The following is in reference specifically to undocumented immigration from Latin America.
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a grassroots advocate for immigrant rights. This great love and passion for the immigrant began halfway through my high school career after taking several mission trips to Honduras and was given a book about a boy who travels by train illegally to the U.S. to reunite with his mother. (Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario, http://www.enriquesjourney.com).
I remember the first time I spoke up in defense of immigrants was during history class in my small southern Christian high school. I knew the odds were against me but I felt courage welling up inside, like this was something for which I was born. Somehow, I felt the traditional way I was taught to see undocumented immigrants was wrong. I started questioning my old mindset that made me believe immigrants were “less human,” or “undeserving.”
Now, almost seven years later, I am more dedicated to this cause and more sure than ever that Jesus Christ has compelled me to love and serve the undocumented immigrant. I continued my travels to Latin America and have seen unfathomable poverty. I built relationships with immigrant families here in the U.S. and learned the richness of diversity and the beauty of God’s grace. I see the kingdom of heaven being built and it makes me wonder, “How is it that followers of Christ are more quick to identify with earthly territories than with the construction of an eternal kingdom?”
What truly baffles me is the hostility toward immigrants that can be found in circles of believers. I am amazed how often I hear dislike being expressed toward “illegals” (a word I, personally, never use to label a human being) by the very Christians with whom I have served in third world countries. It is as if we muster up enough unconditional love and grace for the Hispanics who live in their own country but when we return we treat the undocumented Hispanic down the road from us like our enemy. Is a person’s very presence in the U.S. without legal papers the unpardonable sin? Is it our job as believers to play the “us versus them” game?
I think Jesus accounted for the fact that we would sometimes misinterpret our neighbors for our enemies. He said, “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) but just in case our neighbors really were our literal enemies or we had a temporary case of paranoia and thought that those around us were against us, he covered that by saying, “love your enemies.” (Matthew 5:44) We can’t really get around that one-it pretty much covers all the bases. My hope is that our vision would not be obscured by the ugly blindfold of entitlement but that our eyes would truly be open to see others the way Christ sees. I love what Dietrich Bonhoeffer said: “We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or don’t do, and more in the light of what they suffer.”
I have several friends and acquaintances who reside in this country without proper documentation. Their stories are all different. They are mothers, fathers, students, brothers, sisters. They preach on Sunday mornings and lead worship, they clean our hotel rooms and construct our office buildings, they pick our produce and serve our meals, they win science fairs and are awarded community service ribbons. They give, they take, they hurt, they fear, they need and they love.
The most recent legislation passed in my home state, Alabama, breaks my heart. It is already creating an atmosphere of chaos, mistrust and fear. I hope that somehow the supporters of this law may have personal encounters with those whom it affects and that their hearts may be changed. Even after years of researching this topic and following the legislative proposals, no amount of data or statistics can persuade me toward either side quite like personally knowing immigrant families. You can never go wrong by cultivating human relationships.
Kristen Bruce is an Alabama native, a recent graduate from Lee University and is currently living in the country of Panama. She is participating in short-term missions. You can follow her blog here at http://kristensarahbruce.wordpress.com. She plans on continuing her studies upon returning to the U.S.
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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