I am Texan. I grew up close enough to Houston that when my little city’s entire electric grid went down my mom and I drove to Houston for the afternoon to shop for a prom dress. I’ve got family in the Houston area and my dad grew up on the shipping channel. The heat and azaleas of Southeast Texas are the backdrop to many childhood memories.
Harvey. I wept for the suffering of that city. For Houston and The Woodlands and Beaumont and Sour Lake. For Corpus and Conroe. Even after I knew my family was safe, I wept. I’m Texan, and Harvey hit me in my gut. While I’ve been grieved for the suffering in Nepal and Sierra Leon from landslides, and we’ve given to relief efforts in both, Harvey hit my home. It hit the roads I know in my mind’s eye. The path to cousin’s houses and the zoo. Where school buses drove us to NASA. It hit friends from college who moved there after graduation. It hit the towns whose’s high schools routinely beat mine in football. If I still lived in Texas, I would be in one of the caravans of my friends headed down I-45 with bleach and gloves and willingness helping people clean up.
I wept as I watched videos and heard stories of rescuers, both professional first responders and volunteers with a boat and courage, scouring neighborhoods and working tirelessly to snatch people from the flood waters. A pastor swimming into flood waters to check sinking cars for trapped people: strangers who’s lives mattered enough to him to risk his own. A news reporter, on the way to help an elderly man, pausing to get aid for a woman in labor. One furniture store owner who opened his doors to people needing shelter. Another that donated their entire showroom full of furniture to the Houston Furniture Bank. A Dreamer, Alonso Guillen – brought to the US as a child – loosing his life in an effort to save others.
And now this week, DACA has been rescinded. The executive order that allowed Guillen and so many others to live in the open and lead productive lives has been overturned. People who were brought across the border as children, whose only home is American, some of whom don’t even speak the language of their passport country now face possible deportation unless Congress can act. Congress doesn’t have a great recent track record of acting.
So I’m looking for the rescuers. But unlike in Houston — where those of us who live far away couldn’t get in boats to save people — we can all be on the ground in this crisis. Elected officials and the everyday citizens can stand up and change lives. Who will swim into the flood waters of injustice because other people — strangers and neighbors — matter to them?
How do we do that? There are many ways. I’ve listed a few here.
1) Pray for justice for the people affected by the recision of DACA.
Pray for the young people working to get an education and establish their lives whose future has been thrown into jeopardy. Pray for just and compassionate policies so that they can have the stability they need to thrive.
2) Educate yourself on what DACA is and who it affects
The process by which DACA was created has been criticized a lot. What it does and doesn’t do has been criticized. Learn about the details and form an opinion based on the fullest story you can. Also remember, the young people affected by it could be your coworker, your barista, your child’s favorite teacher. As you learn about DACA try to imagine being in their shoes. Let what you learn inform your prayers.
3) Get involved in local advocacy organizations led by people at risk of deportation
Most of our political influence is on the local level. Find a local organization – preferably led by people directly affected by DACA – and join in the work. These local organizations can help to advocate for your neighbors and shape local policy that will have a profound affect on their lives.
4) Contact representatives
Call your Representative and Senators. Give a short, specific statement on what action you want them to take. Then call your state and local representatives and do the same.
5) Advocate for Dreamers in your local community including workplaces and universities.
Many universities and large companies have put out public statements regarding DACA and what they will do for their employees or students. If you are affiliated with a university or company look up their statement. Having learned what you have, is there anything you want them to change? Should it be strengthened? Use what influence you have to shape the policies and statements of the organizations you are a part of. Or if you think the organization is doing a good job, communicate your support to the leadership.
5) Organize within your church.
God clearly tells us to welcome foreigners. The church needs to be on the forefront of advocacy and care for the marginalized among us. Churches in Houston are mobilizing teams of hundreds of volunteers, providing physical needs and counseling, and cleaning homes. They are on the forefront of caring for people suffering in their community.
Advocating for the Dreamers, while less compelling on video, is no less needed.