My story is like many others. When my wife and I got married and came to the United States, we told our parents that we would be back in two years. Our plan was to study at a seminary in Dallas and after our graduation to return to the city in Mexico where we were born, grew up, and where most of our relatives and friends live. Although it was not our original desire, 19 years later we still live in the United States where I enjoy my teaching ministry at Biola University, serving students from all over the world.
We became American citizens a few years ago when it became evident that the Lord wants us to live where we are now. Our family has dual citizenship, and we constantly face the tension to value the good of both countries and to be concerned about what happens in both nations. Just like has happened to many others, through the years our temporary residency here became a permanent one.
Nevertheless, in the last few months I have seen and experienced racism in the United States like never before during my time here. Unfortunately, because of anti-immigrant, anti-Mexican, and anti-minorities sentiments, many people now feel free to express insults that they would not have said before. For example, I have seen how my son, the son of another Biola professor, and the daughter of another seminary professor have been verbally abused at school, and some even at church, just because they are Latinos. Sadly, I want to believe their classmates only repeat what they hear from their parents without reflecting about the emotional damage they are inflicting.
The immigrant tension becomes evident when some Mexicans no longer perceive us completely as one of them, and in the United States we will always be considered foreigners even though we are now American citizens. Nineteen years ago we became “Hispanics,” a broad category for Spanish speakers, when the plane that brought us here to study crossed the border. We belong to what is considered a minority group (even though in places like Los Angeles we are the majority).
Perhaps the most difficult situation for me as a father is to realize that my children also will carry with them the labels of “foreigners” and “minorities” even though they were born in the United States; they are just victims of the political and social polarization of our times. Many consider my son and other children who have suffered racial discrimination as part of the group called “bad hombres” regardless of their American citizenship.
Furthermore, members of minority groups cannot remain “neutral” in terms or racial issues. For example, Hispanics, African Americans, Asian Americans, Indian Americans and many other groups are considered “people of color,” and they carry with them, even unwillingly, the baggage that comes with their cultural characteristics. In this way, the dominant and privileged group appears to be “colorless” and “culture-free,” and they can choose whether to get involved in racial issues and discussions.
This situation has led me to reflect that Jesus was also an immigrant and that all Christians are immigrants. Therefore, Christ identifies himself with all of us and understands our situation. As his followers, we should imitate his example and learn from him. We should have compassion for those foreigners who come from different regions and countries because we recognize that we all are also foreigners and exiles on earth (1 Pet. 2:11).