Accompanying Our Immigrant Neighbors
Ana Becerra is a Lutheran church planter working with Cristo Rey Church in New Brighton, MN. I first met her at a Mexican breakfast fundraiser last spring at St. Michael’s Lutheran Church in Roseville, where we were raising funds for immigrant legal defense.
Immigrants stand a much higher chance of not being deported if they have legal representation at Immigration Court hearings held at the Whipple Federal Building in St. Paul.
But immigrant legal counsel is expensive, even if offered on a sliding scale, so funding is a huge matter.
Ana’s passionate about the community she works with in the area; that community has suffered the loss of many residents who have been deported since the Trump administration instituted its aggressive policies.
So shortly before Thanksgiving 2018, leaders from four churches began meeting to see if we could organize our people and wider community members to make a focused impact on the needs of immigrants in the Roseville, New Brighton, and Falcon Heights communities we serve.
So it was that on January 3rd, 15 people from these four churches showed up at Falcon Heights Church to see what we could do to accompany our immigrant neighbors—to hearings, medical appointments, tutoring sessions, you name it.
And so began CAN, the Coalition to Accompany Neighbors: “As people of faith and moral conscience, we seek to Educate and Equip individuals in our communities to respond to urgent and ongoing needs of our neighbors; Build Trusting Relationships within the community so that our immigrant neighbors feel safe, are empowered, and supported; and to Expand Our Capacity through partnerships with other congregations and community organizations.”
We discussed how to start, in some small way, to address the current situation and urgent needs, and then to move toward longer-term goals like expanding partnerships beyond just our four churches, training people in intercultural awareness, and engage more people in our congregations.
But to start, we’ve already scheduled some people to give rides to our neighbors on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and have begun to learn the difference between “saving” and accompanying—a ministry of presence that takes its cue from neighbors themselves about how we can be of help.
Feel free to contact me through the Contact portal on this website (go to the home page) if you’re local and interested in helping through volunteering or giving to support the cause.