Mobilizing for Justice

Kelly Organ was near the end of her senior year in high school when she saw a chaotic scene taking place on the television mounted overhead in the school cafeteria.

The news in Postville, Iowa, was showing a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement raid on a farm business processing plant.

The daughter of an immigrant from Canada, Organ watched in horror as hundreds of people were shackled, lined up, and herded onto buses.

“The ramifications of the raid for my personal understanding of immigration policy were dramatic,” Organ wrote in the Office of Social Justice’s booklet Church Between Borders, which features an education program on immigration justice.

“Along with others in my community, I struggled to understand the situation: Why workers were punished before a corrupt employer; why there was no effective way for those workers to have received legal work visas; why families had to be separated . . . and what my role as a Christian was in all this mess.”

Organ works as an intern for the CRC’s Office of Social Justice, which addresses a range of issues. Recently it has emphasized immigration reform in the United States.

“Our two main efforts right now are raising awareness about the issue through the Church Between Borders workshop and helping set up meetings with U.S. legislators to advocate on this issue,” says Kris Van Engen, a congregational justice mobilizer.

The call for immigration reform is becoming a nationwide movement of Christians, Van Engen said.

“Undocumented immigrants tell their stories to new friends at church, and now more Christians are recognizing that it is nearly impossible to immigrate legally under our current system in order to take jobs.

“When Christians notice that a majority of the burden and blame for a dysfunctional system is being placed on those who are most vulnerable, it becomes difficult to stay silent.”

Van Engen says that as churches hear these stories, many are turning to the Church Between Borders workshop or other resources their denomination offers.

About the Author

Chris Meehan is news and media relations manager for CRC Communications, and a member of Coit Community Church.

See comments (3)


Just a thought here...anything put along side of God's "justice is social justice...socialism...

Kelly Organ would have done well to have gone to law school, perhaps clerk for an immigration firm, then possibly  become an immigration lawyer, or  spinning off from that, maybe involve herself in a legal/political advocacy group of her persuasion, run for political office, or do any number of things that would directly involve immigration law and enforcement.

But to go to work for a church denomination to do "immigration law work"?  Respectfully, that makes little sense.  Actually, Kelly can still take a direct road of doing something about immigration -- but that road is not OSJ.  It makes little sense that CRC members pay ministry shares so their institutional church denomination can lobby about immigration.  Immigration, like many other legal/political issues, is much more complex than it appears, and requiring of a certain kind of background, education and experience if some one or some institution is to involve him/her/itself in the issue in a constructive and intelligent way.

I think the CRCNA's (OSJ's) immigration lobbying is largely about some CRCers who want a megaphone to push their own personal political perspectives.  Certainly, I have nothing against anyone pushing their political perspectives, whether informed or uninformed, whether backed by substantial expertise (legal/political) or not.  But I do oppose  the CRCNA, a church denomination, lending its reputation (and that of all its members) and dollars (which are not overly abundant these days) to lobbying in an area of concern where it has precious little expertise, background or education.  Institutional churches are high on theological degrees and pastoral expertise (and should be), low on legal degrees, and legal/political experience.  OSJ has not even one lawyer on staff, let alone an experienced immigration lawyer. And it shouldn't.

There is an attorney in my law offcie who does specialize in immigration.  I would suggest that although she is only one person in a small office, she has much more impact in the world of immigration than all of OSJ put together, and yet costs a great deal less.  And her perspective is not simplistic.  She knows what she is doing.  Her education and experience come from actually dealing with clients, federal immigration officers and federal judges, not TV news stories.  She is Seventh-day Adventist, by the way, and an immigrant herself (legal I would add), from Bulgaria.

Christians certainly should be involved in all areas of life (ala A. Kuyper), but that doesn't mean the institutional church should be using its members ministry shares to lobby for certain political positions, anymore than, say, do organ rejection research.

Thanks for your faithful work on behalf of the vulnerable, Kelly!