Able Works Forum: American Dreamers: Creating An Immigration System That Works For All | Notes & Reflections



Keynote Speaker: Jose Antonio Vargas.


White People, MTV Full Documentary:

The keynote began with the question, How do you define “American?” Vargas’s use of data was excellent, all of which can be found at, and

ref. My Life as an Undocumented Immigrant [NYTimes]

We are living through the most anti-Immigrant era in American History. Only other time was 1920. If you doubt this, just watch this year’s State of the Union address.

This country is way more complicated and diverse than we’ve been led to believe.

ref. Foreign immigration act of 1882 (a.k.a. Chinese Exclusion Act)

When white people move, it is “manifest destiny.” When people of color move, we ask, “is it legal?”

“The truth is that parents will cross any border or ocean to feed their children.”



Perhaps the greatest value of events like this is the damage it does to one’s ignorance and bias. It is consistently frustrating to listen to politicians and pundits leverage anecdotes and exceptions to make broad sweeping generalizations about whole groups of people. When stereotyping is the basis for policy making and political grandstanding, we sow an uninformed citizenry and we reap a disintegrated democracy. I prefer the Deming way, “In God we trust. All others bring data.” We, as a civil society, cannot have reasonable debate about policy if we do not have a shared commitment to the truth of facts. To that end, Vargas’s presentation was powerful, and necessary. I implore you, dear citizen of this great country, to seek first to understand the data.

I was disappointed in the absence of any strategy for conversing with other citizens in the attempt to persuade. In a democracy, we’re supposed to be governed “by the people, for the people.” Yet what if the people are intentionally or by circumstance, uninformed? How do we educate when the posture of everyone is militant advocacy? How do you persuade? What are the best strategies for having those conversations? And, what do we need to know about ourselves as we engage people who are so diametrically opposed to seeking understanding, and truth? Or, are we ultimately relegated to using power to push agendas through, regardless of who can or cannot journey with us? That seems like a hard question to me. I do wish I heard more on this.

As a person who is attempting to shape my way of life around the person and work of Jesus, I find it impossible to ignore the call to welcome, love, and integrate “the stranger” and the “foreigner” into your family. Why? Because we too, were foreigners in a foreign land. In other words, the story of the Hebrews, the Israelites, and the first Christians is one of fully identifying with the one who is not like you, who has come from distant lands, and to welcome them, extending radical hospitality to them, as we would want to be treated. To love your neighbor, as yourself.

May we all, Christian or not, political or not, be compelled by the Way of Jesus for the sake of our shared humanity.

About VIA

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