By Nora O. Lozano
La versión en español está disponible aquí.
Last week the issue of immigration returned to the news as Donald Trump was challenged by Mexican-American Univision anchor Jorge Ramos regarding Trump’s plans, if he becomes U.S. president, to deport millions of immigrants. Simultaneously, news about the European migration/refugee crisis surfaced as 54 persons died trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, and a significant number of bodies were found in a truck in Austria. They were trying to reach Western Europe to pursue a better life.
Last week, I also saw in Facebook an attempt to replicate an English movement: The “I am an Immigrant” campaign. This movement “seeks to challenge the negative rhetoric against immigrants, celebrate them, and provide them with a platform to share their story.” It encourages immigrants to share their picture, place of origin and contributions to the United Kingdom.
These events prompted me to reflect on my story. As I considered joining this movement, I remembered that I arrived in United States on a day like today, 28 years ago (Sept. 2, 1987), with a student visa, one suitcase, $200 and many dreams. Through God’s blessings, generous donors and churches and hard work, I was able to obtain an excellent education. In time, God called me (to my surprise and against my desire), to establish my residence and primary place of service in this country. Eventually I became a dual citizen.
I am sharing this part of my story for several reasons. I want to challenge this country’s common stereotypes/generalizations regarding immigrants, especially Mexicans, as undocumented, lazy and foolish, and lately as drug smugglers and rapists. While it is true that some immigrants have committed crimes, most are good contributing people who love this country and seek its welfare.
Second, I want to encourage international and minority students to dream — and to dream big. I am a testimony that dreams can come true. The accomplishment of educational dreams requires hard work and many sacrifices, but they are worth it. I would not trade for anything the knowledge and experiences that I acquired. Following the “I am an Immigrant” model, I want to share that I am a Mexican immigrant. I have a B.A., an M.Div., an M. Phil., a Ph.D., and most recently was awarded a D.D. (honorary doctorate). I thought that I was coming to the United States for two years, but I am beginning my 29th year here. I still would love to return to live in Mexico, but God seems to think otherwise. My primary contributions are raising a daughter and a son, who so far and with God’s blessing, are on their way to becoming good, productive citizens, and teaching many people (several thousand; I lost count) through the spoken or written word in United States and around the world in the fields of theological, biblical and leadership studies.
Third, and most important, this story is a testimony of God’s grace. God is the true hero here. God guided me to the right people and places, provided for all my needs and gave me the strength to continue through difficult circumstances. I consider this journey and any contributions that have been made through it as God’s gifts.
As I write this, I recognize that this issue is complex. While some people migrate due to educational or vocational opportunities, most people do it due to economic issues (migrants) and political crises (refugees). Many of them would prefer to stay in their countries of origin, if they could find ways to support their families and/or if they could experience peaceful and safe living conditions.
A viable solution requires a rethinking and implementation of fairer political and economic worldwide policies. While I believe that the common citizen, like you or me, will not effect this massive change, there are some things that we can do:
• Get informed about the real issues, especially about the fundamental economic and political reasons that unleash migration/refugee crises. Support national and worldwide political and economic agendas that promote the welfare of all of God’s children and our common home, the earth.
• Become a friend of an immigrant/refugee. Listen to his/her story, and see beyond common societal stereotypes.
• If you are an immigrant/refugee, share your story. I realize that many immigrants belong to the so called invisible group who live in the shadows for fear of deportation. However, if you can safely do so, please share your story.
• If you or your church can afford it, find ways to support people in poor countries so that they can live in peaceful and dignified ways. Remember, many migrants/refugees did not want to move in the first place, but they were forced to do it due to economic or political reasons. While benevolent/charitable acts are good short-term solutions, please consider the Chinese proverb: “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.” When possible, buy fair-trade products, and support educational initiatives that empower people to become self-sufficient.
• Live modestly. This world has limited resources. If persons in rich countries consume most of these resources, others will be doomed to poverty, and will consider migration. Furthermore, by consuming less, people in rich countries will have a greater possibility of being generous with their resources.
• If you are struggling with the most common immigration debate among Christians:
Undocumented immigrants broke the land’s law and must be punished (Rom. 13:1-7).
“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God” (Lev. 19:33-34).
Please watch an excellent EthicsDaily documentary, “Gospel without Borders.”
• After considering these issues and actions, ask: What would Jesus do? Oh, by the way, he and his family had to migrate, too, to protect Jesus’ life. They were refugees in Egypt (Matt. 2:13-18).
Thanks for reading!
I am Nora O. Lozano, and I am an immigrant.