Leadership Conference of Women Religious

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US Policy at the Intersection of Immigration and Racism

by Tracy Kemme, SC

After the 2016 presidential elections, I gathered in the church cafeteria with Guatemalan parishioners alarmed by escalating anti-immigrant rhetoric. We prayed and then opened a space where people could share freely. Angelica, a middle-aged indigenous woman who leads the team of Eucharistic ministers, stood up. Angelica’s father had been killed by gangs in Guatemala several years ago, and her stepson was apprehended by Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) the previous month. Still, I’d never seen her courage wilt. “I need to tell you what happened to me,” Angelica began, voice quivering. “Last week, I was shopping at Kroger, minding my own business, when a man I don’t know approached me. ‘Haha!’ he laughed. ‘Trump won!  Now you have to go back to your country!’” Tears puddled in Angelica’s usually sparkling eyes. She has been here for twenty years.

Fast forward to June 2019. I visited the Somali refugee family that lived at our motherhouse upon arrival to the United States. My heart swelled with pride as the kids told me about school and mom about the store her husband is opening. Nasra, a teenager, showed me a speech she wrote about following your dreams. “You are amazing,” I told her, taking her hand and visibly choking up. “I know it hasn’t been easy.” She flashed a brilliant smile and then pursed her lips. “Yeah, there are challenges,” she sighed. “Last week, I was studying on the porch when a car slowed down. A guy yelled out the window, ‘Go back to your country!’ and then sped off.” Ironically, after escaping Somalia where her grandfather was killed and baby sister died from malnutrition, Nasra’s family lived in a refugee camp for nine years - with no country at all. (To continue reading, download the PDF document below)

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