The blog posts from earlier this week have given hope for the future of the immigration system in America. Comprehensive immigration reform seems to be coming because support of it proves to be good policy and good politics and because Evangelicals are becoming more concerned about this issue. In light of this perceived change, today’s blog is a real-life example of why hope exists.
As I drove into the parking lot on the morning of August 24 at 7:45, I could see young people already lined up for World Relief DuPage/Aurora’s (WRDA) first Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) workshop. I knew at the workshop they would get to meet with a legal representative and receive help to complete an application intended to take advantage of the new immigration program. And I was happy – happy that through the support and generosity of our community, World Relief DuPage is in the position to have accredited legal counselors and volunteer attorneys to assist these vulnerable young people.
Then I thought more about the people in line, and I became sad. I was sad that my country that I love so much isn’t doing any better than this. As the descendent of at least one German immigrant who came through Ellis Island, I know that the parents of these young immigrants are seeking the same thing – opportunity and a better life, freedom and a chance. My forebears had Ellis Island and a welcome to citizenship in America. Today we offer an application to defer action on deportation for two years with no pathway to citizenship.
Surely we can do better than this. This temporary measure is no substitute for law. We need real, common-sense, comprehensive immigration reform. We don’t need an amnesty program that takes away all consequences, but we also don’t need a system that makes it impossible for others to have the types of blessings I have had. As a nation of immigrants, of great minds and big hearts, surely we can do better than this.
When the workshop started, I was still feeling that uneasy mixture of happy and sad as I started watching WRDA staff, community volunteers, and the applicants interacting with one another. I saw someone bring bottles of water for those waiting outside in the heat. I saw smiling faces on our volunteers welcoming applicants, and “Grandma Jan’s” homemade brownies sent as treats for those giving their time to help a neighbor. The system still has enormous challenges, but on that day, in Wheaton, a group of people came together to do what we can, and a type of community was formed. When I see this happen before my very eyes, I know that we, as a nation, will find a way to do even better than this.
Emily Gray is the Executive Director of World Relief DuPage/Aurora in suburban Chicago. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and worked for many years as a missionary in Central America.
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