New Sanctuary for Immigrants

Xenophobia is expensive.

There was a piece in our church bulletin recently about a dinner/fundraiser for a group called the New Sanctuary for Immigrants. I actually missed the notice, but my-eagle-eyed spouse caught it, and we went Saturday night to this church I passed literally thousands of times but had never entered.

The group assists immigrants with groceries, school registration, translation services health care, etc. It also retains the services of a local immigration lawyers when necessary.

The event ran from 6-8:30 p.m. When we got there at 6:15, the food was laid out. It was plentiful and delicious. There was a series of singers to entertain. I was only half listening, but one was Pride (in the Name of Love), the U2 song.

WE were sitting on a bench before some folks got up from a table, at which point we got to sit across from a man from Turkey, his wife from this area and their daughter. The woman told the frighteningly, irritatingly familiar story of traveling difficulties. One thing she noted was that she preferred traveling with him because they felt he was even more vulnerable traveling alone. I TOTALLY get that from some of my own experiences in racialized America.

I was talking Michael Rivest, the photographer of the above picture. He talked about how he felt “so… American being there.” I totally agree. Was it the melting-pot nature of the participants? I’m not sure, but it felt that our action being there was simple, yet important.

Coincidentally, I noticed that there was a story on NBC Nightly News on Sunday about the decrease in the number of undocumented people from Mexico, and an INCREASE from Asia, making the WALL useless.

I think about this issue, not just on a humanitarian level, but as a wide-eyed economic calculation. Obviously, the idea of sanctuary cities has created a disconnect, as this story points out. You WANT undocumented people to speak out about real crime, not sit silently.

I’ve mentioned previously the brain drain this country is developing, plus losses to some of the most prestigious colleges, when foreign students are afraid to come.

People don’t want to come to this America, costing the US billions. And many of these are western Europeans, less likely to be hassled. Xenophobia is expensive.

No wonder Canada is planting a privacy hedge along the entire US border. OK, not really.

But xenophobia IS leading to sped-up weddings — and prenups
Then Michael posted this on his Facebook, and he let me stealshare.

Last night’s class on Islam. I got talking to one of my students, a Muslim from Yemen, in the U.S. for two years. He’s a delight in my comparative religion course. I asked him if he was staying with family:
J: No, I have no family here.
ME: Have you been back to visit?
J: No, I had planned to go after this semester, when I will have the money, but I can’t now.

The reaction of the rest of the students was worth more than any three-hour lecture. He’s the first Muslim they’ve ever known, spoken with, laughed with. Now HE is normative for them, rather than a Bill Maher joke.
Without any prompting from me, they asked him to chant the Qu’ran’s opening surah. I took a seat. They were moved. So was he. Mission accomplished.

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