Immigration Reform in 2014?

Written by REV. PAUL PEREZ
Dir. of Mission and Justice Engagement Detroit Conference

Sometime next week the two millionth person will be deported since President Obama took office.

It appears that another year will pass without any movement on immigration reform. The President’s plan of appeasement through increased enforcement and deportation has not worked. Its only result: our elected officials, both Republican and Democrat, are playing politics on the backs of real people.

Two million real people in fact.

That’s two million men, women, and children. Two million mothers, fathers, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, and sisters. Two million co-workers, friends, and church members. Families, communities, and our churches have been, literally, torn apart over the past six years.

I have seen the pain first hand. Last spring, while working with Justice for Our Neighbors – Southeastern Michigan, I helped launch an ecumenical visitation ministry to immigrant detainees held at the Monroe County Jail. At any given time about 60 men, who have broken the civil law of U.S. immigration code, are held, like criminal offenders, at one of the jail’s facilities which serve as the last staging point prior to deportation.

I met grandpas who lived decent quiet lives for decades before being detained and processed for deportation. I met young men who were brought to this country as children, who have known no other country, no other home then the U.S and for whom deportation means being sent to a foreign country. I met a man who broke down in tears as he faced the reality of missing not only his daughter’s birth but most likely the rest of her life.

Each time I visited and engaged in deep listening and prayer with the men, I emerged emotionally exhausted and spiritually drained. The men were angry, scared, confused, but mostly just sad to their core. Never have I been in a place with such an intense concentration of despair and hopelessness.

I have come to conclusion that the system of detainment and deportation is wrong and has to stop. I am not alone in this conviction.  I am inspired by modern day prophets who are posing the same test and marking its failure through personal sacrifice and putting their own bodies on the line. While immigration reform is not likely, that should not stop those of us who care deeply for people who face the threat of deportation from speaking out and to acting to protect the well-being of our neighbors and our communities. The time for such prayerful and prophetic witness is now.