Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took
care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. Matthew 25: 34-35

The WDC Immigration Task Force reminds us that our vote in the national election represents a voice for those who cannot vote. Please consider the following thumbnail comparison between the two presidential candidates in the election of 2020 on immigration policy, asylum and deportation.

BIDEN:

  • Reverse current policies: stop construction of border wall, eliminate the practice of separating families at the U.S. border, and end current bans on people from certain Muslim-majority countries traveling to the U.S.
  • Reverse current restrictions toward granting asylum and temporary protected status and raise the cap on the number of refugees brought into the country to 125,000 per year.
  • Make Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, permanent on first day of presidency.
  • Hold Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) as well as Customs and Border Protection accountable
    for inhumane treatment.
  • Modernize immigration infrastructure: send legislation to Congress that would offer a pathway to citizenship for the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the country.
  • Call for a moratorium on deportations during the first 100 days of his administration. Then, focus on those with criminal convictions and improve case management.
  • Make both permanent and temporary work visas more accessible.
    Propose initiatives for supporting immigrants living in the U.S. for resources on accessible health care, education, and employment.

TRUMP:

  • Build on foundation set in first term and current policies:
    • continue construction of the border wall;
    • restrict immigration;
    • oppose so-called sanctuary cities, where local law enforcement has limited coordination with federal immigration officials.
  • End human trafficking and remove ‘non-citizen gang members’ from the country (without details)
  • Continue to tighten regulations on legal immigration and international work travel to the U.S. by limiting the distribution of visas with the rationale of boosting American employment
  • Limit the number of people allowed to successfully obtain asylum in the U.S.

(report by NPR White House reporter Ayesha Rascoe and political correspondent Asma Khalid)

 

FROM WDC IMMIGRATION TASK FORCE:

The WDC Immigration Task Force offers a series of  memos for reflections during September and October, mindful of immigrants among us without a voice this election season, seeking to make visible what is invisible with regard to immigrant lives and immigration issues.  Each brief reflection will be introduced in WDC’s weekly Sprouts and offered in full length on the immigration issues website:  mennoniteswithoutborders.org/resources

  1. “Rethinking the Migration Narrative” Raylene Hinz-Penner
  2. “Biblical Stories of Migration,” referencing Danny Carroll’s recent presentations to the WDC Assembly; Kathy Neufeld Dunn
  3. “Positions on Immigration Issues of the 2020 U.S. Presidential Candidates;” Pat Cameron
  4. “Voices of Our Immigrant Brothers and Sisters.”                                                                

Rethinking the Migration Narrative:  Science journalist Sonia Shah’s 2020 book titled The Next Great Migration dives into deep time to remind us that migration is not a crime.  Migration is the way of existence, completely natural and intuitive, indeed, healthy and necessary among all plants, animals and humans. Migration is encoded in human bodies, just as it is in any wild species, according to Shah’s research.  When did we begin to demonize the human act of moving? When did we begin believing the impossible to explain by any single cause movement of peoples exceptional or problematic?

Shah demonstrates that the more relevant question for humankind today is what are we going to do about the global movement of peoples?  We need a creative alternative to the building of walls to blockade the movements of over 4 billion people around the world.  Walls never work.  The very forces of nature tear them down. Creative and desperate people, animals, and insects fly over them, scale them, dig beneath them, or slip between the rungs. 

Anyone who looks through the massive and expensive construction of a 30-foot “fence” between Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieto, Mexico can see that the arroyos gather debris to float during the next gully washing rain and tear down the barrier if it were not for the constant care and maintenance necessary to clean out beneath the metal fence and quickly open the gates for the water and debris to sweep through.  “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,” says the natural world (and Robert Frost).  And, in the U.S. and around the world, fences only deflect and redirect the movement of people, plants and animals; such humanmade constructions do not stop that movement! 

Environmentalists work hard to offer safe passage to endangered species by building green corridors as assistance for migrating animals.  Shah imagines that nations and communities might have the compassion to offer the same for people:  “It is possible to envision a world in which people, too, safely move across the landscape. . . . so that migration can become more regular and orderly . . . safe, dignified, humane.”

Shah’s argument is that humanity must refuse to criminalize a natural act and instead, think creatively about how to assist the movement of peoples the earth over, as environmentalists assist endangered species.  “If we were to accept migration as integral to life on a dynamic planet with shifting and unevenly distributed resources, there are any number of ways we could proceed. . . . We can continue to think of this as a catastrophe.  Or we can reclaim our history of migration and our place in nature as migrants like the butterflies and the birds.  We can turn migration from a crisis into its opposite:  the solution.”

By: Anali Looper

The months since the COVID-19 outbreak began have been trying for all of us. But for the thousands of people locked in immigration detention centers, trying doesn’t even begin to describe the situation. As a nonprofit immigration attorney in central Texas, I work inside detention centers helping people apply for asylum and other immigration benefits, and I can tell you that even before COVID-19 health care inside these facilities was suspect at best. Early this year one of my colleagues told me she spoke with a detained man who explained how he’d had to use a shoelace as a makeshift catheter because he was unable to get adequate healthcare. Even inhalers or widely available medications are sometimes withheld from those detained.

 

Since March we haven’t been allowed into the local immigration detention center, but we’re still able to communicate with those inside and what we’ve heard is truly disturbing. We’ve received reports that those being “quarantined” with COVID-19 have been held in the same cells with those who aren’t sick, putting them in mortal danger. Though federal courts have encouraged detention centers to release those detainees with preexisting conditions that make them especially susceptible to COVID-19, we have continually seen parole requests denied for people who fit that description. Several times individuals who weren’t granted parole were then transferred to another detention center where their preexisting conditions led those deportation officers to immediately grant their release. Unfortunately, several of these individuals were already seriously ill. 

 

In another instance, a man with critically serious heart problems had been detained for nearly a year. The facility refused to release him until he was so ill that he had to be rushed to the ER. The attending doctor told the detention center staff in no uncertain terms that the man would die either from COVID-19 or his untreated heart condition if they did not release him immediately. They put him on a bus the next day, showing that their reputation and potential liability were the only factors that mattered.

 

Though a detainee’s flight risk, connections to the community, likelihood of immigration relief, and health conditions should be the factors considered in a parole determination, it’s clear that for the facility—which had empty beds but a contract to fill with a private prison company—finances trumped the very lives of the men detained.

 

It’s worth remembering that there is no law requiring asylum seekers to be held in detention at all, let alone during a worldwide pandemic. Please remember as you head to the ballot box this November that we desperately need more humane immigration policies that welcome our immigrant brothers and sisters instead of placing them in greater danger when they arrive in our country.

 

Your VOTE Matters to “US”

My name is Miriam Avalos-Cerda, I am 23 years old and my parents came to the U.S. when I was 3 months old.   In 2012, I qualified to apply for the DACA status and I became a DREAMER.  This status changed my life because I did not have to live in fear of being stopped by law enforcement (randomly) to be deported to a country I did not know.   This also opened a way for me to work with a social security number and not have to work cleaning houses or as a nanny with my mother.  And the thing I am most grateful for is being able to continue my education to get a career to help my parents.

Since 2016, the uncertainty of my status has weighed heavily on my life and the life of my family.  We have a government that has made some immigration law decisions that leave “US” with so much uncertainty.  When I say “US” who am I referring to?  “US” refers to the immigrants that work and live in hiding, without a VOTE that matters and affects our lives.  “US” means the taxpayers who contribute to the United States economy just like the citizens of this country.   “US” refers to the people who can be detained and deported for no apparent reason and lose everything that we have worked hard for all our lives.  Congress and the President have failed to make immigration laws that are fair and just for immigrants that live here in the United States without a pathway to work legally and eventually obtain citizenship. 

As I continue to learn about the history and government of the United States, one question that lingers is, how did this Great Country – the Land of Opportunity – become a land of envy, confusion, and hatred.   I remember in elementary school being taught about the pilgrims (the first immigrants – illegal aliens) arriving here and being welcomed by Native Americans and sharing the hospitality of a meal together.   Now pilgrims/immigrants are referred to as illegal aliens, wetbacks, undocumented, etc.; yet back then the government made laws to support migration that stole land and oppressed Natives.  The United States has not made significant positive changes to immigration laws over 100 years. 

Don’t you think it’s time for positive change?  For true Immigration Reform?

How can you help “US”?  Go out and exercise YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE!  But first do your research – but good and credible research. Don’t just believe what you hear on the news or social media.  Rather read books, listen to podcasts from credible and worthy reporting.  Educate yourself on your candidates and then GET OUT & VOTE.   I implore you to support “US” with your VOTE during this election season.

#VOTE2020

Migration in Scripture:  A Metaphor for Faith and More

Summary of Danny Carroll R’s Annual Assembly Keynote Address and Sermon

 

July 31-August 1, 2020

Kathy Neufeld Dunn

 

          As people of God’s word, we do ourselves and others a disservice when we try to start a conversation about immigration with politics.  While immigration justice, including health care for migrants, family reunification, and immigration legal reform are all very important, we need to find common ground.  Our common ground is scripture.  What about Romans 13 that we have to obey those who govern?  This is a valid text to discuss, but what about all of the other scriptural wisdom that comes before it?  It’s better to begin where the bible begins, with every person described as created in the image of God—with inherent worth and with the potential to do immense good in partnership with God.

          Migration is so important and common a phenomenon that it’s described again and again in scripture.  Already in Genesis we read many migration stories. Abram and Sarai’s journey (before they became known as Abraham and Sarah) includes the account of her being asked to “put her body on the line,” as Carroll noted.  At an Egyptian border checkpoint, Abram tells Sarai to protect him. “If they ask, tell them you’re my sister” (Gen. 12.13).  Joseph’s story is one of forced migration because his jealous brothers sold him into slavery.  Later, when there’s a famine in his brothers’ home country, they migrate to Egypt where there is food available.  Joseph, with God’s provision, has moved from slave to Pharoah’s second-in-command.  Joseph pretends he does not understand his brothers’ “strange language.”  It’s clear that Joseph has assimilated into Egyptian culture, because his brothers do not recognize him at all, while he recognizes them instantly, and withdraws to weep alone.  In another migrant story, Hebrews Naomi and her sons immigrate to Moab, again because of famine.  In that foreign country they find adequate food, so they decide to stay and make a life there.  They ultimately marry local women, then die in Moab. When Naomi’s sons die, she decides to return to her home country.  One of her daughters-in-law, Ruth, insists on going with her. Ruth, a foreigner, ultimately becomes part of the lineage of Jesus.  Let’s not forget that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fled to Egypt because Herod, the ruler in their home country, was seeking Jesus to kill him.  Other male toddlers were killed as the soldiers searched for “the king of the Jews.”  Immigrant stories in scripture echo the same themes about why people move across borders today—the need for safety and security, whether it is for personal safety or the security of adequate supplies of food and clean water or other basics of life.

          The Hebrew scriptures, or Old Testament, is not just full of migrant stories.  It is also full of laws on behalf of immigrant rights.  Read through Leviticus and Deuteronomy for the breadth of these laws which were unique in the ancient world.  Here are just a handful of examples:  Migrant workers were to be paid their wages on time (Deut 24.14-15). God’s people were not to “mistreat or oppress aliens” (Jer. 22.4) Foreigners who joined God’s people should be allowed the same access to worship Yahweh (Is 56.3).  In general, the same laws applied to native-born and immigrants (Ex 12.49).

          Why were these unique laws created in ancient times?  In response to historic memory. 

33 “Do not mistreat foreigners who are living in your land. 34 Treat them as you would an Israelite, and love them as you love yourselves. Remember that you were once foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God (Lev 19.33-34). 

Bottom line:  Love the foreigner, because God does.

          Migration is such a key biblical concept that one writer even used migration as a metaphor for following Jesus. 

11 Dear friends, you are like foreigners and strangers in this world. I beg you to avoid the evil things your bodies want to do that fight against your soul. 12 People who do not believe are living all around you and might say that you are doing wrong. Live such good lives that they will see the good things you do and will give glory to God on the day when Christ comes again. (1 Peter 2.11-12)

          Lastly, Paul mobilized a team of diaspora or immigrant Jews as his primary sharers of the gospel.  The church’s earliest missionaries were immigrants. 

          God loves immigrants very much and even uses the image of being a migrant as a metaphor for our faith journey.  Because God loves the immigrant and the stranger, we are called to, also.  This message rings throughout scripture again and again.  Let this be our starting point and our common ground as followers of Jesus.

 

 

Resources on Mental Health and Self-Care

 

En Espanol:

 

 

 

In English:

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • Shepherd Heart offers consulting and care for ministers. Executive Director Melissa Hofstetter is clinical psychologist and ordained Mennonite pastor based in Pacific Southwest Mennonite Conference. See https://www.shepherdheartconsulting.com/

 

 

                                                                             

 

 

800.950.6264:  Mon. – Fri., 10a.m. – 6 p.m. NAMI provides treatment options & programs, raising awareness; providing support & education not previously available to those in need.

 

MCC invites you to a free six-part webinar series on immigration and border realities. Join MCC staff and partners in the field who will provide insight into the current reality of the U.S. immigration and border crisis. We will seek to understand in a comprehensive way the complexities along the southern U.S. border, the sister communities affected by it and the different ongoing narratives about migration. Explore the role we in faith-based communities can play to witness, provide support, raise awareness and advocate for the most vulnerable.  Interpretación al Español Disponible.

https://mcc.org/immigration-webinar-series