The Power of Personal Relationships

It’s interesting how our personal relationships impact our opinions about and responses to people and events.

A white senior citizen receiving care from a Somali care professional in a transitional care facility learns about her caregiver’s family, life, hobbies, hopes and joys, and comes to know her as a human being, realizing “she’s just like us.” A child has a grade school friend whose dad is facing deportation and the child’s parent, who previously said “they’re here illegally and should go home,” speaks out about the inhumanity of a system that separates parents from their children.

A father and daughter go to Honduras to visit members of their sister parish and meet a woman who is the manager of an auto parts store. One day, two gang members entered the store, held a knife against her neck and threatened to kill her family if she didn’t hand them an envelope with money each month. The father and daughter came to realize the many reasons people flee besides extortion: kidnapping, rape, drug-trafficking, threats if you don’t join a gang, etc.

As a result of losing family members and/or homes in fires, floods or hurricanes or having a friend who did, people who previously didn’t believe in global warming now speak out that the world must take aggressive steps to combat it.

When we see Americans moving from Louisiana, heading to safer ground, many of us understand better why so many continue to flee Haiti due to the magnitude-7.2 earthquake that struck on Aug. 14th, 2021, and why many continue to flee Honduras and other countries after hurricanes Eta and Iota on Nov. 3 and Nov. 17, 2020, respectively. An estimated 7 million people in a zone from Colombia to Mexico were impacted by the resulting landslides and flooding.

When will the majority of Americans realize that the 11 million human beings in the U.S. without documents are “just like us”? When will they say that people who were offered jobs here, have worked hard, established roots, and started families have a right to remain? When will we realize that most people seeking asylum truly fear for their lives and the lives of their families and have a right to seek refuge here?

We can’t wait for all Americans to have personal relationships with people who are facing deportation or denied asylum before they finally come to realize that our immigration system is inhumane, unjust, and unacceptable. We have had personal relationships; we can share the tragic stories of our deported friends who have been ripped from their families, and we can advocate for change.

Steve Kraemer, Executive Director, 10/15/21

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