Last week began with the following email I received from a student at a Christian college (not George Fox University, where I work):
“A mentor of mine forwarded me an article that you wrote regarding undocumented students and colleges. This is a more personal question. I’m 26 years old, a strong Christian and I’m about to finish my bachelor’s degree. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the feeling that as an undocumented alien there are so many obstacles and limitations to me leading a normal life. Do you have any words of advice, encouragement or wisdom for someone like me?
I’m smart and a hard worker but I feel like I’m not free to dream or plan for the future given my status. I’d rather stay close to home to pursue a career and go to grad school but because I couldn’t get a driver’s license there, I’ve looked elsewhere. It seems like you have a lot of experience working with undocumented students so I thought you might have some words of encouragement to share.”
This is not the first email I have gotten from a student seeking answers to hard questions. He and I had a conversation about his status and I provided him with advice and direction. My heart broke as he shared with me his story and the lack of opportunities that awaited him.
My week concluded with facilitating a workshop at a conference for people who want to be more supportive of the undocumented students that attend their colleges. This work is not easy. I have had to tell many students, who were brought to this country at a very young age by parents seeking opportunities for them, that their dreams of attending college may not become a reality.
Some of you may know that immigration reform is an issue I believe is important to us as the church. I know that for some of you this issue raises many questions and anger. My hope is that you will be open to dialogue about this difficult issue, more importantly during this time of advent as we are preparing to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior.
Being followers of Christ compels us to welcome the stranger and care for the poor and less fortunate. This may mean engaging in dialogue to learn more about this issue and looking for ways to support those working with the immigrant community. For many immigrants who are here illegally, peace is not something they experience on a daily basis but perhaps, as Christians, we could offer some peace to them where they are.
Joel Perez serves as the Dean of Transitions and Inclusion at George Fox University, located in Newberg, Oregon. He can be found blogging at the following sites: Diversity in Higher Education & A Mexican American’s Musings.
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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