by Tammy Alexander
Transitions are always difficult. Eight years ago when President Obama came into office, many immigration advocates had an abundance of hope. Obama had campaigned with very immigrant-friendly rhetoric and expectations were high. Those hopes quickly turned to frustration as, in his first year in office, deportations increased. Although in 2012 Obama protected some from deportation through a deferred action program, his time in office was a decidedly mixed bag for immigrants.
Now, we face another transition. President-elect Donald Trump ran on a starkly anti-immigrant platform, promising to build a “great wall” and deport millions of immigrants. During the campaign, Trump blamed immigrants for rising crime rates (even though crime rates nationwide have fallen and immigrants, in fact, commit crimes at lower rates than their U.S.-citizen counterparts). At various points, Trump called for a ban on Muslim immigrants or a requirement that they register with the government. It remains to be seen whether or how a Trump administration will carry out any of these policies.
As I consider what may lie ahead, I lament—whatever happens, there is likely to be more of what we have seen in previous years—more suffering, more families separated by deportation, and more hateful words and actions toward immigrants (and other groups).
Over the past several days, however, I have also found bright spots of hope and gratitude. I see strong advocates already planning for what comes next. I see churches all over the country doing good advocacy on immigration issues and ready to take it to the next level. I see an opportunity for us to stand together, to let those who are scared know we will stand with them. I see Christians and Jews pledging to register as Muslims if their sisters and brothers are required to do so. I see churches lining up to find out how they can provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants in their communities.
I am eternally grateful that we have a God of hope and a God who encourages us to be brave in the face of any adversity, who sent his son to show us just what that looks like. In the words of 1 John 3:16: “We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us—and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”
Will those of us with privilege be willing to take bold steps? To cry with our sisters and brothers who are fearful? To stand with them? To march with them? To provide sanctuary in our churches? How far into our own fears and discomfort will we lean?
Much uncertainty lies ahead. But I am grateful that we do not walk these challenging roads alone. Together, we can find the courage, the inspiration, and the strength to keep loving, to keep learning, and to keep working for a better world.
Peace on the Hill is a monthly column in PeaceSigns written by staff of the MCC Washington Office highlighting domestic and international issues and detailing ways the church can be engaged in the work of peace and advocacy to elected leaders.