Sunday, July 2, 2017

THIS American Life.

My maternal grandparents Margarita Galindo Mendoza and Jesus Raul Quesada who wholeheartedly embraced the idea of the American dream.

The fourth of July has always been my favorite holiday—hot summer days, trips to ballparks, barbecues, and beautifully colored lights that light up the black night sky. But this year, my heart feels heavy. I've been trying to reconcile my love for my country, and feel happiness for the celebration of the Independence of this nation, but also reconcile it with the deep pain I feel for the plight of my Latino community—a community that knows no borders.

We stood and sang The Star Spangled Banner as our closing hymn at church today, and I couldn't help but notice how much my heart hurt. This phrase from the third verse stayed with me, "Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just, And this be our motto: 'In God is our trust.'"

Last summer, I volunteered at a nonprofit in downtown Long Beach where I helped put together DACA applications and looked over people's applications for Naturalization. It was also the summer before an election, and my mind was troubled over "the Immigration question" and the rhetoric surrounding it. I felt confused and hurt and unable to really voice why I felt how I felt about immigration. I began praying for help with this question and delved into the scriptures seeking answers to my questions. I wanted to know what Heavenly Father had to teach me about the immigration.

My answer came in the form of Alma 27 in the Book of Mormon. For those who may not be LDS, the Book of Mormon tells the story of an ancient people that lived here in the Americas before the birth of Christ. In this particular chapter, a group of people who have just been taught about the coming of the Messiah are being persecuted for their beliefs by fellow countrymen. Ammon, the missionary who taught them and who so "dearly beloved" them, saw "this great work of destruction" and was "moved with compassion" so much so that he felt a need to return to his own land and plead on behalf of this people, asking that his own kingdom welcome them so they would not perish. Now, a little backstory this group of people being slaughtered for their belifs, the Anti-Nephi-Lehis, had committed "many murders and sins" against the people of Ammon, so let's just say there was a lot of pain involved in this negotiation.

I absolutely love the response from the people once they've been asked if they're willing to take these people in:
And it came to pass that the voice of the people came, saying: Behold, we will give up the land of Jershon...And behold, we will set our armies between the land Jershon and the land Nephi, that we may protect our brethren in the land Jershon; and this we do for our brethren lest they should commit sin; and this their great fear came because of their sore repentance which they had, on account of their many murders and their awful wickedness.
It hit me.
This is a story about immigrants. about refugees. And while I don't profess to know how God wants the immigration reform handled, I do know how he wants me to treat my brothers and sisters no matter WHERE they come from. He wants me to show love and brotherly kindness. This message is repeated time and time again

From Leviticus 19:34
"But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as theyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." 

Hebrews 13:2
"Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body."

Matthew 25:35-36
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me."

It is clear that Heavenly Father wants above all for us to love one another.

One of my biggest pet peeves is when people say, "I like Immigrants. I just want them to come here legally..." I hear this a lot from members of the Church. The USA has a history of carving out immigration policies and putting caveats on "undesireables." It's easy for someone to say this when they don't grasp the conditions of people who come to this country or just how difficult it is for someone with no family members with citizenship to get a green card. It's so interesting to me how we'll celebrate stories from Pres. Uchtdorf  about his  illegall border crossing with his mother from East Germany to West Germany, and yet belittle refugees or complain about immigrants from Latin America.

I don't get it.

I want to be happy to celebrate the America that I love, but right it just feels like we're so divided. It's hard for me to understand why a nation of Immigrants is scared of Immigrants. I get angry at times because I can't help but think, "but I'm indigenous to this land! My ancestors are from this side of the world, how can you not say we're American?!" America does not stop at the border with Mexico.

The immigration debate is one that hits so close to home because it affects members of my family, others who I love. My Father is an immigrant, and I can still remember when he was granted citizenship. We celebrated with red, white, and blue, and a delicious cake my mother made with strawberries, blueberries, and cool whip used to create an American flag.

I am a product of the Americas. I am descended from Mestizos, but also from straight up Indigenous people. I am grateful for my Heritage, and I am grateful for every decision that my ancestors took to bring me about where I am today. I am American born, but my roots lie in lands south of the border, and for that rich heritage I feel exceedingly blessed.

Whatever your stance on immigration; however passionate you feel about your beliefs, I ask that you simply remember that these "immigrants" you speak of are still human beings. They are individuals who have families just as you do, they have dreams, hopes, fears, and worries just as you do. America is a nation of Immigrants, and I truly believe that if we were to correctly embrace the diversity in this country we could progress in ways we can't even imagine.


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