Long Beach church to help DACA and Dreamers know their rights


Allow us to speak for God for a moment. All of them. All of the gods, except maybe the real old ones that needed virgins to be tossed into volcanos in order to make them (the old gods) feel warm and appreciated.

Before you were born, you were handed a lottery ticket that would determine where you would be born. You’ve forgotten, but it’s true. If you got all six of the numbers on your card, you got to be born in Norway, Canada, Sweden, New Zealand, the United States of America – the nice places. Get the bonus number and you also got to be fairly well off in those countries.

The odds were against you, of course. Most pre-borns got bad situations. It’s just how the lottery works. Somalia, Syria. Maybe Guatemala or Mexico, but without the bonus number.

So you’re born and now you’re on your own with your family. Possibly just your mother, who, if you’re a girl, is now extremely and rightfully worried about you being hauled off by gangs and cartels and dragged into the sex trade. Your family goes on the move toward the glimmering country of America. (Look, you’re a father or mother in America, so it’s easy for you to not think about this, but wouldn’t you like to think you’d do the same thing?)

You ride on top of filthy and frightening freight trains. You cross rivers, you sleep in washes and fields, your family gives all their money to conniving coyotes who leave you stranded in the hot American desert where you’re pursued by men in jeeps and helicopters.

God knows you’re a good person, strong, reliable, still full of hope. He presumes there’s a rapist or murderer in there somewhere, but what race, creed, religion, social order doesn’t have its rapists and murderers?

You are, miraculously, finally, in America. Illegally. It’s against the law for you to sneak into America. You’re a criminal, and you’re treated like a criminal. Those who scored big in the lottery are full of loathing toward you for laying claim to something they rightfully won by dint of nothing more than their antebirth skills at scratch-off tickets.

Time has passed, and you’ve done what you’ve needed to do to make it in America. You’ve worked in tedious and menial jobs, lived in garages and broken-down apartments, four or six to a room.

You’ve paid taxes and gone to school, and still there might swiftly come a day when it could all end and you could be tossed back to square one in the country of your birth.

There are undocumented students today living under the protection of the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy that allows some undocumented immigrants who entered the country as minors to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit; and California’s DREAM Act, which allows undocumented students to get financial aid and other opportunities to further their education and come closer to becoming American citizens.

Both policies were born out of compassion, and compassion is what drives some Americans to continue to offer assistance to these students. Churches – at least the ones that literally practice what they preach – are particularly in the forefront when it comes to dealing compassionately and bravely with social issues.

One such church is Grace First Presbyterian at 3955 Studebaker Road in East Long Beach. Since Election Day, the church’s pastor, the Rev. Jonas Hayes, has been working within and outside his congregation to plan and host monthly forums related to various social issues.

From 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, Grace First will host a free “Workshop for Dreamers” for students and their families.

The workshop, available in both English and Spanish, will be led by Audrey Yamagata-Noji, vice president of student services at Mt. San Antonio College, and a member of Grace First’s congregation. She is an expert on the Dream-DACA subject, working for a college with a 55 percent Latino population.

“What we’re finding is a lot of students and families are very concerned about the loss of Dream and DACA, and we want to assure them they can still go to college,” said Yamagata-Noji.

“One of the things we heard (regarding Trump’s new immigration policy) is DACA is not high on the list of people being targeted for deportation, however there are a couple of incidents shared with us with that some DACA students have been deported. It can happen so a lot of the community is worried, so part of our workshop is know your rights, especially in this time and place.”

In addition to teaching students about those rights, the workshop will deal with such issues as how to apply as a Dreamer student, information on the privately funded The Dream, U.S. scholarships that award scholarships of $12,500 for community college and $25,000 for students entering Cal State Long Beach; and explanation of the differences between DACA and Dream; and information on the most recent federal updates.

“In these days we as a church need to be bold in addressing issues, more than doing worship and bible study, but addressing complex world issues we face in ways that are unifying,” said Rev. Hayes.

“These forums are a way to live out our identity to be openhearted toward one another,” he said. “Not just within church but also in our local and global community.”

We’re tired of playing God. It’s too heavy a burden for us. We’ll hand over the reins to you for a while. And first up for your consideration is the business of who gets the fast-track into your kingdom: The immigrant (here illegally, remember; you’re not obliged to weigh the struggle or heartbreak), or those who would send them back?

Contact Tim Grobaty at 562-714-2116, tgrobaty@scng.com, @grobaty@Twitter.

Culled from here


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