reveals, a great deal is happening, even if most of us outside of the state aren’t paying attention — was the intention of the bill’s authors and supporters is not entirely clear. What is clear, from a Christian perspective, is that the effects are devastating. 

What most saddened me in the program was the statement of a young undocumented woman named Gabriella that, since the passage of HB 56, she finds herself unwelcome everywhere. “Even in the church,” she says, “you find people that… don't want to talk at you. And they don't want to give the peace to you.”

Mitt Romney and Moral Imagination

In 1884, Romney’s great-grandfather, Miles Parker Romney, fled to Mexico from Utah. Miles Parker Romney was a practicing polygamist and he wanted to protect his family from persecution. Mitt Romney’s father was born in Mexico, his family returned to the United States and took up residence in Michigan.

While Romney wouldn’t agree with his ancestor’s practice of polygamy, I am sure he understands his great-grandfather’s desire to do what he thought best for his family. Luckily for Miles Parker Romney, there was a country that allowed his family to settle and try and find a better life.

What is unfortunate is that candidate Romney doesn't seem to have that same kind of empathy for families today who are also in difficult positions.

The Immigrant Days of Christmas

The Holy Family by Margret Hofheinz-Döring via http://bit.ly/rK5376
The Holy Family by Margret Hofheinz-Döring via http://bit.ly/rK5376

I noticed this Christmas season, for the first time, that not only were Mary and Joseph forced to migrate under Rome’s census; not only was the Incarnate God born into a humiliating space — but, as they fled to Egypt, they never registered in Bethlehem with the census. A dream, an angel, told the migrant father to gather his family and run from the authorities. Unaccounted for in the empire, baby Jesus’ first movement in this world was a government-evading trek through the desert by night.

I think about this as, right now, my friend Estuardo is probably crouching in the dark somewhere in the desert along the Mexican border. At the same time my wife and I hang electric Christmas lights on our tree, get out our nativity sets, and read familiar illustrated books about the stars in the sky above the shepherds. Estuardo has told me, from previous voyages across the border by night, how clear the stars are when hiding from the border patrol lights.

Jim Wallis and Richard Land: Join the Great Conversation

People of faith -- including evangelical Christians -- will be voting both ways in the upcoming election. It is simply not true that they will be voting only on one or two issues.

And, if evangelicals focus on many of the issues central to their faith, rather than becoming partisan cheerleaders, they might be able to raise some critical issues in this election and to hold both sides more accountable, even in a campaign that both Richard and I suspect will be one of the ugliest in U.S. history.

At the end of the evening, Amy remarked that if the upcoming election debates were as civil and substantive as this evening was, we would all be very grateful.

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