We Belong Together Standing with 200,000 American-Salvadorans

The Trump administration will end protections for certain nationals of El Salvador, a move that could leave more than 200,000 immigrants who have lived in the US more than 15 years without any legal status, the Department of Homeland Security announced Monday, January 8th. ~ CNN News

I’ve been to El Salvador three times. I love the country. I know and love the people – to the depths of my heart I do. I have played fútbol and pato, pato, gonso (duck, duck, goose) with abandoned children. I’ve sat at the table with Salvadoran families eating traditional, handmade pupusas. I’ve visited schools, Compassion International, and Orphan Helpers facilities. I’ve stood inside prison facilities with young girls and young men, who had no other choice than to be inducted into a gang. They’ve experienced things that we couldn’t even imagine in the U.S. I heard their stories; I’ve cried with them. I pray for them and with them still to this day. I have trudged up slippery volcano tops to villages without basic necessities like running water and toilets to deliver shoes and clothes and may be even a little hope. When you know people and wholly and absolutely love people, you can’t hand-wave things like a mass deportation. “People are hard to hate close up.” (Brown)

“Please don’t deport my mom,” Steve, a 10 yr old boy pleaded with immigration officials, (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

The story of Liliana Cruz Mendez happened right here in our local backyard. She crossed the border illegally at age 18. Eleven years and two children later, she was deported to El Salvador. Her son begged and pleaded, Please don’t deport my mom. Steve (10 years old) and his little sister, Danyca — both U.S. citizens born in Virginia — lived in a small Falls Church apartment where their framed birth announcements hang on the living room wall. Steve Bermudez wrote immigration officials back in May of 2017 to ask them not to deport his mother. For a month,

Steve looks out the window of the bedroom he used when he visited his mom in El Salvador. The sign advertises fruit and vegetables his family sells there. (Photo by Sarah L. Voisin/The Washington Post)

Liliana’s husband (also and American citizen) and lawyers fought to free her and stop the deportation. She was deported in June. In Falls Church, Liliana was an independent woman with a salary and dreams for the future. Now she sits inside the little gray concrete block house, with a corrugated plastic roof,  in San Salvador. You can read their full story here: Liliana’s Story (Washington Post) Read it and tell me that generalized rules and mass deportation is just. Tell me that it is ethically and morally right; I challenge you. You can’t hate people when you hear their stories, when you know them. Jesus calls us all to a place of true belonging, and we belong together. Our hearts cry out for it. Salvadoran hearts cry out for it, just like American hearts do. It’s a humanity thing, not a nationality thing.

I stand with the 200,000 Salvadorans in the U.S. facing deportation. I stand with the hundreds thousands who want to leave, even if just to visit and can’t. Every persons story matters. There are thousands of stories like Liliana’s, thousands we don’t care to hear, and we turn a blind eye so we can not see. Safe in our United States bubble, we’re content to argue across the political aisle and watch while globally people are sent away from their homes, their kids, and their families to a nation they do not even know. For those who got tattoos in America, their lives will be in immediate danger. In El Salvador, tattoos are considered gang markings. For those who bought any kind of brand name shoes,  wearing them in El Salvador paints a target on your back. Cell phones? A friend of mine who lives in San Salvador had an iPhone that was gifted to him, he was beaten to bloody and left for dead exiting a public bus on his way home from work no more than a year ago. He now carries a flip phone to avoid that fate again.

My heart breaks as I even type. We are all immigrants in nationality and in belief. Other than American Indians, each of our ancestries lie in other nations. A friend of mine and a pastor, Tyler Kent, put it this way, “I’m an immigrant in my own native land. I belong to a kingdom that is both here and now and coming. The kingdom of God. It has no political allegiance. There is no binary. The only item on the agenda: love.” Jesus, Himself, was an immigrant and a refugee – forced to flee the genocidal government of King Herod. He reminds us in Matthew 25, that whenever we feed, clothe, or help someone who is hurting, overlooked, or ignored that we are helping Him. The 200,000 American-Salvadorans who watched the news today are in fear of losing everything. Our faith in Jesus compels us to respond with compassion, love, to be agents of hope, and warriors in prayer and intercession. We must stand in the gap. 

We are in a time where we are writing one of the chapters at the end of the story. When hate is so loud, love can not remain silent. Justice does not come from a place of silence. It’s time to speak out. To stand beside humanity in her hurt. Nurses, doctors, CEOs, shipyard employees, soldiers and sailors, stay-at-home moms, pastors, business leaders, ministry leaders, teenagers, college students, old, young, and every where in between – your voice matters. Great change always starts with one person. Don’t think your voice is too small. We don’t speak meekly, hiding behind our own inability; instead, we speak boldly as daughters and sons of the King of kings, and His voice will always be heard.

You think that your silence on certain topics, perhaps in the face of injustice, or unkindness, or mean-spiritedness, causes others to reserve judgement of you. Far otherwise; your silence utters very loud: you have no oracle to speak, no wisdom to offer, and your fellow people have learned that you cannot help them. Doth not wisdom cry, and understanding put forth her voice? We would be well to do likewise. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

I wanna see the earth start shaking
I wanna see a generation
Finally waking up inside
Until I die I’ll sing these songs
On the shores of Babylon
Still looking for a home
In a world where I belong

– Jon Foreman, Switchfoot

Dawn Sutherland

misfit-writer-speaker & social-justice-wannabe. I wander, but I'm not lost. I love Jesus not religion. My heart's cry is for every person to feel an empowered sense that they belong, and that we get to face the world wild and equipped with the love and hope of Jesus. I live in Suffolk, Virginia with my amazing husband, Louis and have four awesome kids: Katie, Ronnie, Selah, and Sami. I am also a passionate fitness instructor at the Suffolk YMCA. Subscribe to the blog, and stay tuned in for the book YOU BELONG to be published soon, which will talk about our desire as women to "fit in" and how we can harness that to change the world!

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