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Tag: immigration reform

Biweekly Wrap-up: A human being, not a policy

“Look at it as a human being, not as a policy.”

That’s a quote from one of my articles last Sunday in The Courier-News. That’s also the theme of many of my articles that appeared in the newspaper over the past two weeks (admittedly, not many. I went to a beautiful wedding Friday evening, then spent Saturday through Wednesday with my family in Wisconsin.)

That’s the power of story. It’s easy to disagree, to become angry, to be negative about a policy. Those things become harder when you meet a human being impacted by that policy, when you hear his or her story.

“I wouldn’t mind if people were negative about it — as long as they understood. I don’t see how you could be negative about this after learning about this,” said David Miller, a student at Judson University in Elgin.

I interviewed Miller in April 2011 after he organized an experience at Judson called UN-Documented. That experience was meant to get students to think about “the way we interact with people who are immigrants and the way we show respect and love them,” according to UN-Documented creator Jesse Oxford.

Those words have stuck with me since then. They’re what come to mind when I write about, help people learn about new policies.

Like the cover story I wrote last week about the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the Affordable Care Act — and the people its measures already have impacted. And the cover story about the Obama administration’s decision not to deport young people brought illegally into the country by their parents — and the incredibly brave young people who may benefit from that.

Here are the other articles I’ve written over the past two weeks:

Photo credit: Michael Smart for Sun-Times Media. (Non-blurry photo hopefully coming soon.)

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Young immigrants see new citizenship hope (Sun-Times Media)

Happy Independence Day!

I’m just getting back from five days up at my family’s lake cabin in Wisconsin, doing all the things that make living in America great: getting baby licks from my nephew, cleaning a fish for the first time, roasting hot dogs and s’mores over a bonfire, melting in 100-degree heat. This article of mine ran in the meantime. And it reminded me how much I take for granted as an American citizen (and maybe you do, too).

Family is important to Leslie F.

That’s “where everything starts,” Leslie said. And without her family, she said, she wouldn’t be where she is today.

Literally.

When she was 9, her father emigrated to the area from Mexico. She, her mom and her sister followed a year later.

All since have become U.S. citizens or legal residents with help from the Hispanic social service agency Centro de Informacion in Elgin, Leslie said. All except her.

It’s not that the 27-year-old Schaumburg woman doesn’t want to become a citizen — she “definitely” does, said Leslie, who asked that her last name not be used. She graduated from Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago with a degree in justice studies, took the L-SAT and planned to attend law school.

“I always wanted to help people. As soon as I started with my major, I started becoming more interested in the juvenile court system,” Leslie said.

“The perfect way to get more involved in it is to become a lawyer and eventually be there to help them out. I want to focus on family and in juvenile.”

But without citizenship, without a Social Security number, she can’t get a scholarship or loan, making paying for law school impossible. She has submitted her citizenship paperwork, but she has at least a 12-year wait to get that, she said.

That’s a situation in which “so many” young people in the Elgin area find themselves, according to Jaime Garcia, executive director of Centro de Informacion.

And that is what is so important about President Obama’s announcement in mid-June that his administration would no longer deport the children of immigrants who came to the country illegally, without documentation, Garcia said.

“It’s important for me because it would allow me to pretty much finish my dream,” Leslie said.

It’s difficult to tell how many undocumented young people in the Fox Valley will be affected by the nation’s newest immigration policy. They are, after all, undocumented.

“I would venture to say even thousands,” Dave Richmond said.

Richmond is an immigration attorney with an office in downtown Aurora. In the week after Obama’s announcement, he said his phone rang off the hook.

So did the phones at Centro de Informacion offices in Elgin, Carpentersville and Hanover Park, Garcia said.

The Obama administration’s new policy could allow an estimated 1 million young immigrants across the U.S. to apply for “deferred action” on deportation orders and gain temporary work visas. It allows those who were brought to the U.S. before they turned 16 and are still under age 30, have earned a high school diploma or GED or served in the military and who have no criminal record to stay in the U.S. and to apply for documentation that will allow them to work legally.

“A number of people facing deportation — they graduated high school, they’re going to college,” Richmond said. “Their crime is that they were brought here as children by their parents, and this announcement would allow those people to stay here not with legal status, not with a green card, just to stay here and obtain work authorization.”

For the rest of the story, read Young immigrants see new citizenship hope (Sun-Times Media).

For more information about Centro de Informacion, read Centro celebrates 40 years of giving help in Elgin area (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles for Sun-Times Media. Antlers divider by IROCKSOWHAT.

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

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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