Ana Alicia Hinojosa is from Brownsville, Texas and works for Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) Central States as Immigration Education Coordinator, where she is committed to the work of educating immigrants of their rights and bridging congregations to the work of MCC. She is a single, adoptive mother of three teenagers, who have inspired her to pursue her doctoral degree in Education Organizational Leadership.
I still remember that cold and rainy Sunday, as we drove to the evening service at our church, Iglesia Mennonita del Cordero. As we drove past the immigrant-homeless shelter, we saw families gathering pieces of cardboard boxes that were on the side of the road, ready for trash pick up the next morning. My dad slowed down, and I saw this young girl, about six years old; we waved at each other. I can still see her hand shaking from the cold, her clothes were all wet, since it had been raining all day. You see her family had just arrived a few days prior from Guatemala, fleeing the violence of war in the 1980’s. There was no room at the shelter, so they were making a shelter out of cardboard to keep warm through the cold, wintry night.
We arrived at church, I could see that this was weighing down on my father’s heart as it was mine. I reached out my hand to him and he whispered, “We are going to do something to help them, mija.” He stood up and went to talk to the pastor sitting on the front pew. The pastor stood up and stopped the service. He told the congregation of the need that was just down the street, and said that he could not be here to preach about God’s love when there was a need for us to put that love into action. The service stopped, and we opened the doors to house people seeking refuge and needing a warm place to stay, a hot plate of food, legal help and rides to the immigration offices. This event completely changed my life and sparked my passion to work in immigration.
Life on the Texas border is a bit different now, our whole country is very different now, but people continue to migrate to the U.S. just as they did in the 80s with the same broken immigration system in place. Policies have not improved, but rather become worse. Amid post-zero-tolerance policy, my hometown continues to pick up the pieces. Just because the issue is no longer in the news cycle, doesn’t mean there’s been improvement for immigrants seeking safety for themselves and their families. People continue to seek refuge in our country, some stranded on barricaded bridges that prohibit them from crossing into the U.S. They sleep on the hard concrete without access to shelter from the elements and without a way to meet their family’s basic needs. The struggle continues to reunite families that were separated a few months ago. Churches and small organizations try to help as much as they can in providing basic needs to some and rides when immigrants are released from detention centers.
Some days the work feels overwhelming and stagnant, leaving me with no energy to move forward. But when I look to scripture. Luke 9 verse 23 says, “And he said to them all, ‘If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.’” We as the church must follow in the footsteps of Jesus, sharing his unconditional love to our neighbor, those in need and those whom are being persecuted.
We are called during these dark times to shine his light of love.
Is it easy? No, but God put us on the earth to extend our hand to those who are a little different than us and share the same message that Jesus shared, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
What can you do to get involved in Immigration Issues:
Learn: Consider participating in the MCC Migration Learning Tour to Guatemala and Honduras on November 7-17.
Pray: Pray for the migrants who made the difficult choice to leave their home communities in the hope of a better life, for the detained immigrants as they wait in detention and for the border portal agents to execute their job justly and humanely.
Advocate: Contact your elected officials to express your desire for more humane immigration policies.
1. Become an immigration court watcher through the Interfaith Community for Detained Immigrants.
2. Serve at a local church or organization working with immigrants
This post is part of MC USA’s Immigration Justice: Learn, Pray, Join initiative.
With hope we pray for justice for immigrants seeking peace, wholeness and safety in the United States and around the world. We invite congregation to use Peace Sunday prayers and worship resources: “A renewed peace church welcomes the stranger,” created by Mennonite World Conference for worship on Sept. 23.
Consider ways you can actively support immigration justice:
1. Learn skills to help facilitate intercultural competency and/or undoing racism processes in congregations through the Intercultural Development Inventory or invite one of the 18 qualified administrators across MC USA to work with your congregation.
2. Advocate for just and humane immigration policies for immigrants and refugees by contacting your local, state and national elected officials.
3. Offer church facilities and volunteers for immigration documentation services, language classes, mental health support, cultural celebrations, after-school homework help and other ministries.
4. Engage in mutual aid to offer food, shelter, clothing, housing, transportation and other resources to immigrants regardless of their status.
5. Donate to MC USA to support congregations and projects working with immigration justice initiatives addressing family separation, detention centers, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and legal assistance.