Statistics show that 40% – 50% of the undocumented population in the US came here with a visa, overstayed their visas and promptly slid into the shadows. I was one of them. Well, that was until two Immigration and Custom Enforcement agents caught up with me, dragged me out of the shadows and put me in deportation proceedings.
Now I know you may be thinking that I got what I deserved, and that I have no right to be in America because I broke the law. You also probably think that I ought to be kicked out of the U.S.A ASAP because I didn’t follow your laws. Truth be told, I’m not proud of breaking the law and, trust me, I’m suffering the consequences of my actions. I overstayed my visa because I have no family to go back to since my entire family is in the US and also because I had fallen in love with America and its ideals.
It was here that I felt I could be myself without having to conform to what I believed were the stringent norms of my home country. In America, it was okay for me to be myself. Here, I could be all that I wanted to be, as long as I had the will, connections and financial means. I believed then, as now, that America is a great and welcoming nation, flawed as it may be sometimes.
Recently, I came across a video in which pastors from influential churches read the passage Matthew 25:31-46. They were part of an initiative called the “I Was a Stranger” Challenge. I’ve got to say that evangelicals were the last people I thought would fight for undocumented immigrants like me.
The Evangelicals I knew were über conservative, legalistic and strongly believed that all “illegals” were parasitic rats who needed to deport themselves at their earliest convenience. With the urging of population control groups like FAIR and NumbersUSA, evangelicals were instrumental in stopping the DREAM Act and President George W. Bush’s reform plan in their tracks. As I watched the video, I was overwhelmed with joy because my Christian brothers and sisters were finally doing what Jesus would do. They were fighting for the least of these; they were fighting for undocumented immigrants.
Every last Saturday of the month I usually meet with a few friends at a local McDonalds Restaurant to study the Bible. The last topic we studied was the topic of immigrants in the Bible. I learned that God had a soft spot for immigrants, whether legal or not. Psalm 146:9 says that “The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked”. I also discovered that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was himself was an immigrant in Egypt (Matthew 2:13-15) and an excluded foreigner on earth (Luke 8:37, John 8: 23).
My takeaway from that Bible study topic was that we Christians are immigrants in this world. Unfortunately, some of us will be mistreated and picked on for being different (Romans 12:2). It is encouraging to see Christian organizations like Bibles, Badges & Businesses, G92, the Evangelical Immigration Table, among others, calling for comprehensive immigration reform because they have realized that some immigration laws are draconian and unjust. These Christians are willing to forgive and bestow grace upon us law-breakers, just like Christ forgave them and bestowed grace upon them when he washed their sins away.
So I’m still under deportation proceedings, but my hope is that I won’t be deported this year or any year for that matter. My prayer is that I will be allowed to live here as a legal immigrant. I’m longing for the day that I can be open and truthful to my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ about my status as an ex-undocumented immigrant, my life, my struggles and my victories, without fear of being judged for the wrong decisions I made. To those who are fighting to make my hope a reality, I’d like to say, thank you from the very bottom of my heart and may God bless you exceedingly and abundantly.
Sorabji Swaraj came to the US as an international student, overstayed his visa and is now being deported. His blog includes anecdotes, advise, mistakes he’s made as well as personal opinions about his situation. You can also follow him on twitter @mydeportation.
Please note that the views expressed do not necessarily represent those of everyone associated with G92, or any institutions with which the blogger may be affiliated.
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