Saturday, April 1, 2017

Local EMS Student's Essay Wins MCC Prize

EMS photo
Isabella Madrid, a ninth grade immigrant at Eastern Mennonite School, was awarded the grand prize of $1,000 in a recent essay contest sponsored by Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) U.S. Washington Office.

Here is an abbreviated version of what she wrote, which she titled “Love Your Neighbor”:

My mother immigrated to the United States from Honduras. The reasons she came are similar to the reasons most people from Central America migrate to the US. First of all, my father and the rest of her family were already living here. Most of my mom’s siblings left Honduras one by one, to find better work. They didn't want to be stuck tending to my grandparents’ farm. Even my grandma and grandpa eventually made the decision to move so they could get new jobs. 

My dad’s dream was to save money for buying a house in Honduras, but it wasn't possible with the insufficient amount of money he was being paid at his job. There were simply no good-paying jobs. So, my parents made the decision of sending my dad over to the US to find a job that payed him well. His plan was to work and save money for four years, then return to Honduras so he could buy my family a house. 

These plans were quickly dissolved when my mother told him to stay in the US because life was becoming more dangerous in Honduras and jobs were still paying low wages. Honduras became the country with the highest rate of murder. “You couldn't walk through the streets without getting robbed or jumped. Poverty was seen everywhere,” my mother recounts. She was sure the right decision was to move to the US. She quit her teaching job, packed her bags, left for the US with my older brother, and reunited with my dad and her family. She was drawn by the education her child and future children would get to receive, and the promise of a safe environment to raise them in. 

National data shows that people migrate for various reasons, such as escaping violence, poverty, persecution, natural disasters, reuniting with family, etc. My mother is one of many who migrate for new job opportunities, escaping violence, a better education for their children, and to reunite with their families.

A lot of people fleeing their countries cannot get humanitarian protection. The United States sets a limit each year of how many people can be admitted as refugees for humanitarian reasons. In order for this to happen, the person has to be screened by many US and international agencies and prove that they have a good reason to fear persecution in their country based on religion, race, political views, social group, and national origin. Asylum seekers are people that are already in the US and fear returning to their countries. They must prove that they have the requirements to be a refugee. Immigrants who live in poverty or have difficult economic conditions in their home country do not qualify as refugees or asylees in the US.

…Many immigrants come illegally just to work and send money home and return to their families. There should be a system implemented that allows them to migrate legally and temporarily in order to work, then be able to return home to their families with no hassle. The government should pay more attention to the unaccompanied alien children who enter the US every year, and provide a way for them to live here and go to schools. Those kids had to suffer a lot to try to get here, and they didn’t come for no reason. Many of them end up getting deported, but they continue to try multiple times because that's how miserable life in their home country is.

The government should address root causes of immigration by finding foreign policy solutions and trade agreements that provide better paying jobs and security in the home countries of migrants. They should reorient the focus of their foreign assistance programs on helping poor Central American countries, more than they have done in the past. If they somehow eliminate corruption in the government, put an end to drug trafficking, and close the wage gap, it will reduce illegal immigration immensely. 

…We as Christians should know what our duty to immigrants and all sorts of newcomers is. Matthew 25: 35-36 says this: “For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.” 

Immigrants and refugees are also people Jesus died for on the cross. We must show compassion for those who risk their lives to cross a border and leave their families behind. You may think you know them, but you don't know their story. 

This is what Jesus wants us to do. Love your neighbor, and make them feel welcome.

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