The view becomes hazier the closer you get, A perspective from the border Immigration in the USA

I thought I would have had more to say. After all I live just a few miles from the border. If a wall goes up I will see it often.  I hear as much Spanish as I do English when I am out and immigrants make up a significant portion of the patients in my clinic. My daughter and I go regularly to a shelter that houses families from all around the world. Some have eaten at my table and we have laughed together as we watched our children play.  I have heard their unthinkable stories first hand and I have delighted in the privilege of serving them in the minuscule ways that I can.

 

Immigration in the US. Liturgy of life.

 

But recent discussion of the immigration ban has left me mostly speechless. To be clear I detest the idea of a ban. I hate to think of a destitute family being turned away, back to a life of poverty and violence.  My quiet is in part due due to my grief for our refugee brothers and sisters compounded with my inability to stay abreast of the latest news regarding them.

But it isn’t only this. While this ban is undoubtedly hasty and rash, I am also aware that our immigration system is broken.  And that we are a deeply divided nation with an ever shifting sense of moral virtue. Undoubtedly the way we care for those who seek the safety of our borders will, in many ways, direct the future of our country.  Seeing this issue first hand I have had a hard time simplifying my stance on immigration policy as #refugeeswelcome. Truthfully I don’t feel at home on either end of what feels like an incredibly polarized political debate.

If we are going to sincerely address this issue as a culture we need to find a crossroads between welcoming human life in all forms and recognizing the legitimate risk that this involves. I believe that hospitality at all costs is God’s call for us. But the way we as a nation play this out is not so clear. The reality is that hospitality requires a boundary line. You must know who you are and what defines you in order to extend who you are to someone else.  Those on both sides of this issue need to be willing to learn from those who take an opposite perspective and all in between in order to remain unified as a nation, to set reasonable priorities and ultimately to care most effectively for those in need.

To fill the void of my speechlessness I am sharing an article that was recently published in our local paper about the immigrant shelter where I volunteer and a family from Honduras.

I hope this will be the first part in a series. In the coming weeks (or let’s face it probably months at the pace I move) as I share stories and information about immigration in the US.

 

Valley Morning Star

Honduran Woman Recounts her Journey to the U.S

Posted: Saturday, January 7, 2017 10:30 pm

SAN BENITO — It was a quiet Monday morning when the phone rang at La Posada Providencia, south of San Benito.

It was an official at the Department of Homeland Security, calling to ask if the shelter had room for a severely-injured Honduran woman and her 3-year-old son.

The woman, Blanca Rosa, had just presented herself to authorities in Brownsville and had requested asylum in the United States. She had been involved in an auto accident in Mexico, leaving her with two fractured elbows and multiple bruises and abrasions.

Jerico, the son that arrived with her, was not injured in the crash, but a 6-year-old son was killed.

Another son, age 15, was left hospitalized in Mexico and under the care of a local pastor.

“It’s probably one of the worst cases that I’ve seen,” said Sister Zita Telkamp, director at La Posada Providencia. “We had a case similar to that in March and usually once a year someone comes here like that.”

Blanca and her youngest son were processed by federal authorities and then released to the care of La Posada Providencia, a Catholic ministry for people in crisis from around the world, who are seeking legal refuge in this country.

It was there that she recounted her journey and the reasons she left Honduras.

“We lived in a small town that was under the control of the drug cartel,” said Blanca. “They took over many of the small businesses and homes in the village and charged everyone a monthly protection fee.”

In October, Blanca was standing at a bus stop with a neighbor who had refused to pay the fee. As they were waiting for the bus to arrive, Rosa says a cartel member approached them.

“He walked right up to my neighbor and just shot her dead,” recalled Blanca. “As he was leaving, he turned to me and said he would return on Christmas Eve and kill me if I didn’t pay up.”

During the next several weeks, Blanca — living in fear — made preparations to leave her country. She sold what little she owned and by the first week of December, Blanca and her three sons were on their way to the United States. The crash happened six days into their journey and it took another two days for Blanca to arrive in Brownsville, where she turned herself over to authorities.

“I arrived at La Posada on December 19th,” said Blanca. “All we had were the clothes on our backs and our immigration papers, which I carried in a plastic bag.”

Blanca is one of more than 8,500 people who have passed through the doors of La Posada Providencia. Established by the Sisters of Divine Providence in 1989, the shelter ministers to people who are fleeing political and religious persecution, extreme poverty, famine and natural disasters. All of the ministry’s clients have been processed by immigration authorities

La Posada provides the refugees with safety, hope, and a way forward. It provides immediate and tangible support in the form of food, shelter, clothing, medical supplies and care. LPP also provides individualized case management, transportation to clinics, legal aid and social services.

The refugees also have access to on-site communication resources, paperwork/translation assistance, employment preparation, English as a second language and life skills education.

“Transitioning them into American life is one of our main ministries,” said Telkamp, “We feel that if they’re going to be productive citizens and they’re going to establish themselves for the rest of their lives in the United States, they have to be integrated into the American culture.”

La Posada Providencia is one of 20 agencies in the Valley supported by donations to AIM Charities. The non-profit charity was established three years ago by AIM Media Texas, which publishes the Valley Morning Star, The Monitor, The Brownsville Herald, Mid Valley Town Crier, El Nuevo Heraldo, El Extra and Coastal Current.

AIM Media Texas absorbs all administrative costs associated with the charity, ensuring 100 percent of the public’s donations goes directly to the charitable agencies and the people they serve.

“Many times when someone gives me $5 and says, ‘It’s not much,’ I reply that I’m grateful because it purchases five loaves of bread,” said Sister Zita. “We’re just grateful for AIM and the money we received last year. We stretched our dollar and it has gone a long way.”

Blanca and Jerico have since been reunited with their husband and father in Chicago. She agreed to share her story in hopes that it would help others. “I wanted people to know the situation in Honduras,” said Rosa. “I want people to know the cartels are actively threatening and killing people. If I had stayed, there’s a good chance I would be killed. At least I’m alive and I have an opportunity to live.”

 

You can link to the original article here.

If you feel compelled to give to an organization that is helping new immigrants first hand please go here.

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Do we let them in? Thoughts on refugees, America and The Good Samaritan

Do we let them in? Struggling with this question makes my head spin and leaves me feeling dizzy and divided within myself.

 

Our border is a enormous  topic and I am the first to admit that I am an absolute amateur to even approach it.  But  it is the major topic of conversation these days, and what’s the point of having a blog if I can’t use it to share my two cents? So I’ll go ahead and throw them in, reserving completely my right to change my mind as I learn more about this topic.

 

Do we let them in, Thoughts on America, refugees and the good samaritan, liturgyoflife.com syria border

 

Since the attacks in Paris we have been bombarded with media about the Syrian crisis.  On one hand it is sensationalized, on the other it is long overdue.  Violence in Syria has been escalating for years now. It is a humanitarian atrocity.

 

Sadly, it is one of many.  In 2014 alone 140,000 unaccompanied minors crossed our own border (this figure doesn’t include the thousands of adults and families who also crossed, mostly to escape gang violence in Central America).  Countries like Somalia and Eritrea have remained volatile for years though they rarely make US headlines.  In 2014 our nation processed 120,000 applications for asylum.

 

The US, as it should, represents a haven of safety and opportunity for many facing violence across our world.

 

Yet while our country has a reputation as a place of refuge, we actually have no established overarching moral law that requires this.   There are laws to protect refugees once they are on our soil but we have no obligation to those abroad. Our government officials, despite all of the bad press, are elected to promote the good of Americans, to keep our nation secure and our economy stable. That may mean caring for refugees and fighting wars on terror, but the American politician makes these decisions based on America’s best interest not for concerns of the rest of the world.

 

We have  demonstrated that the openness of our borders is determined mostly by our own economic needs.  For decades we have used Mexican and other foreign works to pick and process our food and perform labor that Americans don’t want to do.  We welcome foreign workers as we need them and when they are no longer valuable we deport them.  It is an unkind (and unethical, if we could ever pin down what ethical means) practice, but tolerable when our national aim is to promote American business.  No matter what I personally think about our border or those suffering outside of it, America is obliged to take care of her own. I can’t find it in me to criticize those opposed to accepting refugees, in the American world view and value system it doesn’t make sense.

 

Of course that’s not the end of this post because being an American is not my only allegiance. I am also a Christian and believe that our nation exists within a larger nation which is the Kingdom of of God.  We who proclaim ourselves to be Christians in America (including our Christian politicians) do have a clearly documented and historically demonstrated set of standards under which we are to live.

 

The Christian faith is intimately involved with caring for the poor, the widow, the orphan and the stranger in our land. So much so that it should be difficult to call yourself a Christian if this type of work is not somehow part of your life.  Christianity requires generosity. We are asked not to give from our abundance but from our poverty, asked not only to love our neighbors but our enemies, not to look out for our own safety but in all things trust God.  And while we are called to abide by the laws of our nation we are called first to live for God even if it is dangerous, even if it destroys us.

 

Jesus speaks a powerful command when he says, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.

 

Upon hearing this his listeners ask, “Who is our neighbor?”

 

In response Jesus tells the story of a Jew who is robbed, beaten and left on the road to die. The injured man is passed by two men from his community who ignore him before he is rescued by his cultural enemy, a Samaritan, who cares for him and makes provision for his recovery.  Jesus asks his listeners, who the true neighbor of the injured man is, and they respond, “The one who had mercy on him.

 

Jesus says simply, “Go and do likewise.”

 

As Christians we are called to love, whether it is in the best interest or the determent of our nation, whether it is dangerous or costly.  To do anything less is to make a mockery of Christ who suffered and died for us and of the thousands of Christians who have been martyred and those who are still suffering throughout the world.

 

Asking “Do we let them in?” is an urgent question. But perhaps even more necessary question in the heart of the Christian should be “How am I part of the church and how are we loving our neighbors so that the poor would know more fully the love of God?”

 

 

Thanks for reading friends,

 

 

Erica

 

To learn more about Liturgy of Life click here, or join us in our reading group, where we are currently reading, The Art of The Commonplace by Wendell Berry. Feel free to comment here or join in the discussion on facebook.

 

I wrote this several months ago: Thoughts on calling, the persecuted church and me

 

Life On The Border,
When Immigrants are Kids

 

Migrants, consisting of mostly women and children, who disembarked from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement bus, wait for a Greyhound official to process their tickets to their next destination at a bus station in Phoenix May 29. Latin American and U.S. Catholic leaders are calling for greater protections for migrants, especially the record number of minors making the trip from Central America to the U.S. alone. (CNS photo/Samantha Sais, Reuters) (June 6, 2014) See LATAM LETTER June 6, 2014.

Did you know that over 60,000 kids crossed the border unaccompanied by an adult in 2014?  We are on target for at least half of that this year, so another 30,000 kids (a population that equals the entire town where I am living right now). This is a marked increase in the immigration of minors as compared to previous years.

The majority of these kids flee from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

Kids come for many reasons usually a combination of violence and poverty. Most of these kids come via the Rio Grande Valley.

New York Times, Unaccompanied Minors Crossing

Border Patrol and Customs are doing what they can. But this problem is near overwhelming.

A Border Patrol Riverine Unit conducts patrols in an Air and Marine Safe-Boat in South Texas along the Rio Grande river.  They rescue a child who is stranded on the river bank of the Rio Grande. Photographer: Donna Burton

Some of these kids aren’t even school age yet, they are now living, mostly detained, in a foreign country, caught up in a system that was not expecting them.

I don’t know much more than what I’m posting here and I by no means presume to make any criticisms of how this is being handled or propose any ideas of what should be done about it. But I will say that those of us who care about humanity, and especially those of us that call ourselves Christians should care about these kids.

A great introduction to some of the issues around the immigration of minors is Enrique’s Journey.  Written well before this current crisis, Enrique’s journey is a true story of one family from Honduras.  Nazario opens to us the minds of parents in poverty and why they leave for America and then into the heart of the child growing up parentless and why they follow.
I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to dip a toe into the vast waters of immigration. Read with caution though, you may get sucked in,  next thing you know you may be moving to The Rio Grande Valley and living as our next door neighbor and we would love it!

A Big Announcement,
A New Home for
The Jarrett Family

Liturgy of Life, Moving to The Texas Mexico Border, Anglican MissionariesI am so grateful to have all of you in my life.   Many of you know that the last six months has been a time of transition for our family.  In December we  found ourselves facing an unexpected job change with no clear direction on what steps to take next.

Up until this point God had made things easy on me, at least in this sense, He hadn’t required me to face many unknowns when it came to how to move forward. In fact a handful of times He has swept  in and turned my plans upside down to keep me in line with His will (not that I haven’t made some majorly terrible decisions, of course I have, but I mean as far as big steps, where to move, where to work, who to marry, etc).

But this time it was different. This time God seemed ever so silent. There was no lightning bolt, no revelation, no unexpected twists or surprise guest appearances. We prayed and we prayed some more. We made a decision and still prayed that God would change it if we were off track. We were met with silence. We  began walking down the path we had chosen and suddenly it was clear, there had  never been  another path.

We are excited to announce that after many years away we will be returning to work along the Texas/Mexico border.

The border is where Michael and I first met and where we worked together for years.  We actually never planned to stop but a variety of circumstances took us away and until now it hasn’t been the right time to go back. But now the time has come and we couldn’t me more ready to go.

Now you might ask aren’t you scared of having to start over, of the violence, of the mosquitoes, of the scorching heat on the tree-less landscape?  And the answer is an emphatic Yes.

But at the same time the issues and the people of the border compel us.

We want to hear their stories and share them with you. We want to make this place come alive for you and give faces to the statistics.  We want to engage. We want to ask hard questions.  We want to love a place and a people that is broken.

I am so excited to bring all of you there with us.  I’ll still be blogging here and I’d love for you to check out our family website at thejarrettfamily.com.

Thank you so much for your support and prayers on this journey.  We still have a lot of unknowns including, raising money for a salary, and finding a place to live (you know, just the small stuff). So please continue to pray for us and please share our site with others who might be interested.

And finally, I’ll end with an invitation. One of the things we hope to do is to help you, or your family or even church make a connection with the border. We would love for you to see it for yourself and to sit with us and chew on the hard realities that the border presents.  If this tugs at your heart let me know, we would love to have you come for a visit.

Well there you have it. You know where to find us. And if my frequency of posting here slows down a bit in the coming months you will know why.

Here we go.