Immigration Links

Curating Resources

Last week, my brother asked me, “So… what can you tell me about immigration?”  It’s all over the news right now, but even though he’s highly educated on all things news and politics, it wasn’t an issue he’s spent a lot of time researching recently, but I have.  Maybe you’re also wanting to learn more about immigration – check it out here!

NPR investigates:  How did we get to 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US?

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The NY Times also collected data to explain the current situation (politics-free).

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If you want State Specific Data, check out this link and click on “Map the Impact” to get info on immigration in your own area.

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If you’re more of a podcast person, check out part #1 & Part #2 on the sanctuary movement.

Maybe you’d like to connect current immigration trends with historical information on Ellis Island (especially with great pictures!)

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Do you know the Dreamers?  This group of young adults were brought to the US by their parents, but they are now facing the consequences of their parents’ choices.  This video tells true stories, and gives some background.

Maybe you want to know how to talk about Immigration with your congregation?  I always recommend Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services.

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No matter what you think, it might be hard to combat the attitudes of others.  LIRS’s Mythbusters are great!

What if your pastor was facing deportation?  

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Finally, some great quotes about immigration, from a variety of sources.

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Refugee Links

The Internet is a wonderful thing…

I spend my whole year learning about refugees and immigrants, so I get to see all sorts of great information on line about these issues.  I’m guessing you don’t spend all of your time combing the internet for great stories 😉  but I’m thrilled to share my links with you!

6 facts you NEED to know about the Refugee Resettlement Program  If you only read one link, bookmark and share this one, please!

This is a great list of Bible Verses about Refugees

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A priest in England is facing backlash from welcoming Muslim refugees to her church

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70 years of Refugees in Britain 

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25% of the World’s Refugees live in Sub-Saharan Africa.  A famous US- African Author explains the refugee crisis in a short Ted-talk style video here.

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Which US cities are best for refugee resettlement?  Check out shared characteristics here.

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ELCA’s Bishop Elizabeth Eaton recently visited one of the largest refugee camps in the world, and has a video message for all of us:

One of my former professors gave a short message entitled “We are All Refugees”  (I Promise, I didn’t steal any copyrights!)

A Teacher in Denver has several Refugee students, and shares their stories on her blog.

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No matter how you connect with the refugee crisis, please share the truth, and share the facts.  Keep praying for the refugees, those who serve them, and an end to the conflicts and disasters which cause people to flee.

Vocation & Vacation

Can we take a break from our calling?

Last Sunday (March 26), I got to help my friend and supply preach at his church.  I absolutely loved it!  Since I don’t get to lead worship every week, I love it when I do!

While I gave a pretty decent adult sermon 😉  I’m actually really proud of my children’s message.  The kids and I talked about the grown-up word “vocation”.  Warning:  I talk really fast here (kids normally are fine with that!)

I’m not talking about refugees here.  I’m talking about God’s calling on our life.  But, I’ll share a little of the refugee story I shared with the adults:

In our Privileged World, “finding our calling” often involves a lot of choices between great opportunities:  deciding whether to stay home with kids you love or get paid to do work in the world you love (for example).  The Bible never talks about vocation like this.  The Bible says that following Jesus will be a life of sacrifice:  deciding whether to get your kids baptized when you know that could eventually lead to their execution (for example).  So, our vocation is when we love God and love others – however and wherever and whenever God calls us to live that out.

Last summer I shared this story about our friend, Thomas: “I once Had a Life“.  If you don’t remember, click on that and remind yourself.  Or, watch this short part of my sermon today:

Our “calling” is sometimes paid work – like when I get paid to tell people about Samaritas.  Our “calling” is sometimes caregiving, like fostering orphans or refugees.  Our “calling” is sometimes to do the job with which we earn the money to care for our families and donate to refugees in camps around the world.  Our “calling” might be to pray for those less fortunate.

No matter how God has called you to be in relationship with others, may you be blessed in your calling this week and always.  

Guardian Angels

Protecting the Vulnerable in Los Angeles Immigration Court

Friends, I have not been writing nearly enough updates lately! Please know that I am so grateful for your patience and understanding. This is very late, but still really amazing!

In February, David & I got to visit Los Angeles!  Even though we didn’t need our passports, this was still a very cross – cultural trip from Detroit.  Los Angeles is 35% Immigrant born – most of whom arrived in my lifetime. These immigrants come from all over the world, but mainly Latin America and Asia.  There isn’t a huge Lutheran population in Southern California, but they are working to welcome and advocate for immigrants in the area.

Lutherans for Immigration Reform

This update is a few years old, but gives a great overview of their work.

The main initiative we wanted to see in action was the Guardian Angels Program.  This unique ministry trains volunteers to accompany individuals in immigration court.  Check out this video for a great overview:

I had heard Pastor Alexis speak at the 2015 National Youth Gathering in Detroit, so I wanted to also meet her in person, and I did!

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She was kind enough to meet me for coffee in between her immigration work, and a biking injury, and grading seminary exams.  She is a wealth of knowledge, and I wish she had a clone to write a book for all of us!  Here is just a short overview of what she told us.

  • Churches have been working towards comprehensive immigration reform for my entire life.  Occasionally, this becomes more or less news-worthy, but for some of us, this is our primary grace & justice issue.
  • In the 1980s 500 churches nationwide began a ‘sanctuary’ movement to shelter victims of violence from Central America’s deadly conflicts.  This movement led to an immigration policy change championed by President Reagan.
  • In 2006, Catholics were asked to serve everyone, regardless of immigration status. This was one cultural change which led to…
  • In 2007, congress considered a comprehensive immigration reform bill, and 70% of Americans were in favor of it, but 83% of White Evangelicals were against it, and congress was afraid to pass it just before the presidential elections.
  • Now, nearly 74% of white evangelicals are in favor of immigration reform (maybe, like these farmers in Michigan, would rather have legal employees)

In the meantime…

While we’re all arguing about how we got to 11 million undocumented people, and what to do about the 70,000 children asking for asylum at our southern border each year, Pastor Alexis and the Christians of Southern California wanted to do something.

I wish we could wave a magic wand and “fix” the problem…

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But, seriously, that’s not going to happen.

Court Hearings

Instead, a group of volunteers shows up in immigration court each week. You see, while Immigrants have the right to an attorney, one will not be provided to them.  They will need to fund their own legal representation.  The average immigration court case is $10,000-$20,000 per person; this includes legal representation in court and filing of appropriate paperwork.  Those with a lawyer have a 77% chance of their asylum status being granted.  Those without a lawyer are almost always deported.  (Also, while court hearings are translated, individuals do not have access to translation services for their paperwork or interpretation services for legal appointments.)

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We couldn’t take pictures in court, but it looked almost exactly like this.  Immigration judges are often asked to rule on 150 different cases each day.  

  • If someone is facing domestic violence, gang violence, or other persecution, the average wait time for a legal visa to the US from Central America is about 20 years.
  • If someone arrives at the US border and immediately asks for asylum they can expect to spend 2 weeks in jail and then 2 years in court before their case is finalized.
  • The court process will cost up to $20,000 per person, and they will likely not have a legal work permit during that time.
  • Even if they marry a US citizen and have US citizen children, they are not protected from deportation.  (Housewives can be deported, even though they aren’t working or receiving any US benefits).

We were there while a woman in active labor arrived for her court date.  No lawyer was there to help her.  No translator arrived to help her.  But, she asked her friend to drive her to her court date before taking her to the hospital because she is trying to follow the rules.  Thankfully, the female judge gave her a 3-month extension so she could come back once she’s recovered from delivery.  This kind of desperation is common in immigration court.

In other words, “following the rules” is dangerous, expensive, and very difficult.

OTOH, a trafficker will often request only $5,000 per person to get them across the border and provide false work permits.

Guardian Angels

I would prefer comprehensive immigration reform.  I’d prefer that people who follow the rules have a safe and legal and affordable way to become tax-payers and public residents.  But, I’m not a politician.  I’m a pastor.  I can’t fix the laws, but I can accompany people through some tough times, and I can stand up for the vulnerable.

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The love of God does not have borders.  Don’t call me foreigner – I am your brother.  

What I can do is support the ELCA’s AMMPARO program.  I can advocate for greater immigration reform.  I can volunteer at J-FON’s legal clinics in my area.  I can pray for immigration reform and ask my church to do the same.  I can donate to Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services, the largest faith-based agency for immigrants’ rights in the US.

Maybe you’ll decide to be a guardian angel too.

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St. Patrick was an immigrant

Everyone’s Irish (Immigrant) for a Day

I love St. Patrick’s Day.  For some reason, all of the US is ok with coloring our hair and our rivers and our drinks green on that day, and we call it a celebration.

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Why not?  Rumor has it there are more people of Irish descent in the US than there are people in Ireland.  And, I hear, Something like 1/4 of all European-Americans have some Irish in them, like me.

There’s a great movie about modern Irish-US immigration, called Brooklyn; Check out my review of the movie here.

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This year, St. Patrick’s Day happened simultaneously with the planned implementation of the latest Presidential Executive Order on refugees/immigrants/international travel.  The irony was almost overwhelming.

First, the Irish Prime Minister felt the need to explain some history:

 

 

We were so pro-Irish on St Patrick’s day that we just sort of accepted when the President quoted “an old Irish proverb” that was actually a recent Nigerian Poem:

Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue.
But never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.

In that spirit, some modern-day immigrants wanted to tell their story of being Irish and Undocumented in America.  I’m not sure many people heard them.

We want to remember the easy parts of immigration.  We want to believe that our family’s immigration story was easy, and legal, and sweet.  We strongly believe that when our great-grandparents showed up with only a few dollars in their pocket and worked hard, they were living the American dream.

My crazy theory is this:  The newly arrived immigrants, showing up with only hope in their pockets, are also living the American dream.  How can we help them to succeed?  How will they tell their children stories of arriving in the US – and how can we ensure that those stories bring us together as Americans?

It sounds crazy, that the refugees and immigrants we’re deporting and terrorizing today might become integral parts of US society later.  But, the Irish story proves it’s possible.

A century ago, we hated the Irish.  

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We hated their food, their religion, their accent, their politics.  We didn’t want our children to go to school with them.  We didn’t want them in our communities.

They came anyway.  Their country was in the midst of a severe famine, and Christians in the US were trying to rescue Refugee Children from the situation there.

Now, we talk about their arrival as if everyone welcomed them with open arms.  We celebrate their immigrant Saint by drinking beer.  (sheesh) We use fake proverbs of theirs.

How can we learn from our history so we don’t repeat it?

 

Sin = Tar Pits

La Brea Tar Pits

When we visited Los Angeles recently, we visited the La Brea Tar Pits.  These pits are full of fossils from prehistoric animals which got stuck in the tar. They think most of the animals went looking for water or food and got caught in tar they couldn’t see.

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These statues aren’t real, of course.  But the image of a baby elephant crying for its mother really hit me hard.  The same day we went to the Tar Pits, we also went to the LA immigration court.  Many children there were crying for their mothers, which were caught in the sticky-ness which is US immigration policy.

The entire day reminded me of a confession prayer that some Lutherans say in church:

Most merciful God, we confess that we are captive to sin and cannot free ourselves. We have sinned against you in thought, word, and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. We have not loved you with our whole heart; we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. For the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, have mercy on us. Forgive us, renew us, and lead us, so that we may delight in your will and walk in your ways, to the glory of your holy name. Amen.

So, when I had the chance to give a children’s sermon about Lent, temptation, and immigration, I decided to talk about the tar pits.  Check out this short message at St. Paul Lutheran in Grosse Point Woods, Michigan, with Pastor Justin:

Power of Love

Meeting God in our Wilderness moments

Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared [but] the Devil took advantage of him. …   The Devil goaded him … [but]  Jesus’ refusal was curt: “Beat it, Satan!”… [and] The Devil left.
– Matthew 4:1-11, selected verses, The Message

I had the opportunity to preach at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Grosse Point Woods yesterday.  Check out my sermon, here:

Jesus refuses to be who we want him to be. 

We want genie Jesus, whose wish is our command.
We want superhero Jesus, who can leap over buildings in a single bound.
We want celebrity Jesus, who’s always there for his mega-fans.

Instead, in the wilderness, Jesus isn’t showing us God’s power.
Jesus is showing us God’s powerful love.  

Lent, therefore, is not about my personal self-improvement journey to climb closer to God.  Instead, Lent is about God’s journey to get closer to us.  God is our loving savior, who rescued us from Sin, death, and the power of the devil.  As rescued and freed people, we have the opportunity to serve others.

Samaritas is serving others as an expression of Christ’s love, and I hope you will consider learning more about their ministries as a way to express your own faith.

The Time is Now

One of my recently favorite shows is about time travel.  Two groups of Americans are traveling through history, each one trying to ‘save’ the present/future by stopping the other group.  The ongoing question is whether it would be better to change history – save Lincoln, kill Capone – or if it’s best to keep history the way it was, even if that reality was really quite horrible.  They chase each other through history trying to solve the debate.

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I’m not quite sure why I love the show – it’s a hapless mix of history, sci-fi, and drama – and while the characters are great, the plot is unbelievable and confusing.

Maybe I love it because I love hero stories.  On the days when nothing I do seems to make a real difference in the world, it’s fun to get lost in a story where average people really DO make a difference.  Even if that difference is all make – believe.

Many of my regular readers noticed that I haven’t posted in 3 weeks, which is a long break.  The Graduate Preaching Fellowship continues, but my focus is changing.  Due to the recent Executive Order from the US president, most agencies that work with refugees in the US have to lay off employees and will, effectively, be helping fewer refugees for the next 4 years*.

While the goal was always to transition to Latino Immigration around this time of the school year, it’s hard to be objective during a time of great political turmoil.  Thanks for your patience, dear readers, while I process myself what the future might hold for us.

I don’t have a time machine.  I can’t go back to change the past, and I can’t predict the future.  So how do I know what to do now?  

So, dear readers, I’m still going to be posting stories and pictures about my work in MI and around the US and Latin America as I learn more about immigrants and refugees in Michigan, in the US, and around the world.

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Until then, I share with you this poem on which I’ve been reflecting:

I know, I know
If you could go back you
would walk with Jesus
You would march with King
Maybe assassinate Hitler
At least hide Jews in your basement
It would all be clear to you
But people then, just like you
were baffled, had bills
to pay and children they didn’t
understand and they too
were so desperate for normalcy
they made anything normal
Even turning everything inside out
Even killing, and killing, and it’s easy
for turning the other cheek
to be looking the other way, for walking
to be talking, and they hid
in their houses
and watched it on television, when they had television,
and wrung their hands
or didn’t, and your hands
are just like theirs. Lined, permeable,
small, and you
would follow Caesar, and quote McCarthy, and Hoover, and you would want
to make Germany great again
Because you are afraid, and your
parents are sick, and your
job pays shit and where’s your
dignity? Just a little dignity and those kids sitting down in the highway,
and chaining themselves to
buildings, what’s their fucking problem? And that kid
That’s King. And this is Selma. And Berlin. And Jerusalem. And now
is when they need you to be brave.
Now
is when we need you to go back
and forget everything you know
and give up the things you’re chained to
and make it look so easy in your
grandkids’ history books (they should still have them, kinehora)
Now
is when it will all be clear to them.
Danny Bryck

 

Continue reading

What do we do now?

Making our Voices Heard

Last week, President Trump signed an executive order changing US immigration and refugee policy. (read the full text, with annotations here)

Like thousands of other Americans, David and I protested at our local airport.

We protested because over 1,000 individuals were arrested, detained, or denied access to the United States (including children as young as 11 months old being separated from their parents) in dozens of airports across the country.

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Well sort of, yes.  He can.

Presidents do have the authority to change some of America’s refugee and immigration policies, whether those changes are moral or popular or helpful.

Executive orders are signed by lots of presidents, often about issues that are important to their own political party, and often half of Americans are really angry about them.

In the past, organizations opposed to Immigration-related executive orders have staged small protests, written strongly worded letters, called congress representatives, etc.  These rarely have an effect, because the President didn’t do anything wrong, even if we didn’t like the actions.

But this time was different.
In part because social media made it possible for 5,000 people to protest together at DTW with less than 36 hours notice.
In part because this executive order was different than what we’ve seen before, so more people were opposed to it.

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lot of people were upset.  5,000 at the Detroit airport alone.  We were everywhere.

This order was significantly different than anything passed before for 4 reasons:
1.  This order affects people, not just paperwork
2.  This order causes direct harm to legal immigrants and US citizens
3.  This order went into effect without warning, and without training of border agents (so, it’s possible that people were detained whom the President never meant to block).
4.  This order was signed without any direct cause, reason, or security concern.

Past presidents have occasionally restricted paperwork processing due to specifically identified threats.  No one has ever kicked US soldiers, parents, employees, students, and refugees off of a plane.

“I did not know the president can sign such orders.  It looks like those autocratic leaders in corrupt countries, not in a democratic modern country like America.”
Syrian refugee, stranded in an airport in Turkey

It might take months or years to determine if the Executive Order is constitutional.  In the meantime, we are repeating history:

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So, because of that attitude, we turned away a boat full of Jewish Refugees in 1939.

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Was it legal to deny them entry?  Yes.  Was our National Security at stake?  Perhaps.
Was it moral, reasonable, or patriotic?  NO.

That is why we march.  That is why I preach.  That is why we work towards welcome.  I hope for a day when I can proudly proclaim that the greatest country in the world is welcoming the most vulnerable and changing the world for the better.

 

Refugee Sunday

Preaching God’s Truth in a time of “Alternative Facts”

Friends, many of you have heard me speak in person.  I preach and teach about refugees all over the country.  In fact, I have been preaching basically the same sermon for a year now:

In our Baptism, we are all Spiritual Refugees.  Earth is not our home.
We are citizens with the saints in heaven.  (Ephesians 2:19) 

But just in case you haven’t heard it yet, or if the events of the past week leave you confused, or you’d like a reminder of why I fight so hard to lift up GOD’S Word regardless of the weekly news, here is what I preached last Sunday, January 26:

 

I preached the sermon when we saw pictures of Syrian children dying.
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I preached the sermon when candidates used human suffering  as a campaign slogan.

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I preached the sermon when our country celebrated our own immigrant history.

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I preached the sermon when Christians worldwide celebrated Jesus’ refugee story:

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And, I preached it the day that my country arrested Veterans from the Iraqi war who used their legal travel visa to fly into America – steps from the statue of Liberty:

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Mr. Darweesh served the 101st US airborne in Iraq from 2003-2013.  For that service, ISIS has threatened his life, and the US government granted his family a legal refugee visa.  We promised to care for him, just as we care for our other veterans.  But then, when he arrived at the airport in New York City on Saturday January 25, he was arrested.  He was locked up for 18 hours with no access to his family or to his lawyer.  He was only released after a national outcry sparked a massive protest at the airport.  Even then, he is on the news saying, “I like this country.  Mr Trump is ok.  I am glad to be here.”

So, I preached again.  We are Americans, and thus we want our country to be safe.  That means we care for our soldiers and veterans, and their families, like Mr. Darweesh.

As God-followers, we are called to answer to God’s commandments:

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The Bible is clear:  We are to care for and welcome the stranger amongst us, even if it puts our own security at risk.  For we are citizens with the Saints in heaven.

I’ll keep preaching the refugee story.  Please keep sharing it in your own communities.