In 1961, when John Lewis was a student at American Baptist College, he wrote to tell his parents that he had decided to ride through the South with an integrated team of “Freedom Riders.” He knew that his education was important, he said, but he felt he had no choice: at this point in his life, the cause of human freedom was a priority.
Today, Rep. Lewis is a member of the US Congress. After half a century, it’s difficult for most of us to imagine how radical a choice he and others made.
But another group of young people are doing the same thing today.
After years of organizing for immigration reform that would help to reunite their families, eight “Dreamers”–young people who grew up in the United States without legal status–are publicly attempting to enter their home country from Mexico. They are asking President Obama to consider the plight of the 1.7 million people who’ve been deported (and thus separated from their families) during his administration.
Marco Saavedra, chaplain to the National Immigrant Youth Alliance, is a friend. He is one of the most compelling young people of faith I know. When I spent a week with him and other NIYA leaders in May, we talked about the process that led to this action. While some in Washington have acknowledged a need for immigration reform, none of the legislation on the table addresses families that are currently separated by a border that has become unquestionable. Indeed, the Senate plan which has been approved is conditioned on further securing the border.
But, as Marco explains so well, his faith in Jesus has helped him to see that “justification by faith” means that there is a truth higher than the law that condemns him and his family. He and his colleagues are not sure what will happen to them at the border today. But they are going as people of faith. They are going because they believe in the promise of abundant life beyond borders. They are going because they believe in the God who can make a way out of no way.
“There is no fear where there is perfect love,” Marco said as he went to face the border guards.