Immigration, Equality, and Why I Gave My Vote Away
Photo credit: 2012 Joe Shlabotnik/flickr
The following is a post written by guest contributor Meg Munoz:
If we are to love our neighbors, before doing anything else we must see our neighbors.” -Frederick Buechner
I know, it’s been a month since the election, but truth be told: I’m usually a little late to the current events party. I like to chew on things for a while, so it took me a bit of time to figure out what I had learned from this most recent trip to the ballot box.
Full disclosure: my faith in the political system has waned over the years. Horrified, sad, and disgusted at times, I’ve watched big business trump the environment, banks get away with highway robbery, the impoverished and education take a backseat to war, and marginalized (and not-so-marginalized) groups of fabulous people be denied basic needs, equality, and rights. I’ve started to feel a bit jaded about it all, and though I began with high hopes for this election, those hopes began to disappear when things
got heated during the last few ugly months of campaigning.
Every time I gleefully used another political mailer to drain tostada shells on, I got points for recycling but didn’t necessarily feel any better. I was deeply struck by the understanding that, in this election, I wouldn’t be casting a vote for people or propositions alone, but for an entire system that was broken and was starting to feel beyond repair. I knew that in theory my vote counted, but I didn’t feel like it mattered or that anyone in power was necessarily listening. I didn’t feel seen. I didn’t feel heard.
Even in my cynicism, I knew that every day I had the opportunity to speak freely into my future and play a part in the decisions that were being made to affect my life. I also knew that thousands of undocumented immigrants and their families living close to me did not. Each day, choices were being made ABOUT them and FOR them, without many real opportunities to speak into those decisions BY them. More than numbers or statistics, we were talking about real people who worked, studied, raised families, and contributed richly to their communities. They were being sidelined, intimidated, and silenced by fear, shame, and the possibility of deportation.
Living in predominantly Republican Orange County, I started to recognize some of the contradictions and conflicting values, especially within the church. Living in a fairly conservative area, it’s sometimes been hard to be a bi-racial couple due partly to the subtle (and sometimes not so subtle) undertones of racial bias when it comes to immigration issues. We read the comments and the politically charged articles, saw the Facebook posts, heard the jokes, and got the political e-mails that reminded all of us just how inhumanely this very human group of people were being portrayed.
But, the fact is- Jesus was an immigrant. Undocumented, no less. And the entire Bible is an immigration narrative. To miss this is to miss a fundamental understanding of what God means when he directs us to welcome and care for the stranger. So for the months leading up to the election, I sat with God and had some great discussions with friends who understood immigration from a personal and Biblical perspective. As I listened to Bethany Anderson of Solidarity, Sandra Franco who volunteers with underage immigration detainees, and Juan, an undocumented student living within my community, my cynicism began to fade and my hope for real change stirred up.
My time with Juan was powerful and inspiring. Unaware of his undocumented status until fourth grade, he had been brought to California by his family as a toddler. Now 20 and in college, the promise of the Dream Act and the countless opportunities it could provide for him and his siblings was worth fighting and voting for. We poured over propositions and measures. We talked theological implications, Kingdom principles, crazy legal jargon, and the potential political what-ifs of voting. Through his eyes, this election began to take on a different perspective for me. And so, making my vote representative of his voice became the only way for me to move forward. As I watched him take so seriously a political process where he had no legal input, yet so much to lose and gain, I found myself teary and deeply humbled, honored and grateful.
As Nov 6th fell upon us and the whirlwind of exit polls and early predictions started to come in, I walked to my polling place. With absentee ballot in hand, I turned in Juan’s voice, his future.
I want to be seen.
You want to be seen.
Juan wants to be seen.
May God enable us to do that.
Meg Munoz is convinced that Love still conquers all, that healing is a lifelong journey, and that Harry Potter has a lot to teach us about God. She lives in Southern California, where she balances her two loves – family and Abeni.