Why Immigration Raids Aren't the Answer

I was sitting by the beach in Tijuana, Mexico right at the U.S. Border. A fence juts out through the sand and into the ocean to prevent immigrants from walking or swimming across. It is formed of slats that - unlike other areas of the border fence - allow people to see through to the other country. Border Patrol vehicles meander on the U.S. side of the fence.

This area by the beach is called Friendship Park and was created to be a binational meeting place. When then-First Lady Pat Nixon inaugurated the park in 1971, she is reported to have said, "I hope there won't be a fence here too much longer." Today, the U.S. side of the beach is closed.

But when I was there, it was still open to visitors on both sides of the fence, and it was busy. This visit, a young guy also on the Mexican side started talking to me and my group. When he found out we were from L.A., he was thrilled. He told us he was also from Los Angeles.

He opened up about his situation, telling us he'd been deported earlier that week. He had no connections in Tijuana where he'd been dropped off as he'd arrived in the U.S. as a young child. In fact, he didn't seem to have any Mexican contacts at all. I wondered if he spoke Spanish. His English was indicative of a native speaker.

He admitted he'd tried to cross the border several times since he'd arrived in Mexico. He also told us that he would keep trying every day until he got back home to his family and his daughter. "There's nothing for me here in Mexico," he said.

Mass deportation is an easy go-to for politicians. A "send 'em home" mantra can get big cheers in certain crowds. Currently, President Obama has deported more immigrants than any other president. Raids happened in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas back in January. Recent news says more are coming.

I understand the political temptation of immigration raids. It's the same with "building a bigger wall." It makes a leader look tough. It creates stats and numbers that suggest things are changing. It makes a statement to voters. But do immigration raids actually make sense?


American companies are recruiting Mexican and Central American workers all. the. time. Radio ads. Newspaper ads. Staffing companies. You name the medium, U.S. companies are there trying to convince our international neighbors to come here for jobs.

In countries where employment seems unattainable and the economy is grinding, a ready-made job invitation is a no-brainer. Workers will keep returning as long as the home outlook is bleak. Raids without a true commitment to international economic development quickly becomes a game of capture the flag.


Like the young man at the border, many deportees have been separated from their loved ones. I don't know about you, but I'd probably cross the border daily to get back to my children. What could you do to me that would be worse than being away from them?

Legislation that protects families is crucial. Currently, DAPA (Deferred Action for Parents of Americans) is frozen while the Supreme Court determines its legality. It would offer temporary relief for undocumented parents of U.S. citizen children. Complicated, to be sure. But parents will keep coming back to their children, so let's consider what's the best use of time, energy, and resources, as well as what's best for families.

Other legislation that expands opportunities for seasonal workers would also help migrant workers be able to return to their home countries in the off-season. It's quite possible that this type of arrangement would deter many families from immigrating at all as many would prefer to live at home and travel abroad for seasonal work.

Risk Management

Is it dangerous to cross the border? Absolutely. There are nefarious traffickers, harsh environmental conditions, intense physical challenges, and the ever-present threats of starvation, dehydration, or illness. For some migrants, though, these perils pale in comparison to the dangers of their home communities. When weighing their options, returning to the U.S. may be the smartest and safest choice for some.

U.S. drug consumption is a significant driver of violence in Central America as traffickers transport illicit goods north. Poverty conditions without smart development perpetuate cycles of violence. And urban violence is exported through years of deporting U.S.-grown gang members. Promoting raids without addressing these issues will keep the revolving door open as deportees keep returning searching for safety in the States.

Militaristic, raid-centric approaches to immigration aren't the answer. They may increase fear among undocumented residents and it's possible this fear of deportation may stop new migrants from coming. But it doesn't address the root issues.

Migration happens worldwide and throughout history. Banging on people's doors in the middle of the night and forcing people home, quite simply, is a short-sighted tactic.

Do We Idolize the Brokenness?

One of my favorite quotes is from Father Greg Boyle. He says, "I want to be prophetic and take stands and stand with those on the margins and I want to laugh as much as I can."

During my years in urban ministry, I have often noticed how serious life can be. And it makes sense. When you're confronted with the painful realities of neighbors' lives and the day-to-day effects of structural injustice, it can feel crushing.

Many rest in the fact that this compassionate suffering is perhaps part of the calling to living among the poor. At least, I do sometimes. In fact, I knew when I signed up for life in the margins that it wouldn't always be easy.

Today I'm writing at The Mudroom on the topic of resurrection and restoration. Because as I've witnessed signs of renewal in my urban community, I find I don't always know how to understand my own place in this revitalization. It turns out I expected things to be difficult but feel a little off-balance in the presence of so much goodness. I'm forced to ask the question, "Do we idolize the brokenness?"

Click here to read the post at The Mudroom

The Best 5 Moments in the 'Jane the Virgin' Finale

Because we have to talk about this, folks! The Season 2 'Jane the Virgin' Finale was so good. So sweet. So shocking. So fun. I just can't keep in my excitement. But I'm going to go ahead and tell you now that this post has a lot of spoilers. So if you haven't watched it yet, go do that, and come back here to debrief!

First of all, I felt like the universe didn't want me to watch this show. We've been having wild internet issues, which - when you work from home during very narrow childcare hours - quickly becomes a crisis. I have cried more than I care to admit when my perfectly laid plans have been derailed by the fickle magic of wifi. (Oh dear. I think I just realized where my daughter gets her flair for the dramatic when things don't go her way.)

But once everything got working, I settled in for the Season 2 finale of JTV. I'd already received texts and tweets about it, so I knew I was in for a treat. True confession: I've waned a little bit this season. I can't tell you exactly why. Maybe because RAFAEL WASN'T IN THE PICTURE AS MUCH? Yeah, that's probably one reason. But even if I've been a touch less engaged, I've still been a huge fan of Jane (Gina Rodriguez) the whole season through.

So here we go! My favorite 5 moments in the 'Jane the Virgin' finale.

#1 - The First Steps

First of all, how hilarious is it that Rogelio keeps calling him Matelio? And then Jane sends Rafael an urgent text to come over when he's surprised by Mateo's first steps. As one who was driving out of town for my nephew's birth when my daughter started walking, I can so appreciate the kindness of the present parent sharing the delight of that milestone!

#2 - The Promises

We're jumping ahead here, but I can't wait. When Michael nodded to Abuela, I was confused and ready for something dramatic. Hey, it's a telanovela - anything can happen! But when he started reciting his vows to Jane in Spanish, I burst into tears. It was the sweetest, most precious and unexpected moment. I've been staunch #TeamRafael since the beginning, but that was truly special.

#3 - The Moves

Unlike the vows, I saw this one coming a mile away. But that didn't make me enjoy Jane and Rogelio's Father-Daughter dance any less. You know Rogelio had been practicing that 'round the clock getting ready for his big day! I love their growing bond and the dance was just perfect for their relationship and this wedding.

#4 - The Sisters

Okay, we knew Anezka was up some something shifty after her jail visit to her and Petra's mother. But her grand switch literally had me clutching my heart and gasping out loud. I have grown in affection towards Petra after 44 episodes, so I am rooting for a big comeback from her next season!

#5 - The Cliffhangers

I gasped a lot. I had been waiting for drama at the wedding, but it was relatively uneventful. But as the show neared it's end, things started cracking all over the place! Xiomara pregnant? Michael shot? Rose is back? Thank goodness the show has been renewed for a third season because some questions need to be answered!

My only complaint about the finale (besides the fact that she didn't run away with Rafael) was that I would have like more form Jane's friends at the wedding. But that's probably because I'm reading Diane Guerrero's memoir right now, so when she blipped by on the screen, I wanted to see her more!

It was truly a terrific telanovela finale. I laughed. I cried. I gasped. Who could ask for anything more? The cast of Jane the Virgin continues to dazzle, and I just love the creativity and spunk of this unique show.

Did you watch it? What was your favorite finale moment?

Why I Encourage My Kids To Talk To Strangers

I was exhausted. Kids were bonkers. I finally shoved my cart the last inch out of Costco and into the fresh air. "Oh thank goodness," I sighed.

"What?" Gabriella asked from her perch in the child seat. 

"No smiley face," I answered. 

"What are you talking about?"

"You don't remember last time?" I asked her. "When the receipt checker drew a smiley face on our receipt and the two of you went berserk, screaming and crying and ripping the receipt into pieces in the parking lot? Fighting over a smiley face drawn by a stranger?"

Her eyes widened with horror. Then I felt a little bad, dredging up the less-than-stellar moments from the past. "Mom, that is mean!" Oh dear. Wait. What? She's a little young to be all that was a month ago, and I'm so hurt you're bringing it up now. 

"It is mean to call people strangers, Mom!" she declared with finality.

"Um.. no. Strangers are just people we don't know."

"No," she shook her head with conviction. "Strangers are mean!"

Uh-oh. "Hon, where did you hear that?" 

She launched into an elaborate story that was Little Red Riding Hood-esque in nature, except it involved fruit snacks ("gummies") and some preschoolers. 

As we unloaded a month's worth of Goldfish and Pirate Booty into the car, I tried to redirect her. "It sounds like that stranger was mean. But not all strangers are mean. They are simply people we've never met before." She still shook her head "no", but with less vigor and she looked down as if she needed to think about this new perspective.


I've always been amused at how easily and freely my children speak with strangers. Gabriella sits behind me in the car, and she rolls her own window down at every drive thru. You know, to speak with the attendant. And introduce herself. And her brother. "He's only 2. I'm bigger because I'm 5!" 

With my kids, "stranger danger" is not a thing. Maybe that's why Gabriella is so convinced "strangers" are mean. Because the "people we don't know" aren't strangers - they are simply friends whose names we haven't learned yet. I want to encourage this openness in them.

Mostly because I think many of us as adults are too suspicious of strangers. We let the few mean ones out there cause us to switch our default setting to isolation and fear. We put our heads down, draw ourselves in close, and scurry along. Yet we admit we feel lonely. And all the while, we miss opportunities to spread joy, encourage others, and be a blessing. Why? Because we're too busy? Too scared? Too conditioned to bypassing a simple hello?

What I notice with my kids is how a child can cause others to open up instantly. Teenagers in hoodies wave shyly and return a hello. Gruff seniors lean down and raise their voice an octave. Homeless folks compliment them and ask them questions. Fast food employees cover their multitasking microphones and pass us free cookies. Everyone smiles.

I know some of these reactions are simply because my kids are young. But I also think there's a simple freshness and freedom in their unbridled friendliness. You are not a stranger. You are someone in my path. Let's get to know one another. 

Of course I know my children will need to learn wisdom. Right now they are young enough to still be with me (or another adult) at all times, and I pay attention to and trust my own instincts. But I'm sure we'll have ongoing conversations about how we relate to strangers.

But I want them to hang on to that joy of meeting new friends. I want them to welcome newcomers into their country, communities, and homes. And I want to encourage them to "show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:2).

That's why I encourage my kids to talk to strangers. They may just be friends we haven't met yet.

P.S. One recent national challenge in welcoming strangers has been the refugee crisis. My friend Matt Soerens has a book coming out this summer: Seeking Refuge: One the Shores of the Global Refugee Crisis. You'll want to check this one out!

7 GIFs For Raising Bilingual Kids

Raising bilingual kids is fun, and it's a lot of work. And sometimes it feels like it falls by the wayside amidst all the other things we're hoping to teach our children. (Like "don't put toothpaste in your hair" and "sometimes when we wear a sequined top it's okay to wear shorts that aren't so loud.")

But if there's one thing I've learned in our 5 years and counting experiment of language learning, it's that consistency is key. And we are consistently recommitting and restarting our efforts to raise bilingual kids. Here's some GIF fun for all those parents hoping to do the same!

#1. When they refuse to speak in the second language.

#2. When they totally mess up, but you know you shouldn't laugh because at least they're trying.

#3. And when you just can't help it.

#4. When someone speaks to your kids in their second language, and they be looking like: 

#5. When they unexpectedly start speaking in the second language without prompting. 

#6. When you realize your kid might be more bilingual than you.

#7. When you stand in awe of their little brains. 

Which one is most familiar to you? What did I miss?

Thanks to Giphy for making all my gif dreams come true!

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.