Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My DREAM for Change

The DREAM Act. What is it, officially? It's a Bi-partisan piece of legislation that would provide paths to citizenship for young people who meet a specific list of requirements. What is it to the thousands of undocumented youth working their butts off with little to no payoff? It means a future. It means opportunity. It means hope.

Let me break it down for you.

Over the last 2 decades, when migrating to the US became the response to poverty and oppression in Mexico and Central America (other places too, but most undocumented immigrants are from this region), parents would uproot their entire family and make the difficult journey here. Many of the children were very young. Upon settling in the US, parents would enroll their children in school and they would begin their pursuit of the American dream. These children grew up, learned English, assimilated to American culture and slowly detached from their home country. Their memories of their life in Mexico, Honduras, El Salvador became few and far between. They said our pledge of allegiance at school, learned about our government on the news, were entertained and integrated into our pop culture, and sang our national anthem at sporting events.

They were becoming American in every way except on paper.

Many didn't even know they were "Illegal" until they noticed all their friends getting driver's licences or applying for part time jobs and asked their parents why they couldn't do the same. And after high school? Well many of these students went on to college, working as babysitters, house cleaners, tutors, construction workers, painters, gardeners just trying to pay the ever growing fees for tuition and books. Many did not make it past the first year in college. Some gave up on their education because it was just too difficult. Others were left with little options, forced to work more and study less until they stopped classes altogether.

But some made it through.

Some toughed it out and found an inner strength that can only be understood when witnessed first hand. Those that graduated with their BA, their masters or even their PhD, defeated all odds and got through college with NO LOANS, NO FEDERAL FINANCIAL AID, NO WORK STUDY, and in some cases NO IN-STATE TUITION.

Now what do we, as a responsible country, do with these nurses, doctors, lawyers, teachers, and engineers who are not able to put into practice the education they worked so hard for? Even more importantly, what do we, as a community of Christ followers, do with the dreams of thousands who wait in limbo? I only see 3 options.

1. Deport them all.

2. Let the status quo remain.

3. Create paths to citizenship.

I don't think Jesus is for mass deportation. The group of people we are talking about are innocent. They did not chose to break the law in coming here. They have worked hard and want to be apart of this country. In many cases, they do not know or remember much of their home country. Would it really be right to rip them away from everything they know and send them back to a place that really is foreign to them? I look at scripture and who Jesus is and I can not seem to reconcile this option with my faith. I'm really not sure how anyone could.

The status quo does not work. We have thousands of people living life in limbo who have little to no rights. I'm not sure about your Jesus, but mine is not ok with that! He is the defender of the weak. He stands up for the oppressed. He calls the Church to do the same. I can't settle for sitting back and doing nothing while so many are suffering. My faith won't allow it.

So this brings us to the 3rd option. What if we created a comprehensive path to citizenship for these young people? What if we invited these determined, hard working, intelligent, good people to come out of the shadows and live in their full potential? This is exactly what the DREAM Act would do. It is not amnesty, rather a way for deserving young people to earn their legalization. This is more than a piece of legislation. This is the future of countless young people. We need to do what's right.

Now let me take a minute to address the critics. There are far too many lies and misconceptions going around about the DREAM Act. It is my opinion that most of these false statements are rooted in one of two things: fear or entitlement. Many are afraid of what this might do. They are afraid it would encourage future illegal migration. They are afraid these students, once given citizenship, will then sponsor their families to become citizens, and so on and so forth. They are afraid it will cost too much money...the list of fears could go on and on. Many also feel entitled to their rights and privileges as American's, which means there has to be someone who is NOT entitled. They say things like, "Well what if they take the spot of an American citizen student in a university that is already difficult to get into?" of "Those are MY tax dollars, why should someone else benefit from that?" The attitude is that these undocumented students are less deserving of rights than American born students are. I would be very careful about this mentality...it is pretty blatantly anti Jesus.

Besides, there is very little legitimacy to these statements of fear and entitlement. I could write for days about all the myths out there and address just about every single one with factual statements proving this really is the only option for our country. You can find some of that here.

I, however, am more concerned with the day we all meet Jesus and when He asks us if we loved the stranger and looked after the poor. I want to be able to humbly look Him in the eyes and thank Him for who He made me through this fight. I want to praise Him for allowing me to know Him better through my feeble attempts at loving the stranger and taking care of the orphan and the widow. I want my brothers and sisters to be able to do the same.

We all need to be a lot less concerned with the impacts on us as Americans and focus our energy on being administrators of His justice, grace and love.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Prayers and Conversations from the Day of prayer

Just over a month ago, on a conference call on immigration, someone said: “we need to pray.” We don’t just need to plan right now, but we need to pray often and pray well. We need to fast. After a somewhat discouraging season in congress, we were disappointed. We met with Senators and congressional representatives in Washington, DC and in their home offices. Some of us heard encouraging word of agreement; we were disappointed by a lack of leadership. A congressman told one of our colleagues that it was Christian acts of kindness and charity that encouraged immigrants to come and stay without authorization. We were disappointed by slander even though it was too ridiculous to be plausible. We need to pray.  We marked November 16 so we could deliberately set aside a whole day to pray. And, invite other to join us.

In the morning I prayed with a group of youth leaders and pastor trainees who are immigrants and born of immigrant parents. We prayed: SeƱor Jesucristo, oramos por la iglesia Americana. Lord we pray for the American church that you would soften their hearts to move the government to change policy. We pray for reconciliation.

One student said: I was born 20 years ago; my mom came to this country 21 years ago and has been without papers ever since. She chose to come here for a better life for her family and herself. She would have come with papers, if only there was a way.

Lord we’ve been isolated too long. We pray for reconciliation between the immigrant church and the rest of the church. Teach us to love one another. Give us friendships through our relationship with you.

Lord, it doesn’t have to be this way, stir the hearts of your church, and members of congress, and senators, and the president.

At noon a very different group, a student, pastors, an attorney, a teacher met in a suburban church to pray.

“We pray for those not here, the invisible: hiding where they work in restaurants or hotels, picking our crops in the fields, or on the campus of UCLA as students excelling in their studies.”

“Lord, let our hearts be broken for what breaks yours because these issues that continually hurt YOUR people … break your heart.”

“Those of us who are old enough to remember the civil rights movement of the 1960’s know that much of the white evangelical church was on the wrong side of the issue then. We pray that we think more openly in this decade about justice for the immigrants and people who labor here.”

“I grew up in a church where everyone looked the same and thought the same. I had to learn and then experienced that God loves many kinds of people. People with light skin and dark skin; people who speak English and those who do not; people born in my country and those who came here of their own choice, with or without authorization.”

Together we sang the words of this song, and we danced upon injustice.
“Did you feel the darkness tremble, when the saints join in one song?
And the streams flow as one river, to wash away our brokenness.
And we can see that God you’re moving, A time of jubilee is coming
And young and old will turn to Jesus, fling wide you heavenly gates
Prepare the way of the risen Lord
Let the streets resound with singing
Songs that bring Your hope, songs that bring Your joy 
Dancers who dance upon injustice”

~Did You Feel The Mountains Tremble, Martin Smith & Matt Redman

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Prayer for Compassionate Immigration Reform

Lord, we cry out on behalf
Of immigrants throughout our land.
Dispel the myths. Squelch the lies.
Move in the hearts of Americans.
Open eyes to the complexity.
Turn hearts to compassion.

Lord, I pray for progress.
We depend on you for change.
You, the creator of all mankind,
the author of dignity,
the source of love,
help us encourage others to truly see
the neighbor, the stranger,
the power of love over law.

Protect the activists and advocates.
Give them wisdom and strength.
Grant them access to decision makers.
Bless them with love for those who disagree,
Yet quiet the organizations
that divide and destroy.

Help us be patient in the waiting,
Focused on the value,
Kind in our approach,
As we make others aware,
Challenge others to change,
And invite the country to
A renewed perspective, an
American foundational truth.

Please bring reform that keeps families together,
Provides a reasonable path to citizenship,
Grant grace to the good workers,
And most of all, Lord,
Please push the Dream Act
Into action on behalf of our
Immigrant students.

We do not know how you will act.
We come expectantly.
This is the day.
This is the time.
We, the church, must walk on
seeking You
To move mightily for justice.

by Cindi Peterson

Cindi is a writer, educator, and student advocate in Southern California. She is passionate about the Dream Act, the issues of human trafficking, and economic disparity. She leads Women Against Global Hunger http://womenagainstglobalhunger.blogspot.com/ and blogs at Seeds and Sensibility.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

National Day of Prayer & Fasting for Immigration

On November 16th, 2010, Christians from across the nation are uniting in prayer and fasting for our broken Immigration system.  If you want to join and commit that day to prayer and fasting SIGN THE PLEDGE HERE!

In Orange County, we will be gathering in the evening to break the fast and come before the Lord in community.  We will hear stories of Immigrants, learn how our broken system is devastating the lives of millions, and learn how the Bible is directing us to respond.  It will be a powerful night that you won't want to miss.  If you are local and want to join us RSVP HERE!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

My Purple Prayer Bead

There is a large, purple bead by my bed. It was given to me by a 7 year old and it reminds to pray for all of the girls at the shelter.

Tonight, at the shelter, I met a 15 year old girl. This 15 year old was arrested when her youth leader was pulled over (without breaking any traffic laws) while driving her and other students home from youth group. When asked to show ID, the undocumented youth leader could not so the officer preceded to check the IDs of all in the car. Those without proper documentation were apprehended, including this 15 year old. The youth leader was deported and this 15 year old sent to the shelter. She actually praises God that she is in the shelter because she feels she is there for a reason. This 15 year old feels a calling on her life to love those who do not feel loved. She has found joy in the ugliest of situations and is trying to share that joy with the other girls. She is sharing that joy with her new friend, a 14 year old who also lives at the shelter.

This 14 year old is a mom to an almost 2 year old with special needs. She was repeatedly raped and became pregnant at the age of 11. This 14 year old has come to the realization that she is not capable of parenting her son at this time and so has agreed to let him go live with a foster family while she continues to work on her issues and prepare herself to be the mom she wants to be. She has made an extremely difficult and selfless decision. Fortunately, she has found support, purpose, and friendship in a little 7 year old.

Self proclaimed "best friend" of the 14 year old, this 7 year old has managed to create family amongst a bunch of broken, lonely teenage girls. She can make anyone smile and although she misses her parents very much, this 7 year old is very concerned with how the other girls are doing. She sits through our Friday night Bible studies aimed towards teenagers, I think, because she wants to ask for prayer at the end. She wants prayer for all the girls and their cases. She doesn't have much of anything, but she had a purple bead and she told me that she really wanted me to have it.

Three incredible girls that are no doubt changing my life. I believe we need these girls to teach us about Jesus' unending joy and peace, boldness in Christ, selflessness, grace, community, and the power of prayer.

I pray we do not deport them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Upside Down

Since today marks the date in which the controversial SB 1070 law is set to go into effect, I thought I would share some thoughts about this heated debate.

When this law was first brought to the public's attention a couple months back, I decided I better read the whole thing to see what it really said. I also read a lot of commentary on the law, from both sides of the debate. I was, and still am opposed to this law. As I read the law, I felt like I was reading something from World War 2 or even something similar to the Jim Crow Laws. I don't mean to over dramatize it, and I realize the injustice that most immigrants deal with in our country is not comparable to the Holocaust or slavery, but what is comparable is the blatant hatred for another people group. The language used in the law and also by the Arizona Governor and other officials supporting the law is plain dehumanizing. If you look or talk like an immigrant and don't have your proof of citizenship on you at all times, you are breaking the law. If you are undocumented and simply look for a job in order to feed your family, you are breaking the law. If you give a ride to an undocumented friend, you are breaking the law (If this law applied to California, I would technically be breaking this portion of the law just about every week!) I just don't think this is how God would have us handle the issue. Thankfully, most of the harsher parts of this law were blocked by a federal judge, but it still leads me to think deeply about what is happening.

As an activist for God's Kingdom, my constant thought is, "What is the Church's role in all of this?" When I look at scripture and how Christ interacted with people, I can't help but think that we can do better than this. I also find myself asking the question, "If God's Kingdom is upside down...what does this mean for us, right here, right now?"
I get it. Terrorism is scary. Unemployment is scary. Change is scary. People that don't look or talk like us can be scary. Poor neighborhoods are scary. But what if we threw out our rights as Americans and embraced the rights Christ has given to all of us: the right to live free, the right to love and be loved, the right to lay our lives down for a friend. What if we put other people before ourselves? What if we put, dare I say it, Illegal Immigrants before ourselves? I think this issue is difficult for so many people because if you look at it from a purely American perspective your conclusion will be something along the lines of, "They are breaking our laws. They are taking our jobs. They are taking our healthcare. They are taking our tax money." Very self centered, to say the least. But even if this was all true (which there are countless studies to show that these statements are not completely accurate), what would happen if we took our American glasses off and looked through a Scriptural lens. If we took serious the scripture that asks us to humble ourselves, share all we have with those in need, lose our lives in order to gain it, welcome the stranger, love ALL people as Christ loved us...then how would this change our perspective? How would we look at our tax money, our jobs, our health care? God's Kingdom is upside down. So why do we think we are entitled to more rights, opportunities and benefits than those who were born somewhere else, just because the kingdom of the world tells us we are? Some of you might be thinking, "But what about the scripture that tells us to follow the laws of the land." Yes, I think it is important to be law abiding people, when appropriate and when possible. But friends, Jesus broke the "law of the land"...so did Paul, Timothy, and most of the people from the New Testament. When it comes to people's survival vs. laws that do not align with God's justice, I think there is plenty of grace for those who chose to survive. I think God is calling us to extend that grace to our undocumented brothers and sisters. If you were in their place, wouldn't you want the same?

I think about a guy from the shelter I work at who was forced to smuggle drugs across the border and on his eighteenth birthday, ICE came to his foster home and arrested him. I think about my friend from my neighborhood who was brought here as a young child because his parents were desperate to make a better life for their family, and now he is an adult with virtually no rights. I think about the family who was just torn apart because of an unlawful raid that took place at a factory in Fullerton. I think about a friend who was abandoned in his home country by his parents, brought here legally to live with an adopted family, and is now out of status because his school did not file the correct form. I think about every single person who lives in the tension of should I do what is "lawful" or should I do what I have to do to survive.

Then I think about how we have responded to these people.

Church, we can do better. We can love these people better.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Meet Julie and Natalie

Julie, 7, and Natalie, 3, are our neighbors that live directly behind us. For some reason, they have decided they like coming to our house. I'm not exactly sure why, we have nothing that I would consider appealing to a 3 and 7 year old, but they come...almost daily. Because of this and the history we have with the family over the past few years, we have gotten to know their story quite intimately. Natalie, Julie, and their older brother, Jose Luis, were all born here to their American citizen dad and their non-citizen, Mexican born mom.

When their parents were first married, the couple sought to legalize the status of the new bride. It seemed like a no brainer; if you marry an American citizen, you should get your papers. Unfortunately, this is not as true or as easy as it used to be. When the couple was first married, she was told to go back to her country in order to return legally. As she left the US, thinking she was doing everything right, her leave was incorrectly marked as a deportation, even though this was not what she was told. For those of you that know anything about Immigration you know that a deportation on your record basically means you are blacklisted from the US and it makes it practically impossible to ever receive residency or citizenship. In order to be with her husband and ensure her future children would have opportunities as American citizens, she crossed the border and started their family.

Fast forward to today. After thousands of dollars spent on lawyers and years of struggling through the difficult choice of "follow the laws of the land" or be with your children, the family has found themselves in a tough spot. Their mom has returned to Mexico to try and legalize her status once again, but was told she must "wait in line" at least 10 years before she can legally return to the US. 10 years. Her kids will be 13, 17, and 22. The thought of a mother being away from her children for 10 years is unfathomable. As just a friend, I personally can't imagine missing these children grow up, so to think what it must be like for their mom daily breaks my heart. The kids often talk about their mom and how much they miss her. After they leave our house, I usually have one of two responses to our time with them: I will sit and cry or I get on a soap box and begin preaching to the choir (my husband) about how injustice is alive and well...and then I sit and cry. I feel so helpless; so hopeless. All I can do is love them like crazy while they are in our home, tell their story and fight for reform.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Balance of Law and Love on Immigration

I re-worked my review of Welcoming the Stranger for Amazon. It is posted there are ready for you to read and comment. Be sure to click on "yes" if you found the review helpful.

[Link above is fixed.]

Hopefully you'll find this book dangerous and even life changing.