I see intersections between recent efforts to demonize undocumented immigrants and the spate of bullying trans, gay, bi, and lesbian youth resulting in suicides and other violence. Both efforts are about conveying to people that they do not belong to humanity, that we're not allowed to live with dignity, love, and justice.
The United Nations Human Rights Charter is very clear that the right to travel freely is a human right, essential to ensuring the dignity of humanity. When countries make it exceedingly difficult to immigrate, and others to emigrate, and we have widespread poverty, war, discrimination, and ecological change furthering all of those things, we're going to see an increase in undocumted immigration. Where I live, along the Caribbean, there is one of the world's most concentrated populations of stateless people, people who aren't granted acknowledgement of being citizens or belonging to any country -- making it extraordinarily difficult to acquire documentation. Citizenship may be a human right, but currently, having citizenship is a privilege we who have it can work to extend to those who do not.
There's an ages old ethical problem: is it wrong for the starving person who can acquire food no other way to feed themselves and their family through begging or theft? The fact the person is starving is upon society as a whole, globally and locally: we who might be able to eat today are responsible for those who do not have enough. That's what both belief in human rights and an ethic of love call us to remember. The need to survive is what forces most people into undocumented migration, seeking a way to live.
If you believe your life has value and would do much to ensure your own ability to live, we can extend that same understanding to others.
But you'll notice the language of the migration documentation debates and those around gendering and sexuality both seek to dehumanize people. Reports don't speak of "undocumented people" but of "illegals", not of people living and loving as people but, if at all, as those who "identify" rather than are.
My heart aches for folks who are denied their essential humanity. I've certainly experienced that denial myself. I've been bullied and harassed for gender (both for appearing too female and for not appearing female enough) and for sexuality (as a lesbian). I've been bullied and harassed for other apparent violations of what's acceptable to the ones who chose persecution. It was difficult for me to hold onto my sense of inherent worth, let alone my dignity.
I'd like to say "it gets better". What gets better, if we who have been and are persecuted survive our initial experiences, is that we grow better able to center ourselves in our inherent worth and to claim our dignity.
I spend a lot of my ministry recalling folks to a fact essential to their being human: no matter what they've done or failed to do, they are both loved and loveable. They have a capacity to love -- and growing that capacity is what makes the world a better place. I know people who have killed others, who have stolen, who have hurt folks very badly. These are people with worth, too, people who can also grow their capacities to be more loving, to know they are loved, to be loveable. Part of that journey is repentence, part of that reclaiming the person who was so very often told explicitly and implicitly, that they were not a real or full person.
We are all real people, and we live fully into our humanity by loving and calling others into the same personhood. If you are in danger, call for help (numbers below). If you meet someone who's hungry, offer part of what you have. If you have citizenship, work to help your government make peace around the world and make for a humane immigration process, while supporting those who have already had to flee and are near you in undocumented status. We're fully human when we're affirming and promoting in every word, thought, and deed, the humanity of others.
Suicidal? 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433) or 1-800-273-8255 or TTY: 1-800-799-4899
Military Veterans Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273- 8255 press 1
Suicide Hotline in Spanish: 1-800-273- 8255 press 2
LGBT Youth Suicide Hotline: 1-866-4-U-TREVOR