Convincing college students that comprehensive immigration reform is necessary for the future of the United States is not an easy task. Many students at Georgetown University where I attend are from Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. Students in certain parts of these states would likely never come into contact with someone who was affected by U.S. immigration policies unless they already had a reason to work on this issue. However, students at universities throughout our country have the opportunity to enhance their own perspectives and the narrative about immigration currently pushed by many politicians throughout the United States.
Before I arrived at Georgetown I had never met anyone who was undocumented. During the spring semester of my junior year, I had the opportunity to work with the in Washington, D.C. The center provides resources for immigrants in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia who are interested in becoming U.S. citizens or improving their English skills. Initially, I thought that it would be difficult for me to make an impact. I had never worked with immigrants before and I knew no Spanish. As the semester progressed, I found ways to make an impact by conducting practice citizenship interviews for some of the older students. The students I worked with had been taking the course the longest and were almost ready for the actual interview. I was impressed by how well they were prepared to answer the questions. The director of the center told us that a large percentage of U.S.-born citizens would be unable to pass the citizenship test!
Ephesians 2:14-15 tells us “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two…” (NIV). As this this portion of scripture from the New Testament illustrates, in order to bring down barriers and unite communities, any proposed changes to U.S. immigration law must include a fair and accessible pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. Current U.S. immigration policies erect more barriers than bridges.
College students and others have the opportunity to volunteer with organizations such as CARECEN and Mennonite Central Committee, and to set aside partisan influences, revealing the human side of immigration. We should never promote the idea that immigration is unusual or unnecessary. For many, the U.S. government stance on immigration is nothing more than policy rhetoric. For others, it can mean the difference between life and death.
Please consider contacting your members of Congress and urge them to work toward bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform that recognizes the humanity of immigrants and refugees and creates a more unified and whole community in the United States.
Alek Ball was the MCC U.S. Washington Office’s domestic policy intern in the summer of 2016. Story originally published on August 12, 2016. Reprinted with permission from Third Way Cafe.