As a middle class, suburban-dwelling, white girl, I did not meet immigrants or refugees in America until I sought out a narrative different from which I was raised.
Last summer I obtained a grant to organize and run a summer camp for children in Oakland, CA, who were largely refugees and immigrants. As a student of religion, developing friendships with immigrants captivated my thought in what it means to be a foreigner in a strange land. Jesus’ status of refugee, illegal immigrant, Palestinian Jew, the unrelenting theme of liberation throughout the Bible, and God’s command to embrace foreigners together reworked my theology. It captured my imagination for what the Church is both called to and capable of.
During my last year of nursing school, I began to seek out more knowledge regarding the massive public health crisis that is immigration around the world. I understood this along with the moral crisis of a Church that is silent, perhaps paralyzed, in the face of human suffering.
I attended the CCDA national conference in Memphis on a bit of a whim and the Camino was announced. My pulse quickened; I knew that that if I had the means to participate in August, I must.
So here I am, a lone chick who knows no one, who has a few loose connections to immigrants, doing some strange 150 mile walk from the border to L.A…
I am compelled to be in solidarity with those who are coming/came/will come across the border, to listen to their narratives, and to have just a little bit more understanding- particularly in this electoral year where America’s xenophobia is emerging center stage.
Humans have always been beings moved by compelling narrative from even earlier than Jesus’ Parables. In large part, I am doing this Camino to listen to stories of brave people who, often driven by love to create a better life for their family, venture across the border. I believe that when faces and relationships move to overshadow statistics, and news articles about disenfranchised peoples, humanization begins.
Humanization inspires a cultural shift that inspires the necessary political process to rework the way America treats immigration.
Melina is a Bay area native, DC resident, and recent college graduate who is seeking to learn more about immigration and listen to brave narratives of people who have crossed the border in search for a better life. Melina is currently a labor and delivery nurse and hopes to move into policy to effect public change.