There are only two political issues that I can remember writing to an elected official about, state surveillance and immigration. I’ve spoken quite a bit about surveillance on my blog before, however I have not really talked in detail about my feelings towards immigration.
I served a two-year mission for my church when I was 19 years old. In the LDS Church young prospective missionaries do not choose where they will serve, they are called (assigned) to a field of labor by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles (one of the church’s top two leadership councils). I didn’t have any notion before my calling where I would be going. I hoped for some place cold. Instead, I received my calling to serve in Lima and the southern coastal regions in Peru. Each missionary is paired with a series of companion missionaries, and all mine, with one exception, were Peruvians who did not speak English. I became immersed in Peruvian culture, learned Spanish, and did a lot of growing over those two years. When I came home, I felt excited, but oddly similar to how I had felt leaving home in the first place. Peru had become home for me, and still today I will have feelings of homesickness on occasion for the people and communities I grew to love.
One of my most treasured memories is of one of my return trips a few years ago when I was with one of my dearest friends, a woman I call my “Peruvian mom”. We were in the center of Lima and when seeing a group of American tourists I remarked how I’m sure I looked like one of them, but I didn’t feel like one of them. Lima was my territory and I didn’t feel like a fish out of water. She told me, “I don’t see you like one of them. You’re one of us.”
Over the years since my mission I have tried to take advantage of every opportunity to speak to Hispanics. It has helped me maintain my Spanish and helped me reconnect with Latino culture. For two years, up until my recent move to Texas, I served in a leadership capacity of the Spanish LDS congregation for West Michigan. While there, I saw first hand the struggles inherent in immigrant populations within the United States. I saw great hardship and familial struggle directly due to U.S. immigration policy. I saw tremendous anguish and separation due to deportations. I saw a necessary part of our economy relegated to secondary status due to a lack of papers. It is exasperating to hear American political leaders decry humanitarian suffering around the world while our immigration system inflicts so much deliberate pain here at home.1
Donald Trump promises to deport immigrants by the millions. In order to actually accomplish this would require a security mobilization of immense proportions and of Kristallnachtian character. He then promises to add insult to injury by building an immense, almost certainly ineffectual, wall, while demanding our neighbor pay for it. And if they won’t pay for it he will garnish remittances sent from laborers within the U.S. to their families back home. If this man was your neighbor, you would move. To me, Trump’s comments aren’t just flabbergasting, they’re infuriating. These aren’t strangers he is threatening to forceably remove from their homes, they are my friends. When Trump says that Mexico isn’t sending their best, he obviously lacks the self reflection to realize that imbecilic blowhards probably said the same thing about his grandfather when he came to the U.S. from Germany, as they did when my ancestors came from Ireland. People do not leave their homelands lightly, but thank goodness they sometimes do, or we would not have a country.
Immigration and its economic impact within destination countries are complicated. But in the end it is just people trying to build a life for themselves and their families. If living in another culture has taught me anything it is that we all want to provide for our children. We want to leave the world better than we found it. I would call attention to two scriptures for anyone, especially any Christian, who supports Donald Trump out of partisan loyalty or out of fear of his opponent.
Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.2
And if a stranger sojourn with thee in your land, ye shall not vex him. But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.3