As I listened to Donald Trump’s speech on immigration last night, I felt tempted to respond to each factual inconsistency, each instance of scapegoating, and each hateful diatribe against immigrants. I know many colleagues in the immigrant justice world, more articulate than I am, will be able to do just that.
Instead, I’d like to share how the Justice for Our Neighbors ministry—including hundreds of our volunteers, staff, and clients— recognizes immigrants differently than does Mr. Trump.
The foremost value of National Justice for Our Neighbors is:
“We are compassionate and trustworthy. We create a welcoming atmosphere for our clients.”
As a ministry that provides immigration legal services, we experience the gift of learning the struggles and yearnings of those who seek to be a part of America. The immigrants we encounter come to us not because they are trying to undermine our laws, but because they want to understand them.
In working with thousands of low-income clients each year, we feel a shared humanity with our immigrant brothers and sisters.
We are amazed that the Syrian accountant, who lost his home and livelihood when he fled as a refugee, feels nothing but gratitude that he now has a job delivering pizzas in the U.S. He would not be allowed here under Mr. Trump’s plan.
We are angry for the undocumented Peruvian who was beaten by her husband and put up with the abuse for months because she feared deportation. But we are helping her remain safely here with her children because she had the courage to call the police and is cooperating with them.
Under Mr.Trump’s plan, in which police would be compelled to notify U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), she would likely not have had the bravery to come forward and would continue living in a household of violence.
We are inspired by the high school graduate, here since age two, who was surprised to learn she has no immigration papers. Nevertheless, she plans to pursue her dream of becoming a lawyer so she can help other immigrants here in the U.S.
She is eligible for a work permit and protection from deportation now through the DACA program, but would be stripped of these protections under Mr. Trump’s plan.
We are in awe of the 9-year old boy who journeyed six weeks from Honduras to Texas to escape the gangs. He only wants to be safe. Currently we are helping prepare the boy’s court case so that hopefully he will not be forced to return to torture, persecution, or death.
Mr. Trump’s proposals would make it unlikely for him to be able to arrive in the first place.
And we weep with the 12-year old girl whose father has been deported. Her family will never live together again, and she will celebrate the milestones of her life without her father. We cannot help her, but yet we weep.
We at Justice for Our Neighbors will not give in to the rhetoric of fear and the politics of hate. We will not stand to see immigrants vilified. We have been inspired by their courage, moved by their many stories. We cannot help but feel compassion and respect. We will continue to share our clients’ stories of sacrifice, of tenacity, and of hope, because we know that our lives are enriched through them. Our experience has shown us that immigrants not only strengthen our communities and our nation, but that they also make us better.
We will continue to listen to our immigrant brothers and sisters. And to love them.
We will assist them, as our laws permit, to navigate a complex legal system so that they can achieve their dreams of contributing fully to our great American society.
And when those laws are unjust—or when policies are proposed that denigrate our immigrant neighbors—then we can and must speak out. That’s why, when the foundation of Trump’s immigration policy is built on the motto, “Take our country back,” we cannot remain silent. Immigrants are not taking our country away from us. They are, as they always have been, making it the beautiful nation that it is.