2020 is less than two months old.
So, let’s take a quick glance at the last two weeks of the administration’s immigration news. They have:
Diverted $3.8 billion to build the wall; held 174 detainees for months without bond hearings; reinforced a 60-day deadline for unaccompanied children cases to be adjudicated, “[gone] to war with the states” over immigration; more than 300 people (including families) from El Salvador and Honduras deported to the Guatemala since late 2019; accessing millions of cellphones for the purposes of immigration and border enforcement; swore in 28 new immigration judges (11 of them have no immigration law experience); suspended New Yorkers’ access to Trusted Traveler programs; issued a new rule to increase uncertainty for foreign students; allowed ICE to collect fingerprints of immigrants 14 years and older; expanded the travel ban to restrict Nigerians; deployed the CBP SWAT teams to major cities; and, the State of the Union.
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In this context, we enter the final 338 days — or 1,799 days — of the Trump administration.
And, almost every day, I get the same question. Through raised eyebrows, body language or words. From funders, policy makers, press, colleagues who are following our efforts to engage conservatives and moderates.
Does it matter?
Yes, they say, it matters that churches and community organizations are providing legal and social services to immigrants and refugees across the country and around the world.
Yes, they say, it matters that immigrants, refugees and their allies are engaging their friends, neighbors, elected officials in the debate.
Yes, they say, it matters that lawyers are fighting back against the administration’s policies in the courts.
This work, and so much more, has a real-time, positive, impact on people’s lives.
I wholeheartedly agree.
But, they ask, does it matter even trying to work with conservative and moderate Americans to depolarize the immigration debate?
Because pundits and punditry say conservatives will never move.
Well, it matters because there are people like Kathy.
A few weeks ago, Jenny Yang, Vice President for Advocacy at World Relief, joined a luncheon at Dallas Baptist University, “Justice, Compassion, Truth: A Discussion on Immigration.”
Jenny invited my colleague, Bri Stensrud, who leads the Welcome. campaign, engaging conservative and moderate evangelical women, to speak.
After the question and answer session, Bri told me a white woman, “in her late 50s or early 60s,” approached her.
It was Kathy. (Not her real name.)
She had learned about the Welcome. campaign through a video on her Facebook feed. So, Kathy traveled about an hour from a Dallas suburb specifically to meet Bri.
I am not sure how Kathy felt about the immigration issue before that video.
But, after watching the Welcome. videos and completing the Ruth and Naomi Project Study Guide, Kathy realized she was missing something. So, she recruited two of her girlfriends to join a border immersion trip, “to see for ourselves.”
Based on what she learned through Welcome., what she saw at the border, and the fact that she was not alone among evangelical women wanting to get more involved, Kathy told Bri, “we’ve just gotten on fire.”
Now Kathy and her friends are working to organize a screening of the “Who is Welcome Here?” documentary at their church.
My point is that we reached one woman through her cultural framework. And she went on to reach two of her friends. And they are going on to reach their congregation.
The day-to-day blocking and tackling to respond to the issue of the moment matter. (The last two weeks’ news is a perfect example of all that is necessary in the moment.)
So does the painstaking, long-term, narrative change that brings new allies into the debate.
It all matters.
The example of Kathy, along with the tremendous growth we have seen in the work overall, is an indication that Americans are asking questions about immigration they never asked before. That they are looking for answers in their cultural framework. And, that if we answer their questions, they will take action.
From the reporter to the lawyer to the case worker to the organizer to the pastor, police chief, CEO and congregant working for a more compassionate approach to immigration, it all matters.