2017 Greatest Hits #1: A letter to my DACAmented friends in Waco

(During December we will be reprising some of  “2017’s greatest hits” from the Act Locally Waco blog. I couldn’t possibly pick my favorites – so I used the simple (cop out?)  approach of pulling up the 10 blog posts that got the most “opens” according to our Google Analytics.  It is an intriguing collection that gives at least a little insight into the interests and concerns of Act Locally Waco readers. I hope this “Top 10” idea inspires you to go back and re-read your personal favorites.  There have been so many terrific ones… If you would like to see the Top 10 according to Google Analytics, here’s the link: 2017 Greatest Hits.  Merry Christmas! — ABT) 

By Eloisa Haynes

What a hard week this has been for you and everyone who loves you. I am grieved at the uncertainty that you and your family face now that President Trump has decided to terminate the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. We all knew that DACA was the equivalent of receiving a band-aid for a shotgun wound—but we rejoiced over the band-aid. It opened the opportunity for you and many others to obtain a driver’s license and enter the workforce. It allowed you to come out of the shadows and not be afraid for the first time. It opened the door to achieve the American dream. It gave us all hope.

As a formerly undocumented immigrant, who remains in this country by the sheer will and grace of God, I know what it is to live in fear and isolation. I feel compelled to acknowledge and validate your pain. Those who know little about the brokenness of our immigration system will likely downplay the severity of your situation in hopes to cheer you up. Those of us who have been entangled in the immigration system know better and are keenly aware that you and your loved ones are in a perilous situation.

It is right and proper to cry, to feel despair, to experience anger and hopelessness – but only briefly. You and I do not have the privilege to curl into a ball and hide, or to roll over and die. Our parents sacrificed everything that makes life worth living to give us a chance for a better life. We cannot fail them. Being undocumented puts individuals like us in a vulnerable position. We carry around the stigma of illegality. We isolate ourselves and at times keep our neighbors at arm’s length in order to protect ourselves. To conceal our immigration situation, we allow the media and politicians to drive the narrative about who we are. But we cannot afford to live that way any longer.

Let me remind you that DACA did not come about because President Obama was a kind-hearted, compassionate politician. No – it happened because brave young men and women like you shared their stories and demonstrated that our hearts beat for America. Others who have come before you stuck out their necks and risked everything. If there is any compassion for Dreamers in the current political climate, it is because Dreamers like you have fought the good fight for the right to belong in this great nation.

Ecclesiastes 3:7 tells us that “there is a time to be silent and a time to speak.” I believe this is the time to speak. What do you have to lose? You have been stripped of everything – except for the love you have for Waco and the United States. This is the time to reach out to your neighbors, co-workers, teachers, professors and friends. Come out and tell them your story. Let your story shed light. Let your story stand as a contrast to the narrative our neighbors and friends hear from the media day in and day out. Let your pastor and your coach meet a Dreamer – come out and claim your place in our great community. They already love you and care about you. If their political views say otherwise, it is only because you and I have failed to bring our humanity into this political conversation. We are not pawns. We are productive members of our community – we are nurses, students, business owners, parents, church leaders… It is time to speak.

If you are a Dreamer and would like a community of friends in these difficult times, reach out to the Waco Immigrants Alliance. In this political climate where it feels like the rain keeps coming and it is up to our necks, our goal is to ensure no immigrant in our community treads the water alone. But we will not just tread beside you – we will sing. We will raise our voices together, to sing the songs that tell our collective story for all the world to hear. Our story is our battle cry. It is our greatest weapon of peaceful revolution. Jesus Christ taught the greatest lessons in parables, revealing the power that a story holds in our heart. So together, we will sing and share and cry and rejoice, until all our lives no longer exist “in the shadows,” and our national policies respect the God-given dignity and worth of all immigrant lives. And with each victory, big or small, we will give thanks with una danza alegre. (Ps. 30:11-12).

Eloisa Haynes is a wife and mother of U.S. citizens, yet she is still entangled in the broken immigration system. To her, Waco is a special community – the place where she first met Jesus, started a family and found friends who have supported and encouraged her. She is proud to call Waco her home and believes that everything she has accomplished, the Lord has done for her (Isaiah 26:12). She works in higher education and volunteers as a community organizer.

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