The people we meet change our lives. Through hearing the stories and learning about the lives of others, we are transformed. And, it is for exactly those reasons that I hope you’ll watch this short trailer and sign up to be one of the first people to watch The Stranger.
The Stranger isa new 40-minute documentary created to introduce Christians to the stories and lives of immigrants living in this country. Interviews with pastors, Christian leaders, and policy experts provide a biblically based context for the immigration challenges that face our country today. The film, commissioned by the Evangelical Immigration Table, was produced by Emmy-award winning producer Linda Midgett.
When debates get polarized it can be hard to find our way back to more reasonable territory. We see it happening right now on the issue of U.S. immigration policy or the refugee crisis in Europe. It’s hard to make progress because we have gotten stuck at the extremes. We have demonized one another – an easy thing to do with people whose positions appall and offend us. Compromise? Why would I compromise with someone who is so obviously wrong!
The Supreme Court’s decision to take up the case now is highly significant, since it means that the court will rule on the matter during this term (likely by the end of June), allowing President Obama and his administration to at least begin moving forward with implementation before he leaves office.
Due to a sudden wave of ICE raids and deportations of asylum seekers fleeing violence in Central America, the White House has faced anger from numerous Democrats in Congress, who drafted a letter denouncing the raids. This new refugee plan, which sets up screening facilities in Central America, aims to reduce human smuggling as well to slow the flow of undocumented immigration.
January 1 marked the 124th anniversary of the opening of Ellis Island. Years later, in 1916, the immigrant inspection station was opened. Over the course of 60 years, more than 12 million immigrants came through the island.
Almost all of my great-grandparents were among that number, although, according to a sister who has been researching our history on ancestry.com, we can’t find any records. A fire destroyed the original station in 1897. It’s likely that our family’s records went up in flames with so many others’. Although — like many New Yorkers — I’ve never been there (who really has the time to schlep over there except tourists or class trips?), the island looms large in our collective self-understanding. Yes, we are Americans, but for us “American” meant “immigrant.”
On the day Sam and Elida we to be deported, I arrived at the airport, with the entire Mejia family, and was witness to one of the most intensely sad events I’ve ever seen: a mother and father saying goodbye to their children, not knowing when they would see them again. As I drove home from the airport that night, I thought to myself, if every politician, faith-leader, and citizen in the U.S. could have met the Mejia family, and then seen the family ripped apart, the U.S. would not be deporting hundreds of thousands of immigrants every year. The raids that are descending on immigrant communities right now, targeting Central American families who recently crossed the border escaping extreme violence, would most likely not be happening. The de-humanizing term ‘illegal alien’ would not proliferate across our airwaves.
IN NOVEMBER, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a series of Obama administration executive orders intended to shield millions of immigrants from deportation.
Of course, there’s a backstory: After the 2014 failure of Congress to pass comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama attempted to create one program, called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA), and expand an existing one, called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
As its name suggests, DACA was created to protect children—more than 1.7 million, according to the Migration Policy Institute—who were brought to the United States before they turned 16. These “Dreamers” have become a visible and powerful political movement. DAPA is intended to provide work permits and exemption from deportation to those adults with children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
In the dangerous environment created by our failed immigration policy, these two protections are essential for keeping families safe and together.
But when the Obama administration announced these programs in November 2014, some states claimed that expanding the number of immigrants allowed to stay in the U.S. would cause an unfair increase in the cost of state services. Ultimately, 26 states sued to stop the DAPA/DACA changes. In November 2015, the Fifth Circuit—which covers Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas—found in favor of the states. The Justice Department then appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which is likely to decide the case before a new president takes office.
Immigrant and family advocates, along with religious leaders, criticized the ruling. “After the Fifth Circuit’s decision concerning DACA and DAPA, what remains abundantly clear is that the U.S. Congress needs to urgently address immigration reform,” said Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Latino Evangelical Coalition. “Hispanic Evangelicals are looking for genuine leadership on this issue. No more delays and excuses.”
Nineteen faith-based organizations (including Sojourners) filed an amicus brief with the Fifth Circuit Court to advocate alongside individuals seeking relief from deportation, and churches across the country had begun to prepare members to apply for DAPA and the expanded DACA.
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As Donald Trump continues to dominate media that try to balance a fascination for celebrities with a duty to check facts claimed by public figures of all stripes, some critics of the GOP presidential frontrunner may recall 18th century novelist Oliver Goldsmith’s line, “The loud voice that spoke the empty mind.” But a more apt thought may come from the classic 1983 movie “A Christmas Story” (airing on Turner cable networks dozens of times this week).
It’s one of the most intriguing sub-plots of the 2016 election: Why are evangelicals, who historically have supported immigration reform and a path to citizenship for deeply felt religious and moral reasons, gravitating towards the two candidates who are most hostile to policy changes that would accommodate and integrate undocumented immigrants into American life?