Are you on the path to citizenship or are you stuck in the “limbo loop?”
Each summer, the Great Plains Conference of the United Methodist Church brings together a group of outstanding college-age students and sets them to work to live out the words of Micah 6:8: Do Justice. Love Kindness. Walk humbly with God.
Ama Agyabeng and Ella Sherman came to their Micah Corps internship with a very particular interest in immigration reform. As part of their social justice outreach, they visited a church congregation to lead a discussion on the realities of being an undocumented immigrant in America.
But first they showed their elders how to play the Immigration Board Game.
Six teams (or players) get a story card. Four are in the U.S. without documentation for various reasons, and two are on their way to becoming citizens. The four undocumented players start on the “limbo loop” and the two documented ones start on the path to citizenship.
“The loop and the path do not connect,” says Ella. “At no point do they connect.”
Players roll dice and move through the brightly colored bubbles, experiencing normal life events—marriage, birth of a child—as well as the normal-for-the-undocumented events—ICE raids, for example, or being caught driving without a license because your state won’t issue you one.
“The events are supplemented by cards with real immigration stories,” explains Ella. “In addition, players may have to draw a card which either states that there are no visas available, or that their waiver for marriage was denied or something like that.”
After a few rounds Ella and Ama stopped the game and asked the players what they thought.
There really is no good news in this game. There is no way for the loop (undocumented) and path (to citizenship) to connect. No, you can’t just go “get a visa.” Most of the congregation hadn’t realized that.
“It was a very divided classroom,” remembers Ella. “Some said, ‘Yes, we should do something about immigration reform.’ Others said, ‘They’re illegal, that’s their problem.’ The discussion kind of got out of hand.”
At the end of the discussion, Ama read from Scripture, because “it’s hard to argue with the New Testament in a church setting.” She chose, of course, Matthew 25, putting firm emphasis on the section 44-46:
44 They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?
45 He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.
46 Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.
“The room went very quiet,” remembers Ella. “It was definitely an ‘uh-oh’ moment. People were thinking, ‘Maybe I shouldn’t have said what I just said.’
“I’m not sure we changed any minds,” she concludes, smiling. “But at least we got them thinking and that’s something!”