By Bonnie Sestito
This is the second of four blog posts from participants in the recent Immigration Immersion Experience hosted by American Baptist Women’s Ministries. See bottom of post for information about another upcoming opportunity.
U.S. immigration has been a hot topic in the news for some time now; hence, AB Women’s Ministries hosted the Immigration Immersion Experience early in 2016. I had been asking myself over and over again that well-known question, “What would Jesus do,” since AB Women’s Ministries started looking at immigration in 2014 with “Crisis at the Border: What Would You Do?” To be honest, I was on the fence about this subject. But how could I be as the Coordinator of Mission with Women and Girls? I needed to learn and understand it. I shed many tears and prayed many prayers asking for insight. I googled, read Christians at the Border: Immigration, the Church, and the Bible, and searched the Bible for answers, but unfortunately, I wasn’t getting any…or at least I was getting it. I even shared my concerns with others and received such responses as: immigrants are “the least of these,” we are all immigrants, I was biased, I was prejudiced. “Biased” and “prejudiced”: in my opinion, these are harsh, overused words for being uninformed. Because I had been struggling for almost two years regarding this subject, I was sadly concerned that I would probably come home from the Immigration Immersion Experience (IIE) feeling the same way.
We stayed at Deborah’s House, a haven for abused women and children; learned how complicated the U.S. immigration system is; visited with Homeland Security Border Agents; toured the U.S. side of the fence as well as the in-between zone; visited Friendship Park where we helped weed a garden and viewed the fence on the Mexico side; met with several women from DREAMers’ MOMS and a couple of deported U.S. veterans; met Enrique Morones who founded Border Angels, a non-profit organization supporting humanity; went into the dessert on the U.S. side of the fence to place bottles of water for immigrants who might have managed to get over or through the fence; met recently-deported men at a facility;visited the Monte Horeb Baptist Grade School where Patti Long, American Baptist international missionary, ministers as a special education teacher; learned a bit about the history of Mexico at a museum and from our trip facilitator, American Baptist international missionary Ray Schellinger, who is a history buff; and visited a couple of vineyards where we sampled juices, olives, jams, and tapenade, among other tasty treats.
The thing that touched me most was our visit to DREAMers’ MOMS. DREAMers’ MOMS USA/Tijuana A.C. are deported parents aiding deported persons. Children of these deported parents are U.S. citizens or were taken to the U.S. at an early age. One of the women we heard from was Emma. She is married to a U.S. citizen and has three children. She failed to inform immigration when she and her family moved. She was deported (thereby separated from her husband and children) and cannot apply to return to the United States for ten years. The punishment does not fit the crime. Because our immigration laws are unjust families have been torn apart, leaving their children with the trauma of growing up without their parents.
I did not return home the same way I felt before leaving for the IIE. My eyes were finally opened by the truth. The answer finally came to my question, “What would Jesus do?” Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” My neighbor isn’t only the hungry in the U.S., or the Native Americans living on reservations, or the U.S. veterans who are ignored. My neighbor is also the person who hopped a fence and crossed a desert or mountain for a better life because our laws make it nearly impossible for them to enter the proper way.
American Baptist Women’s Ministries is hosting a second Immigration Immersion Experience in August/September, 2016. Click here for more information.