Welcoming the immigrant through compassion and support.
By Mariana Vega
As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. highlighted, “Every society has its protectors of the status quo and its fraternities of the indifferent who are notorious for sleeping through revolutions.” The fierce defenders of the status quo do not take a moment of rest, especially when it comes to immigration. This means that on Sunday mornings Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) will not rest until Central American families are deported. The resurgence of the immigrant movement, especially in the last decade, has led to many positive changes. However, the ICE raids remind us of how much further we have to work before we reach a world where all people are part of our beloved community. Many of our own neighbors, church members, classmates, and coworkers remain indifferent and seem to sleep through social revolutions as Rev. Dr. King Jr. noted. While others like myself are deeply affected by these injustices taking place around us to the point that fear and frustration overcome us. There are many that rather remain unconscious and unaware of the struggles we have to face while others find it harder to come out of the shadows. For example, some of my Asian and Pacific Islander friends would like to become more active in the immigration movement but it might be more difficult for some of them to come out as undocumented because of the stigma that continues to be associated with being undocumented. However, progress does not come naturally; immigration progress comes after long years of resistance.
“[Today] our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake,” Rev. Dr. King Jr. points out, “to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” This was just the case with a new generation of immigrant youth activist who courageously stood up and fought for basic human rights. They refused to stay silent or to let their families be incarcerated and deported. Immigrant youth and their families have largely led this new wave in the immigration movement. While there have been some gains in the immigration struggle, undocumented immigrant families still live in fear. There are many small ways and big ways to act for justice and equity. In the last couple of years as an active participant in the immigrant rights movement I have seen my friends overcome with fear and anxiety due to the hate and violence directed towards the undocumented community. One way to help is to offer compassion instead of hate. We can open our churches to families to give them a safe space and to let them know we are here to support them in whichever way we can.
Mariana Vega is currently a student at UCLA and will be graduating in a couple of months. She is part of the Wesley Foundation serving UCLA and has been involved in the immigration movement for about five years now through UCLA and the United Methodist Church.
Editor’s Note: During this week, the week prior to Human Relations Sunday on Jan. 17 and the observance Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Birthday on Jan. 18, GCORR invites you to consider the inter-connectedness of people around the world in the work of justice and equity. We have gathered voices from across the world-wide United Methodist connection to reflect on the words and life of Dr. King in their current context. The theme for the week, All My Relations, derived from the Lakota tradition, emphasizes shared respect, honor, and love for all of people and for the Earth, leaving no one out. Our hope is that the words of Dr. King and the writers who reflect on them spark authentic conversations that inspire action. Follow along each day this week and share your own reflections on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #AllMyRelations.