“We make this issue about a problem to be solved, rather than a person,” says Nori about the way she’s seen people weaponize the gospel to say immigrants aren’t welcome. Nori loves Jesus and she loves the church. As an immigrant herself, she hopes we can see past the dangerous narratives that all immigrants are threats to really see the heart of the issue—the people.
Nori came to the U.S. from Venezuela with her parents when she was four. She was a young teen before she realized they didn’t have the proper documentation and the future she’d imagined for herself was in jeopardy. The DACA program gave her hope again. As a Dreamer for the last eight years, she’s been able to study and work.
Living a Double Life
Her status wasn’t something she talked about with her friends though. “I was terrified of what people would think of me,” she says. “It pushed me to strive to do everything right and be the perfect girl in church.” She says she would always volunteer, wanting people to see her as everything good because then if they found out about her status maybe all that good would overpower that bad.
As she got older, she realized she couldn’t keep quiet about having come to the country as an undocumented child. “Keeping these fears and concerns to myself was tormenting me. I felt like I was living a double life.” Nori says she realized she wanted the people around her to know her fully. “The girl sitting next to them in Sunday school was that person they thought was the threat,” she says. “Knowing me and knowing the truth, hopefully, it would soften their hearts and make them see something different.”
Hope in the Biblical Narrative
“I don’t remember when I first came across Women of Welcome online, but I was touched by it,” she says. She realized other Christians cared about immigration issues. Nori says her faith is what sustained her and it was encouraging to see others talking about migrants from a lens of faith.
“I think especially from a Christian perspective that we must remember Christ himself was this child,” she says. “He also had to leave to go to Egypt so that he wouldn’t be killed as a young child.” Her family came by plane. She imagines those today trekking through the desert exposed to evils of nature and man to ask for safety in a place they think they will be welcomed, only to realize that won’t be the case. “It’s heartbreaking. We forget to love the person who is going through this terrible, terrible time.”
Living a Welcoming Life
She is grateful for the experiences moving to the U.S. presented her with but there is still a sense of sadness, twenty years later. There is an entire country and family she’ll never know. Her experience has given her greater empathy for others in similar situations.
She thinks of the response she would like to receive when she tells people her story: “I’m happy that you’re here.” She says she would love people to say that, regardless of legal status, they are happy she is not in Venezuela.
She was encouraged by reading the migration narratives in the Bible growing up and reminds us to turn to the Bible to remember how to welcome others. “God sometimes needs us to leave the one place that we know to walk into the darkness and the dangers,” she says. “It’s our job to welcome our brothers and sisters who are on that journey.”
Respond: Unmute Yourself, Support Dreamers
Polls show that the overwhelming majority of evangelical Christians—along with most Americans overall, including majorities of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—want Congress to permanently resolve the situations of “Dreamers,” young immigrants brought as children to the U.S.
The only way for these young people to ultimately have stability is for Congress to pass a permanent legislative solution. The House recently passed such a bill, but it faces an uncertain future in the Senate. Senators are much more likely to vote for a solution for Dreamers if they are convinced that their constituents see it as a priority.
Ask your Senators today to stand up for Dreamers, passing legislation that would allow immigrants brought to the U.S. as children the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship.