Last night I heard stories from people from different countries bravely share their stories of coming to the United States as children. They are known as "Dreamers." Their stories are diverse. Some came to escape poverty, violence, or for a chance to study, a chance at the American Dream they had heard so much about. Many of them did not know about their status until they wanted to attend college and could not apply for any federal aid and were barred from state universities , or until they were in drivers education and discovered they had no social security number. Some found themselves "undocumented" because of a mistake of a lawyer. They all consider America their home. They found ways to survive, work, attend college, and add to this American experiment and I am grateful they are here. Immigration issues can be controversial, and like all issues, they are complex and require a lot of sharing, listening, and debating.
Dreamers are folks that came here as children and have grown up in America. The median age of entry for those now called Dreamers is 6 years old. Since 2012, around 800,000 Dreamers have applied for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals or what has become known as DACA. This program allowed Dreamers to secure temporary work authorization and protection from deportation to those who passed background checks and pay fees (among other qualifications). Last night World Relief Dupage Aurora hosted a Love in Action Event: A Future for Dreamers and we heard stories from Dreamers from India, China, and Mexico as well as pastors and folks partnering with them.
I was struck by how varied and diverse their stories are and how much bravery it takes to stand in front of a room full of people and share these pieces of their stories that they had to hide for so long. A woman I have volunteered alongside at at World Relief named Ruth shared her status and story and I had tears in my eyes knowing about the amazing and important work she is doing here and listening to her fear of being deported. The first in her family to attend college she now empowers others and advocates on their behalf as a staffer at World Relief. As she shared, "no one wants to be illegal. We are only asking for a path to citizenship."
Liz, who became undocumented after a lawyer forgot to attach her dependent application to her mother's application shared that for a long time she did not speak up. She shared, "stories are powerful and deserve to be heard. I had a voice but was afraid to speak up but now it is my turn." She now is on the advisory board of Voices of Christian Dreamers and advocating for a timely and reasonable solution.
Matthew Sorens (coauthor of Seeking Refuge) and Susan Sperry (executive Director of WRDA) from World Relief helped those in attendance understand the current situation for DACA recipients as well as offer legal advice through the Legal Services team at World Relief. They also called us to examine our faith and what it means to offer hospitality. The Greek word used in scripture actually means love of stranger. God does not call us to love only those when it is convenient but we can offer love and compassion realizing we were once foreigners too. Pastor Obe ended the night with a prayer and a call for us all to help Dreamers be able to pursue a legal path to citizenship so they can pursue their God given gifts and calling. Even the cost of deporting the Dreamers as a whole would strain our economy and result in the loss of a projected $460.3 billion dollars for the U.S. GDP over the next decade. Deporting these folks and separating families woudl be a great loss to America. There has to be a better way forward that involves a process and dignity and Congress has the power to act!
At the close of the night we were encouraged to Pray, Serve, & Advocate. Praying for our leaders as they try to come to a solution for complex issues, pray for those living in constant fear of their status and being deported (one Dreamer shared that she feels like she lives her life in 2 year increments, afraid for the future), pray for families, and pray for our leaders. Pray for humility to understand for ourselves. Pray for us to see and hear each other and become aware of what we are being asked to do. There is a prayer guide available here.
Serve alongside World Relief or other organizations serving folks seeking to gain legal status and become our fellow citizens. As I have done this their stories and dreams for their families have reminded me why I am grateful for diversity in our country, that our collective voices make us stronger. Volunteer to welcome a refugee family as they resettle in the US, be a good neighbor to folks already here, make copies & serve alongside the legal team at an upcoming citizenship clinic.
Advocate by using YOUR VOICE- it matters. Congress has the power to act and come to a reasonable solution to this issue. Not all places in the world have this ability to voice their concerns to their representatives- don't take it for granted. I am challenging myself and YOU to get more informed about this issue, pray, volunteer, and act- join me in the #PowerToAct Challenge. I just used my voice to call my representative and senators with my son sitting on my lap. Click on this link and enter your information and your reps will CALL YOU and simply voice your solidarity with Dreamers!