Here’s the idea:
For a day, you’re going to be “stamped” as UnDocumented. You can wear that stamp on your hand and allow it to remind you throughout the day of those who live in your community who do not have legal status. Click to order as many hand stamps as you need (it will take about two weeks for us to get them to you, and we’d ask you to chip in a few dollars to cover the costs to make and ship them).
Once your stamp arrives, choose a Day to “UnDocument” and wear the stamp on your hand that entire day. For that day, pretend that you were brought to the United States unlawfully as a child. While you still know English, know this culture, and know your way around, you do not belong here, at least not according to the government.
As you glance at your hand throughout the day, let it remind you of how a lack of legal status would affect your thinking and your actions: how does it change the way that you feel when you see a police officer? If you’re a college student, think about if you’d be at your school if you were ineligible for all federal financial aid, even student loans—and if you knew that a college degree was unlikely to change your job prospects after graduation. If you’ve got a job, think about if your employer would have been likely to have hired you without a valid Social Security card—and if they would have, how you would respond if they decided they wanted to lower your wage to $4 or $5 per hour.
To take things a step further, leave your driver’s license and all other government-issued IDs at home—and then go to the bank and try to cash a paycheck or withdraw money. We take these things for granted, but many in our society cannot.
The stamp on your hand might also cause others to ask you some questions—use it as a conversation starter: tell them you’re trying to think about what it would be like to live without legal status. See what the responses you get are, and think about how hearing what people have to say about undocumented immigrants would sound to you if you were undocumented yourself.
At the end of your day, take some time to write down your thoughts and reflections. If you did this simulation with a group, get together to talk about your experiences. And then, whether on your own or with others, take some time to pray for the undocumented immigrants in your community—and for yourselves, that God would develop a deeper compassion and love for your undocumented neighbors.
Scripture calls us to “be compassionate” (1 Peter 3:8), which, as author Henri Nouwen notes in his excellent book Compassion, literally means to “suffer with.” Christ—the ultimate Model of compassion—entered into our broken world in the Incarnation and suffered with us and for us.
This is just a small simulation and can at best give us a small taste of the challenges and difficulties that folks who are actually undocumented go through on a daily basis, but attempting to walk a mile in their shoes might help us to be compassionate. By walking a mile in their shoes, perhaps we can better love these neighbors and be reminded to pray for them.
Your reflections might be challenging to others. After you’ve UnDocumented your day, please share your thoughts and experiences by emailing us!