I’m tired. With the momentum building for immigration reform, the past several weeks have been uniquely exhausting for me. I’ve worked more hours than I know I should, I’ve been on the road much of the past month, and I’m checking my Blackberry almost obsessively to try to stay on top of all the opportunities and urgent requests—and yet at the end of each day, my to do list has only grown longer and the list of emails needing a response keeps expanding. I need to do a better job of resting, praying, and trusting that God—whom Scripture tells us loves and ensures justice for vulnerable immigrants—will accomplish his purposes and that he does not need me to do so. I’d appreciate prayers toward that end.
One question that I really can’t ask, though, is: “is it worth it?” On Sunday afternoons I lead a Bible study with five boys in my neighborhood between the ages of about nine and thirteen. Meeting with those kids once a week—at present, they’re reading one chapter per day of the Gospel of John, and then coming together on Sundays to discuss what we’ve read—keeps me cognizant of why our efforts to mobilize the Church to advocate for just treatment of immigrants is so vital.
One of the young men in my Bible study is himself undocumented. He’s been my neighbor since I moved into my neighborhood back in 2006; at the time, he was probably about six years old. Most of the kids of Mexican origin in my neighborhood were born in the U.S., so they are U.S. citizens, even if their parents are undocumented. I presumed that was the situation of this particular young man as well, but I recently learned that he was brought to the U.S. as a very small child. He’s a very smart kid, and he clearly has a bright future in front on him. But if he remains undocumented, the opportunities to realize that potential will be starkly limited. I pray that he will be able to go to college, to eventually find the vocation to which God is calling him. His odds at success will be so much higher, though, if he can earn legal status, which would require a change in law.
Two of the other boys in our Bible study are U.S. citizens having been born in the U.S., but their dad is not: he is undocumented. A couple years ago, while driving their baby brother to the hospital, their dad was pulled over because his license plate was obscured by a license plate holder from the car dealership. Since he did not have (and is not eligible for) a driver’s license, he was brought to the county jail, and then detained because they realized he was undocumented. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement eventually moved him to another jail, then to a privately-operated detention facility a thousand miles away in Colorado. He was finally released, on a $5,000 bond that his family somehow managed to scrape together after six weeks in detention, but now he is scheduled to be deported in 2014. I saw the negative impact that his six week absence had on his sons’ well being. I fear the effects it will have on them if their dad is taken away from them permanently. But without a change in law, he will very likely be deported next year.
The push for immigration reform is going to be a long struggle, and there is no guarantee of victory. But there’s no question in my mind that it’s worth fighting for, because there’s no question that these kids are worth fighting for. To quote spoken word artist Micah Bournes—in a powerful video that describes well our mission at World Relief—“you never stop fighting for your own.”
Matthew Soerens is the co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate (InterVarsity Press, 2009) and the US Church Training Specialist at World Relief. His blogs appear here on Mondays.
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