D.L. Mayfield

living in the upside-down kingdom

Filtering by Tag: myths

Lent 2017: At the Border of Jesus and the Law (Interview)

Lent 2017: At the Border of Jesus and the Law (Interview)

The following is an interview between my good friend (and neighbor) Lindsey Boulais and her co-worker Nancy. After serving in the Philippines for several years, Nancy moved into a low-income immigrant community in Central California. For more than a decade, she has worked alongside her neighbors to see change come in their lives and in their neighborhood. 
 

LB: What do you wish people knew about those who are undocumented?   

ND: So much! Basically I wish people knew that so much of what they hear are really myths and not the truth. For example, there is no "line" for legal immigration to get in. Also, undocumented neighbors pay taxes, contribute to our culture and society in their food, businesses, educated minds, etc. There is a long list printed somewhere of the myths about those who are undocumented. I wish people recognized that most of their negative beliefs are really myths. Also, I wish people realized that most undocumented neighbors do not want to cross the border because they are in love with America, but because they want to feed their family and keep their family safe. Hunger and violence do a lot to propel people across the border. It is not out of a desire to live in America. The youth I know who came over as very little children did not want to leave their grandparents, did not want to leave their dog or friends. They had to come.  

 

What have you learned about God through being in relationship with immigrants? 

I think I have learned that God is way more gracious than we are. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the places where we start this discussion. If we start on the side of the law, we end up with one conclusion. If we start on the side of humanity, we end up somewhere else. I think God is on the side of humanity. In the garden of Eden, Adam and Eve clearly broke the law. There wasn’t immediate banishment or eviction. There was relationship first. God still went to the garden in the cool of the evening to look for them and walk with them. He listened to their story first! He provided clothes for them that would last longer than the leaves they had sown together, and then there was the consequences and the removal from the garden. Also if you look at Jesus, he always stood on the side of the person versus the side of the law. He healed on the Sabbath, he stood with the woman caught in adultery. This isn’t to say that we dismiss the law, but we look at it from a more humane side. I could say a LOT more on this . . .  

 

Immigration is a complicated process. What are some of the barriers facing immigrants applying to the US?  

It is super complicated and I don’t know everything. However, I do know that money is often a huge barrier. People fleeing poverty have to pay a lot of money to a coyote to cross the border and then when they get here finding work can be difficult and most continue to live in poverty for at least a generation or more. Finding money for the legal process is hard.  A friend of mine was working through the DACA process, there was lots of paperwork that had to be submitted, creative ways to prove she was here in the US after she graduated high school but couldn’t work. Paper work, time, energy, money, ability to face disappointment and setbacks and keep going.  

There is just absolutely no legal way for most people I know. I have 2 good friends and both came to America as children, one from Mexico and one as a refugee from another country. Both as youth got into legal trouble with gangs and prison time. Both have come to know and love Jesus. Both serve in full-time ministry doing amazing things I could never do. Both are married with children and have stable lives and bless our city in ways too numerous to mention. Both are on the list for deportation. Both have sought out legal counsel with immigration lawyers and criminal lawyers. Both have been told there is nothing they can legally do to fix their situations (each for different but super complicated reasons - but basically there is just no way for either of them). So they continue to live and thrive and work for the peace of our city, and we pray against their deportation. 

 

What happens when someone is deported? 

It is horrible! As soon as someone gets caught by border patrol crossing over or by ICE they get thrown in a detention center which is literally a prison. Most will go before a judge for a trial to hear their case. A friend of mine called the trial a "charade of justice." Based on the judge and the court, they could be put back in the prison, (I mean detention center,) for a month or for two years. Most of the detention centers are for-profit, so there is a lot of motivation to keep the beds filled ($160/bed/day)! When they get deported they are released on the Mexico side of the border. They have nothing or mostly nothing with them. They feel like failures. They were not able to provide for their families in their own city or country of origin and couldn’t get work in America.  It is really hard.  

 

Nancy at a portion of the wall that has already been constructed

Nancy at a portion of the wall that has already been constructed

 

(note from DL): I'm grateful for Nancy and her honest assessments of what she sees going on around her. This season I have learned so much about the ignorance that most of America has when it comes to the situations, circumstances, and sufferings of our neighbors who are undocumented (and the lack of options available to them to become legal citizens). I will be thinking about Nancy's answers for a good long while, and I hope you do too.

 

About the interviewer:

Lindsey Boulais is passionate about Christ, His heart for the marginalized and how the church can get involved. Living and working in a low-income community in Portland, Oregon, you can find her losing in UNO to the neighborhood kids, drinking too much tea with Afghan refugees or stealing away to read. Follow her at lindseywithlove.wordpress.com or on Twitter and Instagram at @lindsey_boulais

 

Lent 2017: Myths

To be honest, I feel overwhelmed at the task of learning about and sharing information on undocumented neighbors in the US. There is so much to learn. It is all very complicated. There are very large and very pervasive lies that are spread in order to increase fear and discrimination. It is clear that there is no one article I can point you to to convince you of anything; instead I just think about how there are millions and millions of stories, and each is so very different and unique.

So perhaps we should start with some myths about immigration. I think probably the most common response to undocumented immigrants is: why didn't they just do it the legal way? But to be perfectly honest, at this point I feel like if someone is asking that question, then they probably do not want to know the real answer. Because the truth is, there are very few paths to citizenship for people from Mexico and other countries, and there are not even nearly enough temporary visas. Why is this? I don't have all the answers, but from all of my reading it seems clear that our economy is one that thrives on the shadows created by an immigration system that is inherently broken, unjust, and only enforced sporadically.

It is unjust in that it only creates a few legal pathways for visas (and fewer still for citizenship) and yet depends on the labor of so many migrant workers. By only enforcing the laws (deporting people) sporadically, it makes examples of a few in order to keep everyone else without proper documentation living and working in fear. This means employers can threaten deportation while paying people poverty wages in horrific conditions, essentially meaning that many of our warehouses, factories, restaurants, and fields are filled with workers submitting to multiple human rights violations in order to make our economy run. My life, my food, my neighborhood, is built on suffering. And yet here we are, enjoying the fruits of underpaid labor, all the while vilifying the people who are working the hardest. 

Of course, another myth centers around crime. Why would we let all these violent people into our country? This is the message we have gotten from our President, and countless others. To be sure, there are violent offenders and people involved in criminal behavior who are unauthorized immigrants. But the percentage (3%) is lower than that of the average US citizen (6%). So it's not really about crime. It's about demonizing an entire group of people in order to gain political power, which is sadly one of the oldest plays in the book. Are we paying attention?

There are other myths, and perhaps we will get to them on another day. But the bigger myth I want to talk about is the one that continually gets shattered in front of my eyes: it is the myth that America is a land of opportunity for immigrants, a place where life, liberty, and the pursuit of a small scrap of happiness is available for anyone. The more you dig deep, however, the more you realize that this does not happen for most. America works out pretty well if you are white and if you have money and are from a Christian background (it also helps if you are male). Beyond that, things start to get very messy, 

Here's the truth: we have closed our doors to the vast majority of people seeking a way out of poverty, war, and famine. We capitalize on fear and monetize it. The people who cook our food sometimes don't have enough to eat themselves, and we don't know this because we live and operate in completely separate worlds. America is not a great nation, and it never ever was. It has always been a mess, full of promise and ideals and yet also built on the backs of dehumanization and exploitation the likes of which history has never seen. 

This is the myth that is the hardest for me to deal with. This is the myth I will have to spend the rest of my life coming to terms with. This myth is slowly being revealed in front of all the world for the lie that it always has been. Is this a silver lining? That seems too bright of a phrase for it. All I can do is pray along with the author of Isaiah 58:

"And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
    you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
    the restorer of streets to dwell in."

I pray that one day, our foundations might be full of justice, instead of inequality. That we might honor those who work and live and raise families in our country, instead of oppressing and exploiting them, all the while claiming that God is on our side. 

 

 

 

 

Resources/Notes:

 

Here's one woman's personal story of being an undocumented immigrant. 

Here's a website which talks about the complexities regarding the elusive (and fictional) "line" that people can get in in order to become a legal immigrant. 

Here's a NYTimes article that lays out the complexities pretty well (including crime statistics, and a breakdown of countries where undocumented immigrants are from). 

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