On Undocumented Immigration

Most of you know I spent 12 years, when we lived in Snohomish County, Washington, from the 1984 til our move to Moscow in 2002 in a one-woman ministry, supported by my husband, to undocumented Mexican immigrants in our area.  After reading this, you’ll perhaps understand my passion for justice for those here without papers …
I grew up in a UFW/Cesar Chavez-supporting, activist, household in Tucson, Arizona, amongst Mexican and Mexican-American people. I spent 12 years, 1989-2001, working among undocumented Mexican immigrants — 20 or more hours a week teaching English, distributing bilingual Bibles, advocating, providing transportation and translation, and doing pastoral/social work things. I’d say that qualifies me to talk not about the immigrants’ experience, but about the subject of undocumented immigration itself.

First, a more humanitarian term would be “undocumented,” not “illegal.” No human being is “illegal.” They are workers, not “aliens.” Those who immigrate w/o papers to CA, AZ, NV, NM, TX, are “immigrating” to areas that, prior to the 1840s, were part of Mexico — taken, unjustly “annexed,” by the U.S. Beyond that, undocumented workers — who, by the way, more often overstay visas instead of coming illegally across the border, making “border security” a little less than fully the point — contribute enormously to the economy and, through payroll taxes and sales taxes, contribute far, far more than they’ll ever receive in any services. While still w/o papers, they’re not eligible for government services, although some do accept services like WIC and food stamps that allow them to feed their children.

I know and love scores of “dreamers,” adults who came here as children with their parents, and who still live in fear that they’ll be deported. I worked with probably 300 people, many of whom are still, 13 yrs after I left Monroe, WA, where my ministry was, dear friends. Two families in particular have adopted me into theirs; I have no blood relatives who mean to me what they do. I could go on and on, but that’s it in a nutshell. Undocumented immigrants on the whole BENEFIT this country; if they were magically, wrongly, all deported, entire economies, such as Monroe, would collapse overnight.

Monroe’s downtown was a blight of shuttered storefronts. Now, it’s a hub of activity — Mexican restaurants, stores, salons, and has opened up the area to Asian-owned businesses as well. Yes, some bad people immigrate without papers. But of the literally hundreds I’ve known and worked with, I can count three — three — who were criminals. The rest are hardworking, honest, industrious, warm, and stable people you would be privileged to live alongside. And, in case my passion doesn’t come through, let me say that I would give up everything I have in defense of my friends and their families. Finally, as a Christian, I see no way around working for their benefit. They are “the least of these” who represent Jesus in this world, and woe be it to any Christian who mocks, disdains, ignores, persecutes, or oppresses them.

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