REPOST: Getting to know thy neighbor (Sun-Times Media)

by Emily McFarlan Miller

President Barack Obama’s announcement today reminded me of this article I wrote about a year ago, documenting suburban Chicagoan Jesse Oxford’s efforts to start “a media-driven, culture-shaping movement seeking to inspire and mobilize young evangelical Christians towards championing the needs of immigrants.” It’s called “UN-Documented,” and you can watch a short video, choose an experience and join the conversation about it on Oxford’s website, UnDocumented.tv.

No matter what your opinion on immigration policy, or the Obama administration’s plan to not deport some young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children, it’s worth watching, experiencing and conversing about how that fits into how the Bible says we ought to love “the foreigner” (see Zechariah 7:10).

ELGIN — When David Miller glanced at his hand resting on the steering wheel of his car, it made him think twice.

The black, inky stamp on the back of his hand said “UN,” as in UN-documented, and it was part of an experience called “Become the Stranger” he organized at Judson University last week.

That experience asked participants to put themselves in the shoes of an undocumented immigrant for a day. They were to leave their identification at home and wear the stamp, both to encourage them to think about what that would mean and others to ask questions.

If he really were undocumented, Miller thought, would he risk driving over the speed limit, getting pulled over for speeding, being found without the proper documentation to be in the country?

Taking notes in class at Judson, the Algonquin resident glanced at his hands moving across the keyboard of his laptop.

If he really were undocumented, would he be able to afford that computer? He could have been a businessman in another country — but here, without documentation, he could be working as a “laborer,” he said.

“It makes me thankful for what I have. It’s so easy to take for granted,” Miller said.

“You grow up in Algonquin, you don’t think about this. I went to Dundee-Crown (in Carpentersville), but I was in band and all honors classes. It never occurred to me there are people walking in the hallways who are dealing with this.”

At the end of the day, he said, it made him frustrated more than anything: He had hoped the experience would spark conversation, but he had passed out only about 30 stamps to other students interested in participating. Only two people had asked him about the stamp on his hand. Nobody cared, he said.

That’s an experience an undocumented immigrant can relate to, said Jesse Oxford of East Dundee.

Oxford, who created the “Become the Stranger” experience around his eight-minute documentary “A New Dream,” pointed to a statistic from the Billy Graham Center: Less than one in 10 immigrants ever will be welcomed into the home of an American.

“That is an experience we are actually trying to change,” Oxford said.

For the rest of the story, read Getting to know thy neighbor (Sun-Times Media).

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