In the midst of these chaotic and troubled times, when every day so many needs vie for our attention, immigrant children may be lost. More than four months after the administration’s policy of separating children from their parents and more than two months after the reversal of this tragic policy, hundreds of children still remain separated. Many parents have no idea where their children are or when they will see them again, and many have lost their efforts to get their children back. In the cacophony of daily news, we don’t hear much any more about these lost children.
At the Christian Feminism Today Gathering, in their keynote presentation “Antecedentes, Análisis, y Acción: Standing with Immigrants in Trump’s America,” Nicole Cortés and Sara John challenged us to take action.
Nicole and Sara emphasized the life and death reasons people leave their homelands and come to our country. “Why do people migrate?” Here are some of the reasons they gave:
(1) to contribute to their families’ economic survival;
(2) to find freedom;
(3) to flee violence;
(4) to save their lives and the lives of their children.
“Since construction on the border fence started several decades ago, nearly 7,000 people have died trying to come here so they can live your life. Making immigration harder does not stop the flow of people to the US, but it increases the number of deaths because entry is more dangerous.” Sara and Nicole also lamented Congress’ 2013 mandate that Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) detain 34,000 immigrants in prisons, and decried the use of the word “aliens” then and now to dehumanize immigrants: “Heaven forbid that we call them human beings!”
This presentation highlighted recent policy changes under the current administration that have made things even harder for immigrants:
(1) ban on people from many Muslim-majority countries from entering the US;
(2) “zero tolerance”;
(3) family separation;
(4) family detention;
(5) tougher enforcement of policies.
In this presentation Nicole and Sara didn’t leave us feeling overwhelmed by all the injustices immigrant children and adults are suffering, and wondering if we can make any difference. But they helped us understand where we can go from here and what we can do. They encouraged us to start with shared values in our conversations on immigration. Even with people who disagree with us, we can talk about our shared values, such as families staying together, equity, dignity of all people, and the image of God in all people.
Then they gave us other specific action steps we can take.
(1) Provide sanctuary by creating safe space for the voices of immigrant leaders, welcoming undocumented people, and sheltering immigrants in danger of deportation, as many churches are doing.
(2) Accompany migrants to ICE check-ins as a way of showing solidarity and protecting them from detention and deportation.
(3) Educate ourselves, our faith communities, and other organizations on matters related to migration justice.
(4) Build relationships by standing in solidarity with the undocumented community.
(5) Make donations to organizations working for justice for immigrants, e.g. Raices, a nonprofit agency providing legal services to underserved immigrant children, families, and refugees in Texas.
(6) Join in Sacred Resistance along with a coalition of interfaith religious leaders and organizations called to respond publicly to the suffering of immigrants.
(7) Advocate for immigrants through marches, rallies, meetings with elected officials, and voting. I’ve been inspired by a delegation of Baptist clergywomen and clergywomen from other denominations who went to the border to advocate on behalf of families separated by immigration policy, and by several members from my local Church in the Cliff who served immigrant families at the border as volunteers for the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, also raising money to buy supplies and give a cash donation to the center.
There are many things we can do to make a difference for immigrant children and families. I challenge us all to choose at least one of these ways to take action.
Nicole T.S. Cortés, J.D.: Co-founder of the Migrant & Immigrant Community Action (MICA) Project, Nicole is a co-director and attorney at this nonprofit organization that works with immigrants to overcome barriers to justice by organizing, advocacy, education, and providing legal services. She is fluent in Spanish and works with clients on a wide variety of immigration law matters including deportation defense, asylum, and other humanitarian relief. She directs the MICA Project’s outreach efforts to the Latino community. Nicole graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2012 with a Masters of Social Work and Juris Doctorate. She has experience working with community partners, coalition building, community outreach, and program coordination and evaluation. She is experienced at addressing the non-legal needs of her clients in the context of immigration law. Nicole is passionate about challenging and dismantling systems of oppression and working alongside her clients in their journeys toward justice.
Sara John: After serving as Board President of St. Louis Inter-Faith Committee on Latin America (IFCLA), Sara became the Program Coordinator in the summer of 2016. At the beginning of 2018, she transitioned to the newly created role of Executive Director. Sara has been with the organization for over 10 years, since she was a student at Saint Louis University, where she received a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and International Studies. She continued her studies at the University of Arizona, where she earned a Master of Arts degree in Latin American Studies with an emphasis on the US-Mexico Border. Her graduate research centered on migrants who disappear in their journey to the US, and she has lived in and traveled throughout Southern Mexico. Sara has worked extensively for migration justice and speaks fluent Spanish. Frequently, her 2-year-old son, Alexander, participations in IFCLA actions as one of their youngest activists!