Take a break from your cherry, cheesy Christmas movies to watch Out of Many, One. This short documentary follows immigrants taking a citizenship class. A citizenship class helps prepare immigrants to take the USCIS civics test or The Naturalization Test, a required step towards citizenship. Did you know that the civics test is not an multiple choice test? Rather it is an interview during which a USCIS officer will ask up to 10 questions (in English) from a list of 100 questions. Imagine, 100 questions!! (Side note: If you are a church or community organization then I encourage you to consider offering a citizenship class as its a great way to connect with immigrants in your community.)
As someone who grew up in USA, I was humbled to hear the varied reasons these immigrants came to America. They are pursuing citizenship with such eagerness, such fire! Truly a conviction for this patriot. One woman from Venezuela came to America to escape political persecution - her life literally was threatened by her own country’s government.
Another aspect of the film that I appreciated was how it dispels common presumptions that are incorrect about immigrants. The filmmakers easily accomplished this through candid conversation. A good reminder that the simple act of having coffee with an immigrant is critical - to be clearer, if the word “immigration” piques your interest or quickens your heartbeat, I would recommend such to you because sometimes these misconceptions can led to persecution from neighbors, classmates, and co-workers (and raise your hand if you would like to avoid those unfortunate misunderstandings). Additionally, right now there is much uncertainty surrounding what the US government will do regarding immigration reform. All of this (misconceptions and uncertainty) make it a perfect storm for immigrants to be victimized. Yes sadly immigrants are often taken advantage of as they earnestly navigate the process towards becoming a US citizen? Quickly google “notario fraud” to learn more and please don’t let your immigrant friends fall prey to these scams.
Also, the film shows footage of a Citizenship Now! legal workshop, which is an event that offers low-cost legal services to immigrants. You will notice that the people who are providing these services to the immigrants look like “average joes”. Many of them are probably volunteers, logging a handful of hours per month. In the US you do not need to be a lawyer to provide legal counsel to immigrants on basic matters like how to complete the USCIS forms for citizenship or residency. Rather, you can be trained to low-cost provide legal services to your immigrant neighbors! (This is not a ploy and surely what I am suggesting is legitimate and gaining momentum across the US.) There is a process that one must go through called the Accreditation and Recognition Program, which is housed under The Department of Justice. Anyone who is a US citizen can apply to this program. We have helped many navigate through this program, many are church or community leaders seeking to expand their reach in their own backyard (as opposed to across the globe, which is a worthy focus too). Imagine the opportunity of helping your immigrant neighbors become citizens of America AND, quite possibly and Lord willing, Heaven!
I just want to end by saying, as you probably know everything that you read or watch on the news about immigration has been spun. (This very blog post has a spin!) As a communications major in college this fact of life was something my professors harked on often. If you are leaning on second-hand knowledge to direct you on IF you should reach out and welcome immigrants, you are missing out. Find an immigrant and listen to their real story because immigration is about real people. However, seeking first hand knowledge may not be enough - in fact if you really are going to commit to caring for the plight of the immigrant then it is NOT enough. Go to the mattresses, which is Godfather-speak for me saying go to the Bible. Seek out God’s word because the Bible does mention immigrants. Yes, God did tell his followers what to do in regards to immigrants. There is no cliffhanger in regards to that issue. We do not know when Christ will return (which is a true cliffhanger) but we do know who Christ commanded his followers to love – ALL PEOPLE. (Click here to read a blog post from one of our members about immigration and biblical truths.)
This is hard and I’m speaking tenderly because there is so much more to say about injustice for immigrants, injustice for US citizens - sadly, this world is saturated with so much injustice. In this world the only hard and fast line for justice was drawn by God when “in the beginning” he created humans (plural, meaning all humans) in HIS image. There may be some immigrants that will sadly never be granted the amazing opportunity to become US citizen (due to past choices or circumstances beyond their control) yet even those are image bearers of God and should be treated with dignity.
Thanks for your time and Merry Christmas!