June 15, 2012

Today’s New York Times reads “hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children will be able to obtain work permits and be safe from deportation under a new policy announced on Friday by the Obama administration.” These changes will make the immigration system “more efficient, more fair and more just.” The policy, effective immediately, will apply to people who are currently no more than 30 years old, who arrived in the country before they turned 16 and have lived in the United States for five years. They must be without a criminal record, in school or have earned a high school diploma or served in the U.S. military. See the full article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/16/us/us-to-stop-deporting-some-illegal-immigrants.html?_r=2

This is good news. This is justice. It’s nothing to be afraid of (see Xenophobia). Undocumented youth come in all shades and colors. Those with white skin may have found it easier to blend in as U.S. citizens at times; but those with varying shades of black and brown skin are marked, often pathologized in the media with descriptors like drug user, thief, and violent gang-banger. In reality most of these young people are not gang-bangers or hoodlums; many are social and cultural collaborators and contributors seeking ways to solve maladies in their communities because the U.S. is the only home they know and they’re making it better.

My work has put me in close proximity with young people (both documented and undocumented) who are activists making a difference in their neighborhoods. They cannot trust or rely solely on the state to improve their life conditions since after all, some of them have had to be “invisible.” Rather, these gifted and spirited youth become their own advocates using poetry, rap, and music among other mediums to address and challenge race, poverty, violence and the environmental harm that affect them daily. They are full of creativity and agency… and faith.

And so I wholeheartedly and officially welcome young people to Dream, Act and Be my neighbor here in a land that has always been their land too.

God made the whole earth hospitable for all humans- Acts 17:24-29, and proclaims, When a stranger dwells among you in your land, do not taunt them. The stranger who dwells with you shall be like a native among you, and you shall love them like yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt–I am the Lord, your God– Leviticus 19:33-34

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About Calenthia Dowdy

Calenthia Dowdy (PhD, American University) is a cultural anthropologist and youth ministry educator who focuses on urban youth and culture in the U.S. and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Alongside teaching, speaking and writing on youth, cities, race, gender, and faith, she serves as the director of faith initiatives at a comprehensive community health center that specializes in HIV/AIDS care