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Rachel Hampton brought this First Word to the meeting on March 13, 2011.

Immigration

For some people immigration is a rather foreign issue. A lot of people I know don't know any immigrants personally. For me, though, talking about immigration is talking about my family.

The birth mother of my youngest nephew, Cristian, immigrated to the US alone, when she was 13. On the way she was raped by her coyote and Cristian was conceived. When he was born they were each put in separate foster homes. Cristian had a lot of his grey matter missing at birth and he has hourly seizures. He's a beautiful child with dark brownish-black hair and dark brown eyes, and he will never talk or walk.

My 23 year old niece's husband immigrated to the US alone when he was 10 years old. His parents sent him to live with his older sister until they immigrated years later. He got in with some gangs in LA, but became a Christian and moved up here to Oregon. Caitlin met him when she was a freshman in high school, and he was a year older. He quit school a year later to get a job. No one in his family had ever graduated from high school, and he had a hard time due to language and cultural issues, so school wasn't a priority for him.

He had a really good job as a mechanic. He was able to work because he had fake papers. Then he changed jobs and lost the next job due to lack of work. Then Gov. Kulongoski signed into law that anyone who applied for or renewed a driver's license had to have a birth certificate. When my nephew's driver's license expired, he was unable to get it renewed. Then with the crackdowns on immigrants it became impossible to get his papers renewed. For the last couple of years he has been unable to work because of not having any papers. Caitlin drives most of the time, but each time he has to drive we are scared that he will be stopped and deported. His brother was deported, and the family had to pay $2,000 to get him back into the country.

A lot of people think that once someone marries someone from the US that it's easy to become a citizen. That is definitely not the case. Caitlin is filling out immigration papers, but until she can support him and their three children at 125% of the poverty level, he can't become a legal resident. She's still in college, so it will be a while before she can make enough money to support him. And they will probably have to move back to Mexico for many months before everything can be finalized.

Like a lot of immigrants, all of Jose's immediate family are already in the US. His dad is an Assembly of God pastor. But his mother's side of the family are drug lords, so any of them who return to Mexico could be assassinated.

We're afraid for them to go to Mexico. And many people who are deported are banned for life from returning to the US no matter what their status. Others are banned for 10 years. We were hoping the DREAM act would pass, but it was voted down in congress.

In the meantime, Jose works odd jobs when he can find them, and helps out a lot at his dad's church. Caitlin works full-time, attends college full-time as well as being a mom to three energetic preschoolers.

When I think of immigration, I think of these kids who came here as kids, not having a choice in the matter. they are my family. And I worry about them. There are stores in Wilsonville that Latinos can't go to for fear they will be picked up by ICE. People who are picked up have to prove they are citizens or legal residents. If you look Latino, you can be picked up and held for months without access to a lawyer or the ability to contact your family. This happens all of the time.

I have a hard time understanding why people who call themselves Christian are so prejudiced against foreigners. They talk about obeying the law. I think we should obey God's laws and change our country's laws to match.