There’s a saying I’ve heard that goes something like this: “Change is the only thing that’s consistent in life.” I have found that to be true in my own life. I have changed where I’ve lived, changed majors in college, changed careers, and have even experienced a shift in my vocational journey.
Peacemaking and social justice as broad categories have been a part of my vocation for several years. But I never thought I’d be involved in the struggle for justice for immigrants. Immigration has been a “hot-button” issue for decades (really, centuries) but it wasn’t on my radar until I journeyed to the borderlands of Arizona and Mexico while I was in seminary.
I, along with several of my classmates, witnessed firsthand the barriers and traumas immigrants experience while journeying to the U.S., many of them seeking a better life for themselves and for their families. The numerous stories of blatant injustice we heard lit a fire within me.
We witnessed the cruel policy known as “Operation Streamline,” which is a zero-tolerance policy for undocumented individuals—charging them with a crime for crossing the border without documents and bringing them in large groups before a judge in assembly-line style hearings. They had journeyed hundreds of miles. We left feeling hopeless and enraged!
We also met with church leaders who are part of the sanctuary movement in Tucson and witnessed them surround a woman who was living in sanctuary with 24/7 support. The tug of war I witnessed and felt between hopelessness and justice is what led me to join the fight for immigration justice.
I have been honored to be a part of the Shut Down Berks Interfaith Witness, which is working towards shutting down the family detention center near Reading, Pennsylvania, and to partner with other organizations in my hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to make it a more welcoming city. It is my hope and prayer that you may be open to the shifting tides within your own lives.
John-Michael is a member of the Volunteer Advocacy Coordinators Network (VACN). He serves as the advocacy program coordinator for the Pennsylvania Council of Churches in Harrisburg, PA.