Releasing Fear, Embracing Curiosity


It is going to take all my skills, patience, empathy, and compassion to be kind to those who bought the inaccurate picture the POTUS painted of our brothers, sisters, and their children.

I live in a sanctuary city, and I walk among a diverse and heavily immigrant population – people in all phases of the immigration process.

The origins of their journeys and the range of circumstances that brought them to today are far more wide and varied than you will hear from the media or the POTUS. Some are dramatic and some aren’t, but nearly all live in constant fear, and most want nothing more than to contribute to the good of the whole.

A few are takers, criminal, evil-minded, and mentally sick – which is true of every group in society, no matter how you choose to categorize us.

I’ve taught English to farm workers. I’ve coached a woman who, herself, immigrated and now supports Russian immigrants and social service agency connections. I work with people from every country you can imagine and some you’ve never heard of. I spent a weekend at a professional event partnered with a woman whose journey to the United States began as an 8-year-old in a flimsy boat, escaping Vietnam.

I know of a man who is a day laborer residing here on a visa. In his country of origin, he is a nuclear scientist. Here, he digs trenches or carries shingles for cash because the documentation process takes most of his time, money, and energy. But the violence he escaped makes it all worth it; even living in a rat- and bedbug-infested hovel is worth it to him to become a citizen of this country that doesn’t treat him well, but he loves. Crazy.

I’ve learned that most who are here illegally now didn’t climb a wall or hire a coyote. They came legally on a visa which has expired due to all the flaws, delays, and red tape in our immigration system.

But they’ve built lives here – families, homes, businesses, and community – so they risk it while they continue to try and work with our flawed system. The “home” they’d return to is a place they’ve not seen or lived in for, sometimes, 20 or 30 years, or they’d immediately be put in prison, killed, or tortured if they returned.

My city has one of the largest populations of immigrants who served as translators and guides for the U.S. military in Afghanistan. These scientists, professors, doctors, and lawyers did so for the guarantee of U.S. citizenship in return for their service. Here, they are day laborers or work mall security, and they are regularly tormented and beaten by thugs who buy the picture of hate that’s painted by the current administration. Google for the number of military personnel who repeatedly credit these translators with saving their lives.

Your president is trying to overturn this agreement and send them back where they will be executed or worse.

Meanwhile, the healthcare industry is desperately trying to hire these professionals because we need their skills. But they can’t work in the U.S. within their areas of expertise because of our red tape. Really? Where is the issue? Cut our noses off to spite our face is what I call it.

I read a great piece by a restaurant owner who said, “Build the wall. Build it fast and tall. So that the people who pick, prepare, and serve your food – my employees – can’t leave the country. The public has no idea how much they depend on them.”

This is the reality: The underground economy and infrastructure built on undocumented workers makes your life flow. You just don’t see it.

Don’t swallow what you are being fed about the humans I walk among; it isn’t an accurate picture.

It is our immigration system that creates the chaos. That is what needs reform – the pathways to citizenship.

I’m not for wide open borders, but I am for comprehensive, fact-based reform and a better path to citizenship –not hate-based policy creation.

Get out. Shake a hand. Share a meal. Inquire about a journey. Leave your pity, your fear, and your assumptions at home for a few hours. You can pick them all up again later, I promise.

I used to be afraid as well. I’m a small town girl from a homogeneous white community where we didn’t lock our doors, and anyone who looked different was suspect. So, they stayed away.

Then I fearfully entered the world and was greeted by some of the most wonderful people, many who were dramatically different from me and yet remarkably similar at the same time. And my fears began to lessen, and my curiosity allowed me to connect.

My world is richer and more beautiful through those connections. Yours can be, too.

God grant me the serenity to be peaceful in the presence of the shallow, limited, and racist views of the world and her beautiful people.

- Beth

Beth Wonson