End of a Dream
On September 5, I learned that DACA, the immigration policy that protected certain undocumented immigrants who came to America when they were children from deportation, would phase out and end. I am sorry and ashamed to admit that upon hearing those words, I felt nothing.
So, before I write anything more, I ask for forgiveness from my brothers and sisters who are struggling. Forgive me for my jadedness - I was blinded by privilege. Forgive me for turning away my eyes and ears from your hurting and afraid hearts - I became too absorbed in my own comfortable life.
An Undocumented Story
I used to be part of the young generation that DACA helped. For most of my life, my family and I were undocumented, aside from my brother who is a natural-born citizen.
There are many stories like mine, with thousands of first-generation parents leaving their home country (some quite legally, in fact) to chase the American Dream not for themselves, but their children.
These stories tell of hopes slowly extinguished by the realization that in a country founded by immigrants, there was no advocate for our hard-working parents. If you stay to listen a little longer, you might realize that for us children, our legal status was not a choice, and yet it completely dictated our lives in America.
Before DACA, the fear of being blamed simply for being who we were silenced the complexities and nuances of our stories - of my story. The fear subdued us. But we had to bear its burden to be allowed in America, allowed to be home.
Coming out of Silence
As undocumented immigrants, we remained in silence while our friends spoke freely and participated in any activity they chose. For us, travelling abroad, getting a job, driving, and for a long time, even going to college, were all privileges we could never enjoy.
We tried to empathize with those who confided in us about things we did not understand because we never had the opportunity to. Yet, we were stained by fear, unable to ask for their empathy in return. When we did find the courage to speak, our ears heard dismissive advice or people made assumptions about our stories, which subtly coaxed us into deeper silence.
DACA changed that. The fears ingrained in us were peeled away as we were finally granted the freedom to be who we could fully be in America, in our home. Our stories became known. We no longer had to stand in silence.
As for me, my permanent residency was recently established, and I am now authorized to work in the United States, drive a car, and escape the fear of being forced to leave my home. The hope that DACA started for me is now a reality, but for many of my friends still a part of DACA, they are once again met by the fear they temporarily escaped from. They could be forced out of America; they could be deported from their only home.
How to Help Us
When we are met with others whose sufferings we do not relate to, we are prone to tune out or feel too overwhelmed to get involved. But we cannot buy into the apathy towards others who have issues and suffering that do not affect us directly. We must be sensitive to their struggles because God calls us to be loving toward our neighbors in the same way He loves them. Here are a few thoughts from my experiences that I hope will help us respond.
During my life as undocumented, my greatest struggle with the church was being misunderstood and made small. Upon sharing my immigration status and feelings, I would receive different reactions, from bumbling "I'm sorry's" to jokes about getting a green-card marriage. I justified their ignorance by telling myself that they just could not understand.
But I still felt dismissed. And that is the truth about many things: Without having been through it, you will not fully understand.
We must acknowledge this first before trying to say any other words, and it helps to say it aloud to our struggling peers. "I know this is hard for you in a way I am unable to understand, since I haven’t been through it. I'm sorry you are going through this. But I am here for you." This helps us see that you are trying to understand, and helps us feel that we are validated in our suffering.
We know there is no guarantee that you can help us every step of the way. But hearing you say this, having you be there, is comforting. It is the very presence of our brothers and sisters, suffering alongside us, that matters. Maybe this is what Paul meant in 1 Corinthians 12:26: there is something beautiful in a body coming together to pray, suffer, and rejoice.
Be sensitive to our situation, and know when to suffer with us, when to just sit and listen, and when to give words. Certainly, there were times when I was comforted by my peers who gave me Bible verses that highlighted God's sovereignty and powers. But there were also times when those words were so hard to believe and I just needed to mourn.
Finding Our Way Home
Ultimately, remind us that Jesus is with us, that HE IS our hope, and that God does not leave our voices unheard. Remind us of these things with God's word rather than just your own, because this reminds us that you also believe that He is my hope just as much as He is yours. Be with us in our struggle to believe God's truths and remind us when we need it most.
Then, live out your words. Earnestly pray for us. Educate yourself about this issue. Use your voice of privilege by calling your political leaders and voting. Do this because you can, and because we cannot.
No matter what situation we are in, we must all remember that this is our temporary home, and that while we are on the earth, we are to live exemplifying Christ’s love. In attempting to answer the question, "How can I help", we arrive at a simple conclusion: Obey God.
Obedience to His commandments is the best way to show that we love Him, and that we love His people. Before we are citizens or residents of America, we are His children. We cannot get too comfortable, lest we fall into the trap of immovable complacency.
Let us go where He commands. Love those He loves. Follow where He has gone. Let us remember the heart of Our Father who is calling His children – documented and undocumented - home.
Christine Oh is a student at UC Davis studying sociology and philosophy and is a part of the UCD Navigators. She is a long-time congregant of All Nations Community Church and attends Lifepointe Church while at Davis.