This week marked the end of Hispanic Heritage Month. What a month! We celebrated the amazing accomplishments and diverse cultures of Hispanics amidst a national landscape of increasing polarization over their presence. Through it all we continue to witness the daring resilience of our Hispanic friends and neighbors.
Celebrating the daring resilience of Hispanics
While Lyndon Johnson first proclaimed Hispanic Heritage week, it was Ronald Reagan who established Hispanic Heritage Month. The month recognizes the independence of multiple Hispanic countries between September 15 and October 15. The month also recognizes the contributions of Hispanics that are part of the fabric of the United States.
Last year, I created a video and wrote on “How to celebrate Hispanics by dispelling three myths”.
Recognizing the daring resilience of Hispanics
The Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, Tainos and other native Hispanic populations created significant advancements prior to their decimation by European colonialist. Over the last century they have escaped war, poverty, gangs, drugs, dictators and more to find refuge in America. They risked everything to pursue a better life for their children and grandchildren.
The stories of our neighbors are often difficult. Fleeing from death they are at the mercy of Coyotes and traffickers. Frequently taking on back-breaking work only to be victims of labor trafficking. Some are victims of sex trafficking.
Maria’s dad died when she was young and her mom abandoned her. Only 14 and starving, Maria found someone willing to help her cross the border. She had family in Illinois and hoped to reach them. But once across the border she was sold as a sex slave. Her relatives finally found and rescued her, but Maria needed help.
Gloria was brought across the border when she was six by her mom. She remembered the hot, crowded truck and long walks across the desert. Her mom found work on a date farm where Gloria also worked. They moved to Illinois to be with mom’s sister. There a man tried to rape Gloria, but her mom intervened and was killed. Gloria moved to the suburbs, went to school, and married her high school sweetheart. Gloria’s life was shattered again when her husband was picked up by ICE as part of a sweep. He was deported.
Gloria tried to make ends meet working at McDonald’s but when her daughter got sick she had no one to care for her and lost her job. Without work she was evicted. She moved in with an estranged brother who took her kids and threw her and all her belongings out of his apartment. If she complained, he and his American wife would have her deported. Gloria needed help.
Joining the daring resilience of Hispanics
The best decision I ever made – apart from following Jesus – was marrying a beautiful, strong Latina woman. Helen Lopez grew up in the Bronx of New York. Puerto Rican she learned the challenges of being a woman of color early. But like many Hispanic families she was raised in a culture of service. You help your neighbors and watch out for each other. You are familia. I have learned much from her and we are stronger together.
So is our country.
We need to see ourselves as familia. The hateful rhetoric and actions over the last month toward Hispanics is deplorable. This past week acting ICE director, Tom Homan, attacked California for adopting SB54 which refuses to rip families apart. The rhetoric is simple.
Rather than see our Hispanic brothers and sisters as fellow image bearers of God and vital contributors to the fabric of America, some in power want to build a wall, deport, dash dreams and criminalize people of color – brown and black. This past month DACA was dismantled and the President returned to his base in demanding a border wall, and limits on both legal and illegal immigration.
The Justice Department also doubled down on demanding five jurisdictions cease supporting Hispanic immigrants or lose federal funds by October 27. Courts in Philadelphia and Chicago have already ruled the government cannot lawfully do this, but the war against people of color continues.
For more read “7 absolutely important legal stories missed this week” from two weeks ago and “Will you destroy the daring dream of dreamers?”
Join in daring resilience by standing against the rhetoric.
Do not stand by when others make comments about our Hispanic neighbors. Don’t let them hide behind the issue of immigration. Puerto Ricans are citizens, yet the President this week showed an utter disregard of them. Why? We know why.
Floridians were called “amazing people” who “have done a fantastic job of getting things together” after Irma. After Harvey, Texans were told, “We are with you today, we are with you tomorrow, and we will be with you EVERY SINGLE DAY AFTER, to restore, recover, and REBUILD!” But Puerto Ricans. Even the Hurricane bore the wrong name for them – Maria. They were told they “want everything to be done for them.” And “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
Join in daring resilience by taking action
Now is the time to call your representatives and advocate for adoption of a clean Dream Act. These young men and women should be allowed to pursue their dreams in the only country they have ever known.
Gloria is a DACA recipient. She came to a gospel justice center. Amazingly resilient, Gloria still needed practical guidance in what she could do to rescue her children and provide for them. A lawyer intervened and returned her children to her, helped her apply for DACA so she could obtain work and support her citizen children, and connected her with a church and other resources. Gloria came to faith through the legal ministry. She obtained good employment and a new apartment. She recently renewed her DACA, but what will she do if we don’t stand with her in demanding passage of a Dream Act?
Join in daring resilience through legal ministry
There are 384,000 churches in America but less than 300 are involved in legal ministry. That’s wrong. Every second someone in America is unable to find legal help – more than 100,000 every day! Don’t be Priest and Levites walking past neighbors in need. Stop. Stop to rescue and restore. Jesus told us to do exactly that as he said, “Go and Do Likewise”. Lk. 10:37.
Maria found help. She walked into a gospel justice center where her hope was restored. Maria received a T-Visa which allowed her to work and find stability. She saw Christians in a new way as people who cared instead of those who throw rocks. As she said, “I learned there could be justice, even for someone like me.” We have to stop to care for neighbors.
Gospel Justice Initiative has removed all the barriers to service. No cost. No liability. We cover your insurance and provide you with all the tools you need. We train and provide travel so you can visit an operating site location and receive orientation training. You become part of a support network with 62 others across the country.
But you gotta stop.
Stop making excuses or saying it’s someone else’s responsibility. Stop judging neighbors or saying you don’t have the time or skills. That is the Priest and Levite. Be the Samaritan. Make a difference. Follow Jesus command. Go and Do Likewise.
To get started e-mail Justine at [email protected]