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Responding to the Immigration Crisis with Your Head, Heart, and Hands

barbed wire on fence

This post, one in a series about my time in El Paso (check out the other posts here and here), offers ways that you can respond to the immigration crisis, regardless of where you live. These responses engage your head, your heart and your hands.

“We are treating a humanitarian crisis with a military response.”

Bri Stensrud, one of the organizers of the trip I took to El Paso a few weeks ago, said those words on our first night together. Bri works for Welcome, a collaborative effort between World Relief and the National Immigration Forum that seeks to put a human face on the immigration situation at the southern border of the United States. 

I’ve written a few posts already that explain the trip itself and emphasize the ongoing humanitarian needs, especially of children. I’m also working on a post for Christianity Today about reframing the narrative around immigration in order to change our laws and policies. If we can believe in America as the land of plenty, if we can become people who want to welcome the stranger, then we can transform our system so that it protects us against threats while also caring for those in need.

But what can, and should, we do now? 

As I think through my own response to what I have seen and learned about immigration, I also think back to the response many readers had upon finishing White Picket Fences. In that book, I write about social divisions, with a focus on race, class, and disability. Those same dividing lines of privilege and exclusion can be extended to other topics, including that of immigration.

It has been helpful for me to think about responding with my head, heart, and hands. (I’ve written more about this holistic response and also written discussion questions for WPF that guide readers through this response.) When it comes to immigration, if you are called to respond, I wanted to offer a list of suggested resources and actions that could help you with that response.

For your head–

If you want to learn more so that you are informed about the problem– here are 3 books and 2 podcasts that could help:

Also see my previous post with additional reading resources on immigration.

For your heart– 

If you want to get spiritually and personally connected to the humanitarian need– you can

  • Ask God for direction about what to do next
  • Join the Welcome Facebook community
  • Find or gather a group of other people who are concerned about these issues and commit to praying together (perhaps from your church)
  • Research and find a local community of immigrants and refugees and look for ways to hear their stories, share a meal, and build relationships. For example,  Friends of Refugees based in Clarkston, Georgia, has a number of ways to connect. Do a search for something similar in your local area.

For your hands– 

If you want to act with care on behalf of immigrants– you can: 

  •     Make a financial contribution to people supporting migrants: 
    • KIND (Kids in Need of Defense), an organization that protects the rights of refugee & immigrant children throughout their migration journey.
    • Melvin & Ada Valiente, local pastors whose local Spanish speaking church (Maywood Church) is supporting migrants with housing/legal needs/etc: 
    • Matthew 25/ Mateo 25, a grassroots movement standing with vulnerable immigrant and refugee communities, and working to stop unjust deportations.
    • Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, the local branch of Catholic charities that is deeply involved in the immigration crisis, primarily through their Humanitarian Respite Center.
    • Annunciation House, a nonprofit that has three houses dedicated to taking care of migrants and refugees through living out the gospel. 
    • Ciudad Nueva, a charity that seeks to embody the gospel of Jesus Christ by advancing the renewal and development of central El Paso’s Rio Grande neighborhood through empowering and transforming its residents.
  •     Sponsor a refugee family upon their arrival in the United States
  •     Contact your local representative to advocate for immigration reform – it’s so easy – look below to find some scripts to start these conversations!
  • Write a note (in Spanish) to a local church leader helping migrants on the border.
    • Abara, a non-profit ministry in El Paso, will bundle these notes and take them to church and non-profit leaders in Juarez. Mail them to 810 N. Campbell, El Paso, TX 79902.

Even a small step is still a step

And if this feels overwhelming, let me just encourage you (and me!) to simply take the next small step. It’s hard enough to get my kids out the door to school in the morning, much less try to save the world. The good news is that we aren’t tasked with saving the world, but we are invited to participate in social healing.

 Not all of us will be deeply involved in anti-racism efforts, or disability rights advocacy, or immigration reform. But all of us have a part to play in acknowledging the way human beings and human systems harm one another. And all of us have a part to play in healing those hurts.

Want to learn more about the situation at the border? Read about the crisis here. Interested in the plight of children and families? Read this

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