“We strive to create a world where all people live free of poverty and discrimination, have access to safe, dignified work, quality education, and health care; where immigrants can cross borders with dignity; and human rights and workers’ rights are respected; where government is truly ‘of the people’, and all families thrive.”
~ The Vision of Voces de la Frontera
The Language of Community
Written By Kendra Stea
“Kendra, will you tell us again why your group is here. This time in just short phrases” – you know that moment when you feel totally on the spot to think of a brief way to be eloquent – maybe that only happens to me. Here goes, “We’re here to form relationships that are equal in power. We’re here out of love. We’re here because we want to learn from you. We’re here because we recognize our privilege and want to use it for good.”
The truth is Lake Park was there at Voces de la Frontera because we know too many people connected to our El Salvador partnership and within our own congregation that have been faced with navigating the immigration and naturalization process in the United States – some with success, others with struggle. As part of the Seven Saturdays of Service leading up to the 500 year anniversary of the Reformation, the El Salvador Partnership ministry decided to partner with a local organization that is supporting immigrant rights. We selected Voces de la Frontera for a couple of reasons. First, because we have been in dialogue with them over whether or not Lake Park Lutheran should become a Sanctuary Church as a part of the Milwaukee New Sanctuary Movement. Second, we chose them because they had programs that would be easy for us to plug into on a one-time basis. While I’m not a huge fan of the one-time engagement, it’s totally how you hook people. It’s also sometimes all you have to give. And frankly, even if it changes only one heart, even just a little – it was probably worth it. It’s Reformation.
Seven members of Lake Park joined other volunteers to work with students who were attending Voces’ regularly scheduled immigration classes. From 6:00pm-8:00pm on Wednesday and 9:00am-1:00pm on Saturdays, students and tutors gather as they are able to review and study the questions that are on the citizenship exam, learn and memorize their answers, and try to understand them, as well. There is the opportunity to practice reading, speaking and writing English with checks for comprehension along the way. Part of the process is also to review the application packet so that it is filled out completely and correctly and to help the individual prepare for answering questions about it.
We were grateful for this opportunity. We learned many things about the immigration and naturalization process that we did not know before. We were connected to people in our community who are often separated from others by legal status, socio-economic boundaries, and skin color.
When asked why they (the students) were attending the classes, the main reason was to be eligible to vote. They want to vote and participate in their communities in ways they are not allowed to as non-citizens. One even spoke of running for office. Reformation: making changes to something with the intention of setting it back on the right path. I think God is calling.