Guest Blog by Kirsten Strand Four years ago my family moved from an upper-middle class, mostly Anglo neighborhood to a low-income, predominantly Hispanic community. Four years ago, “illegal immigration” was a nameless, faceless issue.   Today, undocumented immigrants are neighbors, friends, and students in the third grade class my husband teaches at a local elementary school.  Enelda, Raul, Jose, and Rosa have made it impossible for me to think of immigration as simply a political and social issue anymore. (Their names have been changed.) Enelda is part of a parent mentoring program I lead. She has lived in America, undocumented, for almost 15 years.  Her children were born and raised here, and she and her husband have worked hard to help them get on a path out of poverty.  She was recently pulled over for driving with a burned out tail-light.  She was arrested on the spot for not having a driver’s license.  She sat in jail for three days and was then released with a court date to come back in three months, at which time she has been told she will be most likely be deported back to Mexico.  Enelda & her husband have 3 months to decide whether they will all go back to Mexico, or whether Enelda will leave her children behind to pursue that “better life” for which they have worked so hard. Raul is a sophomore at our local community college. A talented artist, musician, and student, he was accepted at several excellent universities.   But, without papers, he is not eligible for financial aid.  So, he lives at home and is working his way through community college.  We all prayed recently that the Dream Act would pass so that Raul could have the opportunity to transfer to a university when he completes his AA this semester.  When Congress killed the Dream Act a few weeks ago, they killed Raul’s dreams of going to college and graduate school. Jose recently had a friend drive him across the country to one of a few states in the nation that allows undocumented immigrants to get a drivers license, because he hated not being able to drive legally and get insurance.  He came to America as a child, and has lived a “secret” life ever since.  As a Christ-follower, he lives with the constant guilt of knowing he is breaking the law by being here.  But, to return to Mexico would be giving up everything and everyone he knows.  So, he prays for a pathway to legal residency while enduring the guilt and shame of knowing he is a “criminal” in the eyes of many. Rosa was a third grader in my husband’s class last year. Part way through the year, she started having trouble concentrating and was often teary-eyed.  When Scott approached her, she shared that she was afraid to go home each day because she might find out that her mother had been sent back to Mexico.  Reading and math became irrelevant to her . . . all she could think about was loosing her mom. I know there are countless Eneldas, Rauls, Joses, and Rosas in my community and around this country. To many, they are simply illegal immigrants . . . and criminals.  But I just can’t believe that that is how Jesus sees them, or how he wants me to see them. Every day when I look around my neighborhood, I am more convinced that our immigration policies are broken.  Daily I must watch God’s children suffer the consequences for our lack of urgency in addressing this broken system, and I can’t help but think we are not loving our neighbors as Jesus would.
Kirsten Strand is the Founder and Director of Community 4:12, a community development focused non-profit of Community Christian Church. She and her family relocated into the under-resourced community of East Aurora, IL four years ago. Their work focuses on education and housing issues, and they are passionate about uniting people across cultural, language, and economic divides to address root causes of poverty.   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.    If you’re interested in writing a guest blog, send us an email at

2 Responses to When “Illegals” Become Neighbors

  1. We are in the midst of dealing with the brokenness of our system. I direct a ministry to college students and one of our leaders – a Christian leader on our campus – is sitting in a detention center, waiting for a verdict on his future. Jonathan came to the US with his parents when he was 13 or 14. Though they divorced, married US citizens, and have legalized their status, Jonathan’s was never taken care of. Over the Christmas Break, he was picked up in a sweep of a Florida bus station on his way to visit his mother. Though he is within a year of completing his degree and is a Christian leader on our campus, he could very well be sent back to a country that hasn’t been his home for almost a decade.

  2. John Simmons says:

    And now for the other side of the coin!!!

    I used to own a condo in a largely hispanic CA city. When I first bought it, the place had 142 units in it of which about half were caucasian, and the rest were equally divided between Hispanic, Asian, and black. When I finally managed to sell the place and move out, it had gone to having two black families, one caucasian family, and an Asian family that was hardly ever seen! I lived there for 11 years give or take. In that time I watched the place transform from being a decent place to live, to a crime infested trash heap! You know why? Because it became filled with illegals! At one time the unit right behind mine, (Same two bedroom floor plan.), had 20 people, mostly young men, living in it! They’d divided the rooms up stairs and down with plywood to make “sleeping cells”, had unventilated hot plates in the hallways to cook on, and a washing machine in the back yard that drained into a gravel filled hole in the ground! The open common areas used to be nicely kept but started having the plants all killed by the kids running through them,. There began to be beer cans left on the lawns, old tires and transmissions and engine parts in what was left of the flower beds, and used diapers left all over the place! The carport areas started smelling strongly of urine! At one board meeting a man who needed and interpreter wanted to know why he was being fined for urinating in the bushes! Another wanted to know what his less than two year old son couldn’t walk around the parking lot unattended! I’ve seen what happens when illeglas become prevalent in an area. There were kids as old as 6 and 7 years old there that I know were born here, and they spoke NO english at all! They didn’t have to because bilingual education was the rule in those days. What a crock!

    We never had a crime problem in that complex until the illegals moved in and became the majority of renters in what used to be a predominantly “owned unit” complex! (There were Mexican property speculators who bought most of the units and then rented them to the illegals!) Shortly after they did so in larger numbers, I had three different vehicles broken into a total of 5 times, and my condo burglarized once, all in a year and a half! Even when there were people right next to the vehicles only 25′ away nobody saw anything! Even though my sliding glass door must have made a helluva noise when it was kicked in, none of my nice illegal neighbors heard a damn thing!

    This is a much more common reality with illegal immigration than the sob stories you have listed above. And you want to know why people don’t want them here! SHEESH!

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