undocumented immigrants

Lisa Sharon Harper 07-14-2016

Seven years ago, on a cold day in December 2009, I entered Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, N.J. — a minimum-security prison on a pilgrimage organized by the Interfaith Center of New York and Human Rights First. This one-day journey ushered me into the story of immigrants in the New York and New Jersey area, and changed my life.

Alexia Salvatierra 07-13-2016

Image via  / Shutterstock.com

El Camino del Inmigrante (the way of the immigrant) is the name of an upcoming 150-mile walk from the California-Mexico border to Los Angeles, arriving in time for the annual Christian Community Development Association conference. Participants in the conference and Southern California residents — immigrants and citizens — will walk together for ten days to remember and to lift up the suffering of migrants as well as their contributions to our country.

Tracy Kemme 06-17-2016

Image via Katherine Burgess / RNS

A few weeks ago after Mass at our local parish, I spoke with David, a young Guatemalan father who was anxious about the future. His concerns were understandable.

David is a devoted Catholic, a hard worker, and a family man. “I have been here for several years now, and my children are citizens,” he told me, gazing warmly at his chubby son in the stroller. “I worry that someday [the immigration authorities] will deport me and send me far away from them. This DAPA thing — it is the only hope to keep my family together.”

the Web Editors 06-06-2016

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In a three-page letter, U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela blasted Donald Trump as a “racist” and told him “you can take your border wall and shove it up your ass,” reports Chron.

Vela, a Democrat from the border town of Brownsville, Texas, opened the letter diplomatically, admitting that he agrees with Trump that the government has failed veterans, that Mexican drug cartel violence requires a more serious response, and that felons who are undocumented ought to be deported.

Outside the Supreme Court building during oral arguments on DACA/DAPA. Photo by Rick Herron / Sojourners

On Monday morning, we stood outside of the U.S. Supreme Court building because, once again, we found ourselves at the mercy of a justice system weighing the legality of our presence in our own country.

Christopher Kerr 02-23-2016

You probably saw the media frenzy around Pope Francis’s comments aboard the papal plane on his trip back to Rome from Mexico last week. When asked about presidential candidate Donald Trump’s plan to build a wall along the U.S.- Mexico border, the pope said, “A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”

However, I was struck most by the pope’s following remarks, which were omitted from several mainstream media accounts — when he said of Trump’s plans, “This is not in the Gospel.”

Rick Herron 01-19-2016

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.

Theo Rigby 01-12-2016
The Mejia family

The Mejia family. Via Sin Pais.

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.

the Web Editors 11-10-2015

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The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Nov. 9 against the Obama administration’s attempt to protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

President Obama created the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) and expanded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programs by executive action in 2014.

Sojourners has long been in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, and opposes the Fifth Circuit’s decision. Sojourners founder and president Jim Wallis released the following statement on the ruling.

the Web Editors 10-30-2015

1. Death Café Hopping

A woman explores the recent trend of “death cafés” — public meetups among strangers to share experiences, memories, and challenges dealing with death of loved ones. “Death: What happens next?”

2. Has ‘Diversity’ Lost Its Meaning?

“When the word is proudly invoked in a corporate context, it acquires a certain sheen. It can give a person or institution moral credibility… It’s almost as if cheerfully and frequently uttering the word ‘diversity’ is the equivalent of doing the work of actually making it a reality.” Scorching indictment. Necessary read.

3. Persian Gulf May Soon Become Too Hot for Humans

A new study shows that by the end of the century, the heat index may hit 165 to 170 degrees for at least six hours each day. So about hosting World Cup 2022 in Qatar…

4. ‘Granny Pods’ Keep Elderly Close, at a Safe Distance

Okay, maybe we can find a better name. But these tiny houses that sit in your backyard and come with security and medical resources are a step towards improving end of life care, and keeping our families close.

Norma Pimentel 07-14-2015

The families arrive at the center after having traveled for weeks. Their bodies are completely filthy dirty. Their clothing and shoes have a darkened, grey, muddy appearance. In some cases, their clothing is still wet from having crossed the Rio Grande River. Since June of last year, large groups of refugees, mostly mothers with a child or two, walk through the door of the Humanitarian Respite Center at Sacred Heart Church in McAllen, Texas, their faces full of joyful tears as they experience the warm and welcoming faces of the many volunteers applauding, shouting out, “Bienvenidos!” “Welcome!”

The refugee families just spent several days at the Border Patrol Processing Station – the “Hielera” – the “Ice Box” as the refugees call it, because it is freezing there. While in this processing facility, the refugees are kept in cells, where they wait fearfully for what is to become of them.

Kamal Essaheb 07-14-2015

We are living in historic times. The Confederate flag that was placed on the South Carolina Capitol dome 54 years ago to protest the civil rights movement has finally come down. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month that victims of housing discrimination do not have to show intentional bias, and the court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage because they violated fundamental constitutional rights.

Victories in the battles against discrimination do not come easily or quickly, and they test our resolve to keep the faith during the lowest points of our struggles. While we celebrate the dismantling of institutional discrimination, we remain keenly aware of important challenges ahead with regard to discrimination — even hatred — against immigrants.

Many of us engaged in the long fight for immigration reform may be questioning whether we are at one of our lowest points, whether we can influence the negative political and legal trajectories of the recent immigration debates. The answer to both is “yes.”

Greg Williams 06-11-2015
Image via Richard Thornton/shutterstock.com

Image via Richard Thornton/shutterstock.com

The primary challenge facing immigration laws in the United States is not people crossing the border without authorization. In fact, a recent study from Pew Research Center shows that fewer people than ever are attempting to cross the border.

Rather, our dilemma with immigration is that people who are already here — some for several decades — without proper documentation face substantial difficulties in trying to integrate and contribute to the country. 

Trevor Barton 02-10-2015
Illustration of a boy, Xomi / Shutterstock.com

Illustration of a boy, Xomi / Shutterstock.com

In my classroom, there is a little boy from Honduras. He speaks Spanish — that is the language of his heart — but he is learning English and tries with all his heart to learn new words and strange phrases that will allow him to live in his new world here. He is 9 years old, with dark hair cut straight across his forehead in a wonderfully crooked line. He has deep brown eyes the color of a plowed field, eyes that sparkle like starlight at night off a pool of calm water. He has big dimples that catch teardrops when he laughs until he cries, or when he cries until the sadness in his heart resides. He has a broad smile that is sometimes mischievous but most times full of joy.

Sometimes I wonder ... what is he thinking as he closes his eyes at the end of the day, or opens them at dawn?

"I hope my new world will embrace me," he thinks tenderly, "and not call me an illegal alien ... and not try to tear me apart from my Aunt ... and not try to tear me apart ... and not place me in the shadows ... and not make me a shadow.

Mami, can you hear me in the dawn? Will my words reach you over the land, over the land, to the valley, between the mountains, to La Esperanza, to Honduras? Help me, Mami. Please. I don't want to be a shadow here. ...

Suzanne Ross 01-30-2015
'Paddington' film still. Via Paddington Movie on Facebook

'Paddington' film still. Via Paddington Movie on Facebook

I loved Paddington, the new movie based on the Michael Bonds books about an immigrant bear who arrives in London from darkest Peru. Paddington has no resources other than his faith that he will be welcomed with open arms. Sadly, his experience begins like that of most undocumented immigrants to the European or American shores – he is rejected and ignored. But this is a playful movie with a happy ending that celebrates what wonderful things happen to the Brown family when they allow Paddington into their hearts and home.

Admittedly, Paddington is a handful – a wild animal unfamiliar with modern conveniences, whose commitment to being polite does not prevent unfortunate accidents that fulfill the nervous Mr. Brown’s worst fears. As the family learns to love this accident-prone bear, however, their love for each other is renewed. The villain (yes, of course, there’s a villain!) is defeated, Paddington finds a home, and the Brown’s problems are cured by loving the alien in their midst.

Does this fictional account of immigration with a happy ending have any bearing (pun intended!) on our real world immigration crisis? This movie invites us to wonder whether our fears of the changes that immigration brings are unfounded. After all, many European and American citizens fear the waves of legal and illegal immigration in Europe and the United States. We know all too well that these uninvited guests are radically changing racial, religious, and cultural demographics. Immigrants disrupt labor patterns, burden welfare systems, and tax the criminal justice system. And unlike the movie’s cartoon explosions, floods, and fires, the violence in our world that seems fomented in and among immigrant communities is all too real a threat.

Or so the story goes that stokes our fears. But is the story true?

Eric O. Ledermann 11-11-2014
CREATISTA / Shutterstock.com

CREATISTA / Shutterstock.com

Think about this: why would anyone travel thousands of miles on a journey that many do not survive — except for the hope that their destination (the U.S.) is significantly safer than where they currently live? I cannot imagine taking such risks unless my current circumstances left me with no other options besides death. I have met many people who are undocumented in the U.S. They are not criminals. They are not economic threats. They are mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, and sometimes teenagers trying to escape untold violence and oppression. They are our neighbors, community members, and friends. They are people simply trying to do what it takes to survive.

Our immigration system is broken. It is hard for anyone to say otherwise. But I think our values are broken too. When gun-toting vigilantes are able to successfully threaten buses full of children put at risk by their parents because it was a better option than staying at home, something is desperately wrong with our values. We can say their home country needs to get its act together, but that does not address the hostile response in the U.S. by some people. Politics aside, the morality of refusing such people violates the values of both my Christian faith and my understanding of how my country was founded by persecuted refugees seeking freedom.

Comprehensive immigration reform is about real people with real blood flowing through real veins. It is not about numbers, other than the fact that the U.S. grants the lowest number of visas to the countries with some of highest homicide rates in the world — violence that the U.S. government has had a hand in creating over the past several decades. This is not about following the law, because our current immigration laws are simply unjust and violate the values upon which this country was founded: a country of immigrants in which “all people are created equal.” It is about God’s children desperately seeking refuge in a country that boasts itself as the “land of the free” and the land of hope and promise.

Rosa Robles Loreto and her family. Photo courtesy Rev. Alison J. Harrington

On Aug. 7 we lit a single white candle at the prayer service welcoming Rosa Robles Loreto into sanctuary at Southside Presbyterian Church in Tucson, Ariz. Almost 90 days later, that candle has been joined by five others, representing Luis Lopez Acabal, Beatriz Santiago Ramirez, Francisco Aguirre, Francisco Perez Cordova, and Arturo Hernandez. We are grateful that Beatriz was just granted a stay so that she could return to her home with her two small children, but the rest all remain in sanctuary.

As we approach Rosa’s 90th day in sanctuary, its time to replace the nearly burned down candle, but the light of radical Christian hospitality continues to not only burn bright, but spread throughout the nation.

Adam Phillips 11-06-2014

jabkitticha / Shutterstock.com

While much of the country was receiving election returns and news of a red tide sweeping across the nation, here in Oregon we have more of a white, black, and brown problem.

One way to look at Oregon was that the “progressive” blues all won — our Democratic incumbents were all re-elected for U.S. Congress and governor, and statewide measures to legalize the sale and use of recreational marijuana sailed to an easy victory.

So, from a distance it looks like the dream of the Bill Clinton 90s is still alive in Portland.

I’ve been here more than a year now, planting a church and beginning to work with neighborhood partners, and have come to realize that the dream for truly “progressive” values — like immigration reform and bridging the gap in ever increasing income inequalities — is more like a bad dream that won’t go away. 

Jim Wiltbank 10-30-2014

Francisco Córdoba and his family.

On Sept. 25 Francisco Córdoba entered into Sanctuary at St. Francis in the Foothills United Methodist Church in Tucson, Ariz., after the threat of deportation had been looming over his family's life for eight long months.

It has been an honor for those of us here at St. Francis to receive the blessing of Francisco and his family and to offer them a place where they can begin to see a solution to our broken immigration system. It was even more important that we receive the amazing blessing that they bring to us.

Erika Aldape 09-30-2014
Photo courtesy Telemundo

Photo courtesy Telemundo

I absolutely love to read, and anyone who is familiar with Oscar Wilde I’m sure recognizes the quote I have chosen for my title; “To define is to limit.” From the moment I read this in The Picture of Dorian Gray, I thought to myself: this is me; this is how I see the world. Now I know people argue with this quote because a definition is a precise statement of what a word means. But just think of “define” as “label.” When you put a label on someone, you classify and constrict them, which limits them from breaking out their true potential.

For example, when we are constantly talked about as illegal aliens, we are given the image of harsh criminals. This image affects our self esteem and our confidence. Some, like Aly Wane, start to believe that there is something evil inside of them. It also limits us from reaching out to the American people and proving to them that we are not here to cause any harm. We only want the opportunity of seeking a brighter future. We are not criminals. We have done what we had to do, what any human would do, to seek a violence-free life, to keep our families together, or, like me, to pursue an education. I am one of 11 million, and each one of us has a different story to tell.