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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: Immigrants Make America Great

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When I see Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis using migrants arriving the United States as political pawns by transporting them, without consent, to sanctuary cities across the U.S., I wonder why they fail to see their humanity. Why do they fear and vilify them, or worse—why do they feel the need to use them to win kudos from a base often out of touch with a changing world. Many of these migrants have families in the U.S. they’re hoping to reunite with while they await their asylum claims. This the antithesis of what Jesus would do. Christ sought out the company of the poor, the marginalized, the desperate. He welcomed the “other,” so she’d be a stranger no more.

In my trips to the Texas-Mexico border with the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Volunteer Program, I was privileged to serve my sisters and brothers seeking a better life in the U.S. at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas and in the migrant camps in Matamoros, Mexico. On these volunteer missions, I learned that no one leaves their homeland without a great impetus to do so. Danger, desertification due to climate change, and lack of opportunity are among those impetuses.

It was there that I met Catharina, who was cruelly separated from her two sons, ages 8 and 11, when she arrived in the U.S. She fled her home in Honduras due to violent drug gangs in Central America. Parts of the American public have an insatiable appetite for drugs, which fuels the problem. Catharina’s husband was murdered by one of these violent drug gangs that also threatened to conscript her two sons into that gang. She worked alongside volunteers at the Respite Center while she awaited reunification with her two sons. Their reunion came after five months apart, just in time for Christmas.

I also met Daniel, 8, a beautiful boy from Haiti, a gifted artist, and a peacemaker among the children he lived and played with. Within minutes of reading the backs of our t-shirts, he recreated the Poor Handmaids Volunteers logo from our shirts into a beautiful drawing for our team. He and his family were bound for Boston. I think about him often. I wonder how he and his family are doing, if he’s thriving, if he’s still creating. Then there was Hernan, who thought he was coming to Texas for a job, only to be held captive by a man who forced him to work upwards of 18 hours a day. Guests at the Respite Center were supposed to serve themselves food and beverages, but I chose to serve him while he sat down, filling him up with so much coffee, I hope he floated away to a trouble-free life on it.

In the border camp in Matamoros, I met two young boys who saw me breaking down cardboard boxes from the supplies we’d just delivered. They asked me if they could use that cardboard to line their sleeping bags, since they’d been sleeping on hard, dry ground for months. On all three trips, I met volunteers from other groups whose hearts were changed regarding immigrants when instead of the stereotypes, they encountered hard-working, family-oriented people.

I wonder a lot about the hardship, challenges, and injustices people face when they’re not wealthy, white, and born in America. I wonder how it got so politicized. Why add to their burden instead of welcoming them, as Christ calls us to do? I’ve heard some shockingly obtuse comments from former Catholic school classmates who wonder why I would serve “lawbreakers” and people who “didn’t come here the right way.” The short answer: I serve because I able, because I’m fortunate to do so. These newcomers, much like my four immigrant grandparents, are here because life in their homelands is dangerous and offers little opportunity or hope. If the situation seems bad now, wait until the climate crisis worsens, when crop land becomes even more barren, forcing more people to flee the only homes they’ve ever known. If current gas prices are shocking, wait until fresh water becomes the hot commodity.

What if we tried a new way, a way that gets us out of our comfort zone, but instead of thrusting us into our fear zone, we hold people in grace instead? What if we acknowledged America’s past as a nation built on the backs of the enslaved and the decimation of the Indigenous, without seeing white normative culture as a given? When we hold one another in grace, we’re able to see them sisters or brothers, not “others.”

It’s time for America to atone, to make reparations, return Native lands, and create sensible, humane immigration policies that welcome those whose countries have been decimated by greed, failed policy, and climate change. It’s time for us to see our neighbors as our brothers and sisters and welcome them as Christ would. Instead of a world ruled by fear and suspicion, what if we created a world ruled by grace and love?

Music: "Love Is The Answer" by Todd Rundgren

Barbara Allison is a writer, photographer, editor, maker, mom, and wife. She is a Content Specialist in Communications and Marketing for the Poor Handmaids of Jesus Christ Sisters in Plymouth, Indiana. She also worked as a journalist in South Bend for 30 years.