The next step: to love our neighbor

Workshop explores what immigration advocacy might look like in the coming years

by Mike Ferguson | Presbyterian News Service

Jenea Sanchez, an artist and community college instructor, used flora and fauna to help design and paint a mural on the southern side of the border wall in Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico. (Photo by Mike Ferguson)

LOUISVILLE — Amanda Craft differentiates between small-a advocacy and big-A Advocacy.

Small-a advocacy, she said during a workshop during last weekend’s Presbyterian Border Region Outreach conference, is articulated every day. It’s about standing up for ourselves and others. It’s about making the system work for us, said Craft, manager for Advocacy in the Office of the General Assembly’s Office of Immigration Issues.

Big-A Advocacy is about defending rights and pushing back against structures when they don’t provide justice for others or they burden others. Big-A Advocacy “ensures the system allows for those rights to be lived out appropriately,” she said. “The goal is transforming human ways of thinking and human structures so they reflect God’s justice in the world.”

“That’s the aim of advocacy,” she told more than 60 people participating in the workshop, many of whom are already experienced advocates for immigrant rights. “It’s our responsibility as citizens and people of faith to reflect how Jesus calls us to live out the expression of God that we understand, and how that becomes the expression of God’s justice in the world.”

Craft read John’s account of Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well. She asked participants to describe a time they were like the Samaritan woman, when they saw the good and advocated for or with migrants. In turn they were also asked to describe when they were like the disciples and didn’t speak up. Craft asked the group: Why didn’t you speak up? What happened?

“It’s hard right now to be advocates and allies, and it’s difficult to figure out effective strategies,” she said. The current administration has made more than 150 changes to immigration policy, she noted, and Congress “has not moved on immigration for decades.”

Amanda Craft

What’s important, she told workshop participants, “is to realize we are in it for the long haul, that resiliency is a form of resistance, and that it’s important to feed ourselves so we can continue the long struggle.”

“It’s hard to be centered right now,” she said, especially during this time of transition between presidential administrations. “Walking with and speaking out for immigrants in our communities is essential. What’s also important is how we choose to love our neighbor.”

“As people of faith, we are committed to the journey together,” Craft said. “Many of you have experience or have had interactions with people who have migrated.”

“There is agency that exists in the story of the migrant.”

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