By John Mark Boes
As a resident of the Metro Atlanta area, Immigration presents a unique conversation. My wife teaches at a middle school off of Buford Highway in the northern portion of Atlanta.
Her middle school is truly an international school. Over 100 languages are spoken and students come from all parts of the globe. For this community, issues of immigration reform are paramount. If one is estimating, a majority of the students are undocumented from Mexico and Central America.
Naturally, this General Assembly workshop immediately came to our attention.
Our presenter was Jesus Romero, a professor of languages and culture at Baptist University of the Americas in San Antonio, Texas.
However, this was not the lens through which he would be presenting to us. He is also the director of the Immigration Service and Aid Center (ISAAC) in San Antonio which is a project of the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas. While the title of our session was A Christian Response to Immigration Reform, Romero suggested we amend the title to A Christian Response to the Possibility of Immigration Reform.
He began with a biblical basis for the importance of caring for strangers and immigrants throughout the Old and New Testaments. We proceeded to the primary purpose of his presentation where we addressed the question:
How should the church respond to the possibility of immigration reform?
It was here that three key points were presented:
- Become Advocates.
The challenge that was left to us is most significant. We were encouraged to pray, listen, and act. However, be prepared, “for we do not know how God will call us to act” in terms of ministering to undocumented people as Romero explained.
Ultimately, we have to provide hope, grace, and peace to people who are striving to live a life as I would lead. We must remember that it is impossible to fully serve and embrace someone who is vulnerable if you are not willing to embrace advocacy for them.
Loving immigrants necessitates advocacy. That is the message that we must strive to remember personally and corporately.
Romero described individuals, in Texas, who commit acts of immigration consulting fraud. These individuals have been named “notarios.”
Romero articulated his dream of undocumented immigrants being able to finally, legally file paperwork in order to obtain proper documents. In this scenario, Romero imagines immigrants not knowing where to go to receive help. Through ministerial training, local churches can become accredited perform certain legal actions for immigrants.
Romero’s dream is to say “Avoid notarios, go to the Baptists!” This should be the future for Baptist advocacy in our world today.