Book Review: Jesus Was A Migrant "Throughout the book, the author demonstrates the strong faith of migrants... as she weaves biblical stories of exile, migration and flight."

70Jesus Was a Migrant, by Deirdre Cornell, offers short but poignant glimpses of the suffering and triumphs of the migrant community in the U.S. through her ministry with Spanish-speaking migrants and their families both in and outside the country.

Cornell’s experience comes from her work in upstate New York with migrant workers and as a Maryknoll lay missioner in Mexico. The first chapter of her book, aptly titled “Migrants Matter,” introduces the reader to the global phenomenon of migration and displacement, and the value migrants bring to the nations to which they travel to live and work.

Cornell leads the reader to see that the migrant experience in the U.S. has not only caused much suffering and trials for migrants, but it also is a great source of blessing, especially in the realization that so much of the Bible is written from and about the migrant experience. She weaves biblical stories of exile, migration and flight with contemporary stories of Latino men, women and children struggling to find life and dignity in a strange land. She even includes stories of how her own Irish family generations past struggled to make a new home in America.

Throughout the book, the author demonstrates the strong faith of migrants she has come to know and work with, and the ways God reveals the divine self through the migrant experience. Cornell closes her short book with a chapter called “Pure Grace” that calls on our country to address the issue of immigration and on all of us to open our hearts to the stranger among us.

Jesus Was a Migrant is available online through Amazon. And if you sign up for the “Amazon Smile” program (http://smile.amazon.com) and choose LUCHA as your charitable organization, Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to LUCHA Ministries.

A Senator’s Aide Comes Knocking By Greg Smith, Administrative Coordinator

On Sunday, September 28, Sue and I hosted Mr. Marvin Figueroa in our home to talk with Latino and non-Latino colleagues and friends about immigration and immigration reform. Marvin serves in the office of Sen. Mark R. Warner (D) of Virginia in the areas of immigration, education and workforce development. Being a senate staffer as well as an immigrant from Honduras, Marvin offered an insider perspective into the challenges that face immigration reform and the immigrant community.

Marvin stated that immigration reform would probably not be taken up again before the new session of Congress in January 2015. But at that point, the Senate immigration bill adopted in the spring of 2013 becomes null and void, and the process requires starting over again. While there is still energy in the Senate for immigration reform, the process during the new session would probably start in the U.S. House of Representatives and not in the Senate. And with the presidential election taking place in 2016, there is realistically little hope that immigration reform will be passed during the next session of Congress.

Marvin addressed President Obama’s upcoming executive order regarding immigration, scheduled to be announced after the 2014 mid-term elections. While the president hasn’t specified what will be included, Marvin indicated that it could provide some relief for current undocumented immigrants. At the same time he cautioned us, explaining that an executive order is very limited in what it can do, and that it can be reversed by the next president. Every president understands that a “going-it-alone” approach can make it difficult to work with Congress, and in this case it could affect real immigration reform. Even Obama’s June 2012 DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) order doesn’t guarantee long-term relief. Only Congress can provide real immigration reform.

The recent surge of unaccompanied minors and family members, almost exclusively from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, hits close to home for Marvin, who emigrated from Honduras with his mother when he was 5. He expressed disappointment that the Lawrenceville, Virginia community did not allow the abandoned facilities of St. Paul College to house some of the children. These recent arrivals are admittedly “resource-heavy,” placing a burden on the services of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, on Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and others. He invited us to help Senator Warner find ways to integrate these children into U.S. society smoothly, for the children’s sake.

Several of the Latinos at the meeting said that many immigrants feel attacked by the anger and animosity generated by the immigration debate. One person stated that undocumented immigrants feel as if they are “disposable,” used by the system for what they can provide and then thrown away as unwanted. While immigration has many political, economic and sociological factors that must be considered, above all it is a moral concern, with the dignity of the immigrant as a person being of utmost importance.

Marvin thanked us for advocacy on behalf of immigration reform. While LUCHA’s group represented individuals of all political stripes, we are ready to work with anyone striving toward immigration reform. Overwhelmingly those in attendance felt very positive about their time with Marvin and that it was a constructive dialogue. Many expressed they would welcome future opportunities for such gatherings as we all work toward change.