With the elections coming up, Puente (the student group I’m in) has been focusing our discussions on the issue of immigration. Specifically, we’ve been talking about how to respond biblically to this issue and how to minister to immigrants.
I’ve grown up aware of the issue of immigration, but only in terms of numbers, bills, laws, etc. On Monday night at Puente, we played a board game about the immigration process (it’s more fun than it sounds, trust me). Each person was assigned a character, and we moved through a series of real-life situations that immigrants face. As my character got deported a second time, forced to leave her American husband for 10 years while jumping through paperwork hoops, I started thinking.
I joined Puente because I wanted to make a difference in the Latino community. I wanted to connect, to serve, to help make a change. Have I had opportunities to do that? Of course. But being in Puente has changed me as well. For the first time, those immigration numbers are connected to real, human faces. I’m not even talking about the people Puente serves – I’m talking about fellow students and Puente exec members. Some of the dearest friends I have ever known. My peers and equals in every way.
I look at the faces of these dear friends. I hear them talk about struggling through high school, teaching their parents English and US history for the citizenship exam. They tell stories of how their parents came to the US, of not being able to see relatives back home for fear they couldn’t return to the States. They talk of friends who have tried time and time again to come to the US, only to be sent back. Of teenagers who haven’t seen their parents in years.
I hear all these stories, and all I can do is praise God for what I don’t deserve. I am a US citizen by default. I was born in the US, the child of two American parents. Done. Nothing more to worry about. I was born blessed. There are people who spend their entire lives fighting, who give everything they have so their family can have a fraction of what I was born into without asking for. My citizenship is something I take for granted every day of my life.
This post is not meant to push any sort of political opinion on immigration. After all, I can hardly articulate my own. My hope is simply to remind you, as I have been reminded, how blessed we are to live in the United States; to help you realize, as I have realized, how much has been handed to us without our having to work for it at all. US Citizenship is an enormous blessing some people would die for (and many have). Don’t take it for granted.