The politics surrounding immigration reform seem to have reached a tipping point.
By KEITH SCHWANZ
Special to The Star
Polls indicate that a growing number of citizens support reform. Roger McCrummen, immigration attorney in North Kansas City, went to Washington, D.C., recently to participate in the American Immigration Lawyers Association efforts to influence comprehensive immigration reform. He reported a welcome from members of Congress this year different from previous visits.
One change in the recent discussion about immigration reform has been the voice of evangelical Christians. Researchers indicate that in past attempts, many evangelicals have not supported immigration policy change.
This time, however, leaders organized the Evangelical Immigration Table to speak in favor of reform. The 40-day I Was a Stranger program guided countless congregations and individuals through biblical passages about immigrants.
Church members described encounters with immigrants. Volunteers talked about how their perceptions changed after volunteering with English programs and after-school tutoring.
Nurturing a relationship with an immigrant changed the balance. I experienced the joy of getting to know our new neighbors when I served with an English program sponsored by a church.
In more than four years we met people from 31 countries. On Thursday evenings we talked and laughed like friends do.
Over time I began to see a common thread in the stories: isolation. Fear isolated some. All who came to us for help with English were isolated because of language.
One medical researcher came to classes to sharpen his English skills before presenting a paper at a medical conference. He wanted to fully engage with his peers in the scholarly community.
Ill never forget the anguish of a mother with limited English ability as she talked about how much she wanted to be involved in her teenage daughters life. The daughter, however, had limited skill with Spanish. Neither spoke the others heart language. They suffered isolation in one home.
On another night the only students in one class were two mothers of 3-year-olds. These mothers asked the teacher question after question about child rearing. The teacher quickly realized that these women came from cultures where grandmothers and aunts taught parenting skills to a young mother. These mothers in a new cultural context longed for someone to come alongside of them.
One root word gave us hospital, hospice, hotel and hospitality. Looking at that list, one might think that professionals have the most responsibility with hospitality.
The basic concept of hospitality, however, is to make room for another person. In society every person must be hospitable, not just medical personnel or those in the service industry. Christians these days are remembering that hospitality includes the strangers around them, not just their family and friends.
Since hospitality has led to a tipping point in the public discourse on immigration reform, I wonder whether there might be other challenging social issues that could be addressed by making space for one another. Hospitality may be a key to working together for the common good.
Keith Schwanz is a freelance writer living in Overland Park and the founder of Storian Press, a book production company. To reach him, send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Midwest Voices, c/o Editorial Page, The Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108.