Life in the New Year

To start off, I would like to apologize for taking so long to post this piece. My various commitments here have been changing to some extent, so I have been lax at writing an update. At any rate, I would like to thank all those of you who have supported me with your prayers, thoughts, and financial gifts. With your help, not only have I surpassed my required fundraising goal of $3,000.00—at last count, I had well over $3,100.00!—but I am happy and healthy to boot. As always, I remain grateful for all your support, regardless of its form. Once again, thank you for all your support; I greatly appreciate it, and I could not participate in this program without all that you have given me.

The last several weeks in San Antonio have been somewhat slow, but enjoyable. In my work at my immigration law practice, I started conducting application interviews with clients from El Salvador who are renewing their Temporary Protected Status (TPS) here in the United States. This relatively unknown immigration program provides limited opportunities for certain illegal immigrants to gain lawful status in this country. TPS recipients from Central America fled to the U.S. in the late 1990s after their respective home nations were ravaged by powerful hurricanes, and just recently the program was extended to include people running from Liberia and other Ebola-stricken West African countries. In theory, the program is authorized only for as long as these people’s countries are unable to guarantee minimum standards of living for their citizens. In practice, however, the countries continue to struggle to meet those standards, and so the TPS program is reauthorized for each country separately every one or two years. Life for the immigrants who receive TPS is not a cakewalk, however. They must reapply to the program every time it is reauthorized—every twelve to eighteen months or so. Just because an immigrant was approved consistently over the course of many years does not mean that he or she will receive that status yet again. Furthermore, not only does each person have to pay close to $500.00 every renewal cycle, but this also means that her permission to work legally in this country—and, therefore, his job—is put in jeopardy just about every year. Consequently, every year or two these people are subjected to the very real fear of being deported if their TPS renewal applications are not processed and approved in a timely manner.

Just today, I began working in a new position at my immigration law firm. Instead of dealing with refugees, TPS applicants, and other immigrants from Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, now I am working with the cases of the Central American children and families being held at U.S. immigration detention centers in Dilley and Karnes, Texas. So as not to delay this post any longer, rest assured that I will talk more in-depth about my new work in a coming update.

To wrap up, I will leave you with a piece I recently wrote on my experiences with the homeless here in San Antonio.

While serving as a Young Adult Volunteer in San Antonio, Texas, every so often I have the privilege of meeting homeless people. Engaging with these citizens is not one of my duties at my work placement; rather, I encounter them on the streets, typically while I am commuting in the morning and evening. The homeless citizens I meet are not dressed poorly, and often little, if anything, about their outward appearance or behavior gives me reason to suspect they are members of this shunned societal group. Categorically speaking, they are incredibly humble toward me, speaking quietly and acting gently when they approach me. Every once is a while, one of them inevitably asks me for spare change, whether it is so that she can pay her bus fare or he can buy a meal. Most of these citizens want to talk with me for a minute; it seems doubtless that many other passersby ostracize them. As I rummage through my backpack for spare change, I am reminded of the words of Jesus in Matthew 25:40 (NIV): “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” I may not have much, but I have more than they do: a roof over my head, food in my stomach, a salary, even something as simple as a bus pass. Yet in their challenging situation they do not hesitate to give me what they have—love, cheer, and goodwill. Although I seemingly cannot provide these homeless men and women as much mercy, care, and compassion as I would like, God teaches me everyday that I can do His will by showing the least of society the tiniest acts of kindness. Just as He tends to the needs of those who are homeless, so too does God provide for me everything I need. By exposing me to San Antonio’s homeless citizens, God continues to break down barriers not only so that I may love His children, but also equally importantly so that they may reciprocate that sentiment by teaching me about God’s love for me.