How should Christians care for immigrants and respond to the divisiveness surrounding immigration policies in the United States? Briana Stensrud, director of Women of Welcome, talks with Amy Julia about her journey from working in the pro-life movement to working with immigrants, biblical hospitality, and what extending welcome to immigrants could look like today.
Briana Stensrud is a human dignity advocate and the Director of Women of Welcome. Connect online:
On the Podcast:
“The borders on my definition of what it meant to be pro-life really started to expand because of my anchoring in the belief of the dignity and sanctity of every human life. Being against abortion was not enough.”
“You have law enforcement handling a humanitarian crisis, so instead of treating vulnerable people as a specific vulnerable population, what you’re doing is trying to meet that humanitarian need with a military response, which is such a mismatch because you’re asking border patrol to handle toddlers, and their job is to thwart and find those who would seek to do harm to the country or enter illegally.”
“Women of Welcome…we are a community of Christian women who are looking to enter into this issue from a biblical perspective. What is Christlike welcome? What is biblical hospitality…immigration for us is a biblical issue; it’s not a political issue. What that does is it frees us up to engage and enter into this space and speak very transparently and honestly about the policies that are affecting vulnerable people no matter who’s in charge, no matter who the president is.”
“We want safe borders. We also want compassionate treatment of those who are made in the image of God.”
“When you move to this Kingdom mindset of what God cares about, you move off of this “country” or “empire” mindset that says, ‘Citizenship first. America first.’”
Thank you to Breaking Ground, the co-host for this podcast.
Head, Heart, Hands, Season 4 of the Love Is Stronger Than Fear podcast, is based on my e-book Head, Heart, Hands, which accompanies White Picket Fences. Check out free RESOURCES that are designed to help you respond to the harm of privilege and join in the work of healing. Learn more about my writing and speaking at amyjuliabecker.com.
Note: This transcript is autogenerated using speech recognition software and does contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting in print.
Bri Stensrud (5s):
The borders on my definition of what it means to be pro-life really kinda started to expand. And I think it was because of my anchoring in the belief of the dignity and sanctity of every human life and how Being against abortion was not enough
Amy Julia Becker (27s):
Hi I'm Amy, Julia Becker. And this is love is stronger than Fear. A podcast about pursuing hope and healing in the midst of social division. In this season, we are talking about how we can respond to the brokenness in our own lives and in our society with our heads hearts and hands. Before I tell you about today's conversation, I have some quick announcements, one we've just put together a new resource. It's a paperback version of head, heart, hands, and discussion guides for white picket fences. We also have a new paperback version of missing out on beautiful. It's a collection of essays about growing up with a child with down syndrome written by a penny and me. You can find these on my website, Amy Julia Becker dot com under the resources tab.
Amy Julia Becker (1m 9s):
And I did just want to mention that we are now posting all of these Podcast conversations on my YouTube channel, so you can listen there or share them from there. But ask for today's episode, I am just really excited for you to get to hear from Briana Stensrud. I first met Bree a few years ago. She invited me to join a small group of Christian women who are bloggers and writers. We went on a trip to visit El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Mexico. And in order to get an inside look at what is happening along our Southern border. I got to tell me a little bit about that trip in the interview, but in some, it just helped me get a really much more comprehensive framework for the issues involved in the debates over immigration.
Amy Julia Becker (1m 49s):
The way immigration has changed in the past 20 years, especially along our Southern border and how we haven't necessarily caught up to that change as a society. And help me understand why as a person of faith, these issues really mattered to me and or something that I want to be involved in. Even if I'm involved in small ways, I hope our conversation we'll be informative and also will help to give you what we would call both compassion and confidence in moving forward as people who extend welcome to this day Stranger. And of course in the past few months on this podcast, we've been looking at different areas of social division.
Amy Julia Becker (2m 30s):
So we've talked about race and disability and politics, but we have not touched on the issues surrounding immigration. And honestly, immigration is a topic that I think many of us who are American citizens don't think that much about. I also think as a topic that deserves our attention and that's true for our listeners of this podcast, at least for a couple of reasons. One, we were talking about social divisions and this is a divisive issue politically here in the United States, too. It's actually a divisive social issue in the sense that immigrants to this country and citizens of this country are often seen and treated differently. But finally, for anyone who seeks wisdom and truth from the Bible, the consistent emphasis throughout scripture on welcoming the foreigner, the stranger, the alien, those are different words used in scripture for the immigrant.
Amy Julia Becker (3m 23s):
That emphasis means we need to understand what extending Welcome would look like in our political social and current context. So the time to talk about immigration and to get that conversation started, I have invited Briana Stensrud director of Women of Welcome. Thank you so much for joining me today. Breaking thank you for having me. Absolutely. So great. I'd love for you to introduce yourself here and tell us how you became the director of Women of Welcome. Tell us about the organization and tell us a little bit about yourself.
Bri Stensrud (3m 57s):
Well, it's actually just a crazy journey. Actually. I started out in the, really the traditional kind of pro-life world, where I was advocating and had a job that had me traveling around the country, recruiting families for kids who were languishing and foster care. I was working for a place ultrasound machines and high risk abortion communities. I was working with the right resources and all of the kinds of tools that pregnancy resource centers would need a medical clinics. And I was also tasked with just kind of writing content about being pro-life and that the scripture, and kind of helping our constituency.
Bri Stensrud (4m 37s):
I was working for a focus on the family at the time, and I was a director of St. Jude human life initiative. So I was writing content about all of these kinds of human dignity issues. And I was tasked to kind of connect them all together from a biblical perspective. It's really, that kind of started me on this journey of seeing the interconnectedness of all of these different vulnerable populations along the spectrum of life and my heart and my head. It all just kind of like started the borders on my definition of what it meant to be a pro-life really kinda started to expand it. And it was because of my anchoring in the belief of the dignity and sanctity of every human life and how Being against abortion was not enough.
Bri Stensrud (5m 26s):
It was Being for the vulnerable mother. It was about health care. It was about all of these things that actually support someone who makes a choice for life and all of these things. So to me, the Immigration conversation is very important, but it was more of a distance subject matter to me. It was something I advocated for and told others was important, but I hadn't taken a deep dive into it myself, but I was actually invited to go across the border. I'm on a trip with Women of Welcome when it was first starting out. And I was asked to film a documentary with Latasha Morrison, who is what would be the bridge and Heather McFadyen. Who's another podcast, I'm sure.
Bri Stensrud (6m 6s):
You know, and so we all went over and we toured migrant facilities and we visited with local government, the board of patrol. We had all these meetings and I literally found myself in the room of an unaccompanied migrant shelter and childrens there. And I find myself in a room just sobbing. We had just for context, we had just met all these children who had lost their parents. They were in Mexico and we'll talk about Mexico and either they have lost their parents or they've been separated from their parents, or their parents had asked them to go a long because they thought that they could find a better life outside of violence and poverty.
Bri Stensrud (6m 46s):
If they went on this journey by themselves. And I had met a mom age 12, I met a mom age 15, both holding babies under a year old. And I just, I couldn't handle it being a mother and myself. And so I find myself in a room balling, just crying my eyes out. And the leader of the trip kind of came in the room and she kind of walked back out like, and you know, like letting me cry. And another woman came in and she was really concerned and she, Oh my goodness, are you okay? Are you are well, the leader of the trips she walked and she said, just, I just leave her alone. She needs a minute. She's just grieving what she's missed.
Bri Stensrud (7m 29s):
And it was, this is exactly what it was. It was the power of proximity is so great and so huge. And it makes these wonderful shifts in our hearts, in our minds. And she was right. I was grieving the fact that as, as a self-identified evangelical and a Christian, how much the church had missed this issue and how much we had missed the vulnerability of, of this population, of this region have people that were made and the image of God. And we were just discarding them, labeling them and such horrific and dehumanizing weighs that I just was.
Bri Stensrud (8m 9s):
I was, so I was like lamenting in the corner of this room. And, and that's kinda how I got involved that got back from the trip. And I was asked to take over the whole project, which is, it was like, Whoa, I'm the newest person, but it was kind of have this sense of their was a shift in me. And I think, and I think folks on the trip could see, there was a big shift in me that said, this is, this is a community of people that I need to really invest in. So, so here I saw it. How long, how long ago was that? When did that happen? He was on a trip, I think two and a half, maybe three years ago. And then of course you want to do it. Right. Okay. So that was at that. I didn't realize actually that it was that recently that you became director.
Bri Stensrud (8m 53s):
I went on a trip a while was before COVID.
Amy Julia Becker (8m 56s):
So what the fall of 2019, I'm when you invited me to join a group of women to see what was happening on the border. And so we we're in both El Paso and in Juarez and it was just 24 hours. But again, as you said, the power of proximity, you did a wonderful job of showing us all sorts of different angles. We met with border control border patrol. We met with the church leaders. We met with the actual migrants who were trying to cross the border and learned so much. And I wrote a series of different blog posts and articles about that trip. And obviously it impacted the other people we were with as well.
Amy Julia Becker (9m 39s):
And especially for someone from Connecticut where Immigration is not the same type of issue as it is, for example, in Texas or in some of the other border States, I was really compelled though, just to recognize that the, as you were talking about, there's this big picture issue of what does it mean, especially for people in a nation that is powerful and wealthy to use our power and wealth on behalf of the most vulnerable. And they're all sorts of people who fall into that category. And it's not to say that I'm not even one of those people in some ways, but at the same time, it was a transformational opportunity for me at which is again, part of why I wanted you to be here because this season of the podcast we've called head heart hands, because we're trying to approach some of these different divisive issues in a holistic way so that we are able to understand that the historical context and get information and just factual details about an issue, and then also connect with our heart.
Amy Julia Becker (10m 38s):
So both spiritually and relationally Connect, and then finally take meaningful action in response. And I would kind of like for our time together here to actually walk through the head, the heart and the hands when it comes with this issue that comes to this issue. So let's start with the head. There was a lot to learn. I learned on the trip with you when it comes to immigration in America, because there's laws and terminology and a long history that I did not know all about. And I know we can't cover all of it, but I'm wondering if you could explain some of the basics for us. And I'm specifically wondering if you can explain what it means for someone to be a refugee or seeking asylum and how that is different from other types of immigration,
Bri Stensrud (11m 24s):
Right? So you can be, so there's a term migrants and migrants can just migrants. Just describe people that are moving in anywhere. You know, like you, you migrated maybe from another state, maybe you like I've lived in certain States. And I have moved to different places that I migrated to that state. Any, any person's that is kind of moving about the world and the country are migrants and someone who is an immigrant is somebody who is looking to kind of, I going to use real layman's terms here, but it's looking at someone who is looking to go into another country to immigrate to another country and work or start a new life, or take advantage of oppor economic opportunities, their reunite with family.
Bri Stensrud (12m 12s):
So you have someone who is immigrating to the us and I'll use it in our context and our purposes, just in a kind of North of a U S M someone who is a refugee or someone who is seeking asylum. A refugee is somebody that is, has gotten a certain status from the UN and a refugee as someone who has fleeing persecution. So if you are a refugee, you could apply for asylum and asylum in a country. Now in our particular country and the U S you either have to apply firm that overseas and the UN, the U S has their own purposes and their own vetting process, as well as the UN. So it's a very strict and really crazy and long vetting process for coming oversees.
Bri Stensrud (12m 56s):
But if you're, if you are wanting to seek asylum in the us, and you are claiming to be a refugee, you would present at our border at one of our legal ports of entry. And you would say, I I'm, I am a refugee. I want to seek asylum here. And you may not have refugee status, but you might be coming from a country that there's known political persecution or increase in violence or whatever that may be, that would be very easily categorize you as a refugee. So the two ways that you are, again, specifically, when people think about people who, especially in the headlines as of now. So when people think of those who are poor applying for asylum are looking to immigrate to the us.
Bri Stensrud (13m 38s):
They are usually thinking of our Southern border, right, instead of a global migration to the us and some right. So those who are seeking asylum in the U S though, you either have to be in the us to apply for that status, or you'd have to present at the border. And so you can illegally cross our border and present yourself to a border patrol agent and then ask to apply for asylum, right? Or you can go to a illegal port of entry and you can and do that same thing there. So technically they're, you can legally apply for asylum by illegally crossing our border or presenting at a legal port of entry.
Bri Stensrud (14m 20s):
Frankly, I think a lot of people think that why are people making the journeys? You can't, they just apply to U S embassy or something like that. That's actually not available for people to do right now, our international in our national asylum laws said that you have to be in country in order to apply for that. So sometimes what you'll have is you'll have people who apply for a visa, a tourist, or a travel visa, and they come here and then they then apply for asylum status and or refugee status in the us to seek us out. And so there's a lot, I know it gets a little noodley, but basically what you see on the Southern border is you have people who want to immigrate to the us. And, and we've seen a shift and dynamics as a, it used to be kind of like in the eighties and the nineties, there was this huge, umm, economic push us to come to the us.
Bri Stensrud (15m 10s):
And you would have single men in their twenties and thirties coming and trying to cross illegally into the country for economic opportunity. And what you're now seeing is you're seeing families that are coming from more of the Northern triangle, those single men that were coming before we are really coming from Mexico. Right. And now in the last 10 years we've been seeing this real huge influx. We've seen headlines of caravans and whatnot yeah. In the Northern triangle area. And they are mostly made up of family. So the majority of them that are showing up at the border are showing up as families. And the difference is, is that the vast majority of them are not looking to cross the border illegally. What we see on border patrol footage is that these folks are trying to go to a port of entry.
Bri Stensrud (15m 51s):
But our policy is over the last several years, have put in metering processes and all kinds of deterrence to try and actually get in a quote line. There's really not aligned, but how you would present at a legal port of entry. That's, we've had some deterring policies that have made that very difficult. So people would try and cross in between ports of entry. And what you can see on a border patrol footage is that they are looking for the cameras so that they could find a camera and then sit and wait for a border patrol agent to actually come and pick them up because they're not wanting to cross into the country illegally to hide in the shadows because that's what they'd been doing in their home country. They've been hiding, they've been terrified. They've been living in fear and they, they feel they have a valid claim that they, they are a refugee and they want to apply for asylum and the U S so they want to plead their case.
Bri Stensrud (16m 42s):
They want to submit themselves to the full vetting process of the most powerful country in the world that claims to be a Christian nation of Christian values and mercy and compassion. And so they believe that. And so they are waiting and submitting themselves to that full process.
Amy Julia Becker (16m 59s):
I remember, yeah. I was just going to say, I remember one of the things that was so helpful to me was in understanding that transition that you just described when it used to be that the border patrol was looking for single men who were trying to sneak in, in order to make money, that they could send back to Mexico, but they weren't necessarily looking to stay in the United States. And they weren't looking to have a status in the United States. And they were just trying to kind of slip through so that they could get some work, which is so different than what you just described. And I remember someone saying that in hiring the border patrol, people went in and they thought they were hiring Rambo and they really needed to be hiring mother Theresa.
Amy Julia Becker (17m 42s):
And that was just this like lion that stuck with me because we were border patrol. Agents were kind of ready to like catch the bad guys, might be smuggling drugs, or trying to do these bad things. And then what do they need to do? Its like care for a mother and her child who got lost in the desert and are in danger of dehydration and have been fleeing for their lives. So it's just a really different situation. And that, that change really did happen somewhat dramatically over the course.
Bri Stensrud (18m 10s):
Yeah. And what I mean, and you also have such a mismatch there, which he brought up, which is you have a lot enforcement handling a humanitarian crisis. So instead of treating vulnerable people as a specific vulnerable population, what you're doing is you're trying to meet that humanitarian need with a military response, right. Which is such a mismatch because you are asking border patrol to handle toddlers and their job is two to four and find those who would seek to do harm to the country or to enter illegally. So it was such a mismatch in, in a meeting that whole entire influx of migrants trying to come to the U S well,
Amy Julia Becker (18m 48s):
So what do you feel like on the political realm? You just touched on this a little bit. How have things have things been changing in the last couple of months in terms of president Biden? I know that Obama era policies were overturned by Trump. And I know that some of those were overturned by Biden, but I'm just curious from your view, what you see happening in the political realm when it comes to especially the Southern border.
Bri Stensrud (19m 13s):
Well, this is what I would say is that, you know, Women of Welcome, which is the project that I direct. We are a community of Christian women who are looking to enter into this issue from a biblical perspective, what is Christlike Welcome? What is biblical hospitality? And we are a non-partisan group. We are a nonpartisan advocacy group. So that means that we don't have an agenda other than to look to the scripture as to what does Jesus say about this issue? So immigration for us is a biblical issue. It's not a political issue. So when we say what that does, is it frees us up to engage in, enter into this space and speak very transparently and honestly about the policies that are affecting vulnerable people, no matter who, who is in charge, no matter who the president is.
Bri Stensrud (20m 0s):
So for instance, you know, during the Obama era, he, he had mass deportations that were happening in other separating families, way back during the Obama. He, there was also an implementation of setting up these cage like facilities and what not. And so you have a lot of conservatives that when Trump was a utilizing those facilities again, they were saying, well, Obama built the cages. And I guess my response would be, why are we still using them? Like why, or
Amy Julia Becker (20m 27s):
Why are their cages Ferris who built
Bri Stensrud (20m 30s):
Them? Yeah. Who built, who cares? Who built them? Why are we still using them? And why is that still? If it, if you're a blaming Obama for them, why are they still acceptable under your watch? And they should be. So if for our community feels freed up to enter in and out to the Republican side and to the Democrats that, and we need advocates on both sides. If anything's going to really see a major reform is going to happen. So we, we just feel very unshackled in that way that we get to enter in, in both of those spaces. And I would say that during the, the former administration with president Trump, there was definitely this heightened rhetoric that was very inflammatory.
Bri Stensrud (21m 12s):
And a lot of the language that was used was very dehumanizing. And a lot of the policies that he had Stephen Miller create, we're very, this is where a family separation came out of and, and what not. So we're trying, what we were trying to do is engage from a biblical perspective and keep no matter who's in office, honest about the humanitarian crisis that has been happening over the last decade at the border. So we're, you know, we, we look at the vitamin restoration and were more hopeful about what he has proposed. He's definitely trying to push forward some immigration reform and, you know, We want safe borders.
Bri Stensrud (21m 52s):
We also want compassionate treatment of those who were made in the image of God. So, you know, the answer is not amnesty and it's not mass deportation. And we actually have a policy that we are trying to garner support for it. It's called the restitution based immigration reform. And
Amy Julia Becker (22m 8s):
Sorry about that. What does that tell me? Yeah. I think this is great to have, because it seems like politically You, we tend to often operate in polarities, right. Mass deportation asylum. And it sounds like your offering a different type of solution. Can you talk a little bit more about what that might look like?
Bri Stensrud (22m 24s):
Yeah. So what that looks like his is, you know, when you survey the country and we have over 11 million folks who are here without status and who are undocumented, the vast majority of those people are actually not those who have crossed a border illegally. Those are the vast majority of people who are here, undocumented have overstayed illegal visa, they have applied for it. So you have people from Canada, you have people from Africa, you of people from all over the world who have applied to come here and they been vetted. They have been screened and they have been given permission to come in to the country and then they've overstayed for whatever reason. And so that's a, that's a truth. That's a myth that we have to kind of address quite often is that it's the illegal crossing at our Southern border that has gotten us to the place that we have gotten.
Bri Stensrud (23m 13s):
And that's not actually the case, but you do has it. You do have a mix of people who have been in the country for a long time without status. They came from an economic opportunity and they've had children here or they've come on a temporary protected status from another country. And they've been here for 10, 20 years. Do you have Dreamer's who have been brought into this country as young children and at no fault of their own they're here in this country, they've been working, going to school. That was, so you have all of these families who are of mixed status and it would be family separation all over again to try and figure out who should go and what should happen. And So tuition-based immigration reform is a proposal that you can find at Women of Welcome dot com slash reform.
Bri Stensrud (23m 54s):
And what that is is it's a support letter that sites that you sign on to that lets do that. Did officials know that you would support this solution? And that is, is it those who have been in the country and that those who have not committed any crimes and that can pass a background, check a federal and a local background check, and you can see that they are contributors to the American society in economics and what not. I mean, so they would go through the full vetting process and we would see it and we would screen them. They would then once they pass that initial screening and vetting, they would pay a fine as restitution for the immigration laws that they have violated.
Bri Stensrud (24m 38s):
It's interesting to note, because I didn't know this either, but crossing the border illegally is a misdemeanor and that's akin to like a speeding ticket. So if you've ever like gone over, you know, the speeding limit or something like that, you know, that's, that's what it is usually pay a fine. And so what we're proposing is that people would pay restitution for them. And then once they do that, then they get on this educational path to earning permanent status in this country. So there is an addressing of security issues. There's also an and addressing of educational issues. And then there's also a restitution, uhm, to pay back something against the misdemeanor that was committed
Amy Julia Becker (25m 22s):
And how many people do you have to do? I mean, if you know this off the top of your head would like kinda fall under the umbrella, potentially have some sort of restitution as a solution.
Bri Stensrud (25m 33s):
I think the vast majority probably would be for the simple fact that these folks have already been vetted. A lot of them have because they are overstayed visas. Right? And I mean, you have, you do have other mixed status families that have come across the boarder as well. So its not to say that they are not in there as well. They definitely are. But I would say that, you know, all the data shows us that immigrants that come to this country are far less likely to commit crimes than native born citizens. They are more likely to increase the economic opportunities in jobs and even just the, the pay wage of those in their local communities because they're hard workers and they are, that's why they are coming here.
Bri Stensrud (26m 15s):
They're coming here because they want an opportunity to provide for their families. So we, we see that there was a NetPlus I think it's over 90% of economists agree. The immigrants are a net plus to the economy. And so you have people who are wanting to come, there are not wanting to get in trouble. They know that if they were to get into trouble and some of them do, they will get, they will get scouted out by ice and they will be deported. And so, I mean, there are some people who are here in this country that shouldn't be, and therefore they should, they should be deported. But this is a proposal that says, all right, come forward, come out of the shadows. And what we will do is we will give you an opportunity to live without fear and to be a part of society in a, in a way that is productive and helpful and healthy for not only your community, but for your family.
Bri Stensrud (27m 4s):
Amy Julia Becker (27m 4s):
Yeah. And it's so interesting. I mean, at first I want to just do you know, Sarah, who is out of his book, title off the top of your head, Love Undocumented Love Undocumented. I just want to note that here. Cause it is a great personal story of what you just described in terms of someone overstaying a visa. And cause you can hear that from the outside and you're like, well, why don't you do it? Right. And it was like, Oh I see what exactly what you did it like, Oh this makes it just to me getting that personal story in the context of this whole conversation was really, really helpful. So I just highly recommend Love Undocumented. It's an easy, but really informative read and its a beautiful story. So, but then secondly, the other thing that I'm thinking about Is, okay, so they're like really pragmatic take faith out of it.
Amy Julia Becker (27m 52s):
They're really pragmatic reasons to do what you are talking about, right? Like this is better economically it's I mean thinking about what is the American dream it's that you can come to this country, if you are a courageous and kind of willing to give it a go and look what can happen? I mean, it's just, there's so much in keeping with at least one narrative of what it means to be an American Is to come here and to work hard and to contribute to society. But then there's also, and this is moving us into like the Heart realm have this conversation. There's also this specific Christian aspect of the work that you are doing and what motivates the work that you are doing. And you've spoken to this a little bit, but I'd love to just hear a little bit more about why should Christians care about this issue?
Amy Julia Becker (28m 39s):
How does the Bible apply to how we think about Immigration? How do we think about asylum seekers and refugees in particular? How is it a part of the pro-life cause like, could you just speak a little bit more to how this is rooted in those kinds of heart issues? Like the spiritual piece of all of it?
Bri Stensrud (28m 59s):
Sure. Well for Christians, you know, we go back to Genesis one 27 where Jesus says, are you more God says that he made man and is in his image, male and female. He made them in his image. So its made every person that you see a citizen or not. It is made in the image of God and, and in his likeness and therefor is deserving of our care, a respect, our concern and the Bible. If we looked at it holistically, you need a lot of Christians feel intimidated by this issue. Or they've been, they've bought in to kind of a, a Fear narrative about this vulnerable population of immigrants and refugees. And its interesting that when you look at the whole of scripture, sometimes as Christians, we like to just pick out a verse that helps us distance ourselves from a specific issue.
Bri Stensrud (29m 48s):
And you say, you know what, like Romans 13 says this or so-and-so says this and you're just kind of picked this one burse that helps you just like be able to check out. But when we look at the whole of scripture, I'm actually the old Testament. There is this kind of, there's a philosopher, I'm forgetting his name right now, but he talks about the quartet of the vulnerable. And basically in the old Testament, there is this elevation of widows sojourners, the poor and orphans. And there are talks about more than any other vulnerable population in the old Testament. So we know that God has mandated his people to have special concern for those vulnerable populations. And then you get to the new Testament and the fairest things are looking to test Jesus and they say, Oh, this is what is the greatest commandment.
Bri Stensrud (30m 35s):
And he says to love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, your soul, your mind and your strength. And then the second is this is to love your neighbor as yourself. And so we are to love God and more to love others and we're all in the others category. So it doesn't matter. You know, when you, when you moved to this Kingdom mindset of what God cares about, you move off of this kind of like country or empire mindset that says Citizenship first America. First of course the U S has an obligation to take care of its citizens from a safety perspective, from all of the different facets that a country is responsible for taking care of it as citizens.
Bri Stensrud (31m 16s):
But as Christians, we have a different mindset that's supposed to click first. And that is that each and every person that we'd see is made in the image of God and therefore they are deserving of our care and concern. So a lot of people will say to me, I'm with all the needs that we see in the us, you know, you have homeless veterans, you've got a us school kids who can't, you know, eat lunch. You've got all those issues in the us. And now you're telling me, I need to care about vulnerable refugees and immigrants that aren't even us citizens. What I would say is if we're coming at it from a kingdom minded perspective, that recalibrates how we think about people, how we see people, how we talk about people and as if the body of Christ is really functioning, as they should, we've all got different parts to play in Matthew.
Bri Stensrud (32m 14s):
It talks about how some people are an eye and some people are at hand and so on. And that we're not to disregard those different parts of the body, but that we are to basically kind of know each other's pain points and make and provide coverage for where there are vulnerable parts of the body. And then we're supposed to honor those more vulnerable parts of the body. So to me, when someone says to me, I should care about American means first and there are a Christian. What I would say is as part of the body, we are to function in a way that we are all meeting the needs of everybody who is made in the image of God. And so my passion doesn't have to be your passion, right. And, and it frees everybody up to say, okay, so God has given you giftings and talents and experiences that are going to maybe endear you to maybe this vulnerable population.
Bri Stensrud (33m 2s):
And I've got a calling over here right now. And that, that might not be forever, but that's over here. So for instance, for me, I started out in the abortion and adoption space. Yeah. And then I kind of moved into this Immigration now refugees space. I have a very huge interest in prison ministry and a social and justice reform. And so its like you can care. We were supposed to care about all of these things so that we can support each other in our various roles as the entire human body. So I hope that that allows people to be freed up to care about multiple things, but still feeling called to a very specific yeah,
Amy Julia Becker (33m 44s):
Well, yeah, that's really helpful. And th when you were talking, it made me think about, first of all, when Jesus is talking about, he gets pushed back on it a little bit, right? Like who is my neighbor in terms of what does it mean to love my neighbor? And that's when we get the story of the good Samaritan, which is very explicitly the person who does not live in your land, right? Like the neighbor is a one who has crossed a border literally. And so, and who does it actually at great cost to himself? He cares for the wounded Israelite in this case. 'cause I think that while there was a lot of statistical data that shows that it's actually not in our, in an American citizens, economic self-interest to welcome people in and to our country.
Amy Julia Becker (34m 31s):
Even if that weren't the case from a Christian perspective, whether or not this is going to cost you, if you have it to give, I guess what this is your neighbor like, this is, this is someone who is in need and you get to be a part of God's work potentially in that. And I think also to Matthew 25, as far as Jesus is saying, you have, are caring for me when you are caring for those who are in prison and who are homeless and who are hungry and who are destitute in all of those things. So I want him to just one other kind of Heart related question. I know you have a chance to meet with personally and talk to dozens, maybe hundreds of people who are in this very vulnerable position of applying for asylum in the United States.
Amy Julia Becker (35m 18s):
And I do think that putting a human face and some stories too, the statistics, and even too the Bible verses we are talking about can be really helpful. So I'm just wondering if you can think of a story about someone who is seeking asylum that you'd be willing to share.
Bri Stensrud (35m 34s):
Yeah. So I guess one of the stories he has always stuck with me. It was a man named Carlos and I think you are their, when we were talking with Carlos and Carlos was a father and I believe he was he from Honduras. Yeah. I just it's from the North and trying to find out he was definitely from the Northern triangle. And he had, I think, three children, I think he had two and then one was on the way, the one on the way that I just knew it was really little so maybe. Yeah. Yeah. And one was on the way. And he and his brother were living in a kind of an apartment complex and they had repeatedly heard their neighbor being violent, are abusing kind of his children.
Bri Stensrud (36m 16s):
And, you know, one day they just had kind of had enough. They had heard, you know, heard the mom was gone to work and the dad was home with the youngest daughter and they'd kind of noticed and observed this for a little while. And one of the days the mom had left and they were home in their apartment. And then they could hear what was happening as a father was abusing his daughter and they decided they were going to break down the door and saved this little girl from the abuse that their father. So he and his brother did that. And so what does he say? He is a Christian. He said I was compelled to do that. And it was my daughter. I, you know, I was thinking, I have daughters, I could hear this going on in there.
Bri Stensrud (36m 59s):
So he couldn't let it happen anymore. And so he said, I just trusted God that I was going to insert myself into this and do it. And so they save the scroll of the authorities were called, they saved this girl from her abusive father. Well, what happened was is that this father was part of the local game. Yeah. And what ended up happening was is he obviously was incredibly upset that the authorities had been called on him and I'm, So the gang started targeting him in his brother and they nearly took his brother's life. They had gone by his brother's business and they had done drive by shootings and all, you know, it was just this really violent scene that unfolded because he inserted himself to save this little girl.
Bri Stensrud (37m 41s):
And he ended up fleeing for his life. He left his wife and his and his one or two other kids and she was pregnant, but yet it was getting so dangerous for him to be there that it was like, I'm either going to die here or I'm going to be able to go and seek asylum in the U S tell that I'm I'm being persecuted. And, and maybe I can bring my family and we can live in safety. And it was just so interesting to me to sit there and think here's what a young father who came by himself, who is grieving the loss of his family. His wife ended up having their, their, their next child without him present. So he never met his youngest child and it just the marital challenge, but that was about her feeling abandoned.
Bri Stensrud (38m 28s):
But her knowing that he would've died, if he stayed and her having to go through all of this by herself, and he's stuck in a migrant shelter of the policies that are not allowing him to actually really apply for asylum at our border. And so he was just stuck in this limbo and at the mercy of our policies. And, and what struck me was, is here's a man who is wanting to submit himself to the full vetting process of the strongest nation in the world. And we're saying, no, no, no, we don't want to. And we're instead, we're going to do everything that we can to try and keep you out. And, you know, I used to look at the new stories in the photographs that will come through across the media wire's and you would see these long lines of single men trying to get into the country for whatever reason, and may be lined up along a chain link fence.
Bri Stensrud (39m 23s):
And I remember I used to be like, I remember that I used to look at those long lines and think, wow, those that is a group of people that are just looking to take. I remember I used to think of that. And then after that experience with Carlos, I will never look at a long line of single men like that. Again, like the same. I just won't because instead of seeing them as father's or husbands, no, not all of them belong in the us. And what I mean by that is not everybody is safe to come into the country, but we owe it to people like Carlos, I would want Carlos to be my neighbor.
Bri Stensrud (40m 5s):
I would want that this is the kinda man. I want it, my community for the vulnerable, it is doing it at every cost. It costs to me is entire life to enter in and save that girl. And he could have just let it go, you know, have a business with his brother. They were fine. And then he laid it all on the line for this little girl that he probably will never ever see again, but he felt compelled by his faith to enter into her story and save her. And, and now we find himself in limbo and, and so that story has never stuck and it's always stuck with me and it will, I will never look at a line of Immigrants waiting to come in differently.
Bri Stensrud (40m 47s):
I'll never look at a line like that in the same. That's what you mean.
Amy Julia Becker (40m 50s):
Yeah, absolutely. Well, so taking all of this information, taking the, story's taking the biblical mandate, you have given us a little bit of a like, okay, so what do we do just in talking about the restitution, a potential, you know, reform we could go on and just sign, but are there other small steps that people who are listening to this podcast who are concerned about these issues, but are also just like living their ordinary American lives can take to actually get involved to be a supportive and respond to this information and these stories?
Bri Stensrud (41m 27s):
Well, I think the number one question we always get at Women of Welcome is what can I do? I think for the American church, a lot of time, we simply want to have a very quick fix and Immigration is a very complex issue. I mean, I don't even understand all of it. I mean, there's Immigration loyal lawyers. There was a specialty and this, you know, it's more complicated than Texas law is what I'm told. So what I would say is there's not a silver bullet. If you're looking for a silver bullet, there's not one, but what I, but there are organizations that you can engage with. There are people that need to hear your voice and your compassion towards this issue, you know, in order for them to have some confidence in this space as well.
Bri Stensrud (42m 15s):
So at Women of Welcome what we say is we're trying to attach confidence to your compassion. And part of it is, is we're introducing you to people who are in this space that are doing on the ground work and doing a good job. And we do that through our webinars are through our blog. We're also helping you figure out how to speak up. A lot of times, you know, people will feel like its my civic duty to just vote straight ticket at a certain way, every four years. It really it's the in between years is that really matter? And so calling your elected officials, how do I do that? How do I speak up when, and we have free resources on how to use your voice while how do we engage our elected officials while you can find out that at Women of Welcome dot com in our resources section, and we're coming up with a new website in just a couple of weeks here.
Bri Stensrud (43m 3s):
So that would be a great place to engage. But I think that that learning, taking the time to enter into and learn, listening to something like this and then, and then go and we have a plethora of videos. We have come out with new weekly videos every week about this and start following people that you might not agree with or not because you're going to be deconstructed in your own value system by following people. And you don't have to have a, a a hundred percent align, but what it would do is it would help you understand a different community, a different area of the world or the S or American society that you might not be immersed in.
Bri Stensrud (43m 43s):
And it would just be helpful for you to get in closer proximity to. So I would say learning is, is a really good one, be dedicated to learning in this space and it's going to be like a fire hose, but you can, you can find Women of Welcome would be a great starting point for that. But I also say, you know, praying is really important. I think people undervalue prayer and it's like, lets be praying for the hearts and minds of people to really have a deep in sense of the sanctity and dignity of every human life. And what does that mean as Christians? What are we call to do because of that is the truth. And because we believe that because scripture tells us that, I mean you can always donate.
Bri Stensrud (44m 23s):
I think people are like, where do I donate? Where do I send stuff? And that's, I think that's kind of the easy work. And there's a plethora of organizations along the border that are helping those organizations in countries that are helping out like a more just society is another great organization that, that works in the Northern triangle to fight injustices and corruption and keep the government accountable and what not. So I think writing a check is very much needed, but I would also say that don't discount your presence because your, your presence is also a gift and you might not think I live in an immigrant rich community or whatever, but you probably, you might be surprised, you know, if you want to just simply Google immigrant services in my community or nearby, you might be surprised to see entities that are very nearby.
Bri Stensrud (45m 14s):
You serving vulnerable populations and folks who are living in the shadows and scared to really immerse an assembly into society because they are afraid of, of being judged. There's a lot of shame for being here without status. And so I think learning, praying, I think giving is good, but I also think entering in personally and it was closer and meeting people is a good one.
Amy Julia Becker (45m 39s):
And I think the other thing that struck me when we were together on that trip, but one of the things that came up was that the majority of the people who are coming to the United States as immigrants, or who are seeking asylum or whatever are actually people of faith. And so there is a shared brother and sisterhood, right? There's a shared family of God aspect of things. And I say that not only in terms of, are you no obligation to one another, whether that's as humans or as Christians or whatever, but also in terms of, okay, these are people who have done. One of what to me is one of the most courageous things I can imagine in leaving my home and going to the unknown and not knowing what's going to happen.
Amy Julia Becker (46m 22s):
And as you said, it happens for all sorts of reasons, but typically at great cost and with great courage and to have endured that measure of suffering and risk and to have for many of them prayed and known the experience of walking with Jesus through that whole time, how much do I need those people in my life who can speak to what it means to follow God in the midst of hardship and uncertainty and fear, and I'm not knowing what is going to happen. And just think that it's easy for me to see this conversation in terms of what I can give. And I just also believe there is so much that we have to receive from those who have different life stories than we do and who have experienced so much.
Amy Julia Becker (47m 10s):
So there's, I love all of the things that you just said as far as how we can get involved, whether it's by, you know, signing a letter or making a donation looking in our local communities and just starting to get, I'm a lot more information about what's going on. So yeah, go ahead.
Bri Stensrud (47m 26s):
I think being curious is really helpful. I'm I think a lot of times you do have Immigrants in your midst. It's not necessarily curious about knowing their story or what they've gone through. And there's a very tangible thing that, you know, at any time I travel, I'm usually taking an Uber, getting into a taxi and all those drivers tend to be immigrants and they're here seeking asylum or, or they're on a green card status or they have fled persecution of some sort and, you know, asking them to, to tell you their story can be a hard thing because there a lot of them or fleeing really violent situations. So you have to be sensitive about asking people to recall such a traumatic experience.
Bri Stensrud (48m 7s):
So maybe you don't just dive in all there, but if you notice that somebody has, you know, that it looks different than you, or has a dialect or an accent that is different than, you know, but I will say, is that just saying, I noticed you have an accent, where are you from? What is your family from, you know, and then you just get into this very natural kind of like a family conversation and what not. And what I would say is there's a large number of immigrants who have never been welcomed into the United States. They've never been told that they're Welcome. And I think that's an incredibly sad considering that we claim to be a Christian nation or a nation that holds to Christian values.
Bri Stensrud (48m 48s):
And to get to know that the vast majority of Immigrants are coming from countries where the, the, the Mo the majority of people claim to be Christians in those countries. So I would just say everybody that's migrating over is, is a Christian, but a large majority of countries that people are coming from the most of the people in that country claim Christ. He said that for them to come into a quote Christian nation and not be welcomed is really disheartening and sad. So I think we all have a role on a part to play and being curious, yes, about someone's story enough or a cure. And it was about an individual enough to be welcoming or to show welcome to someone.
Bri Stensrud (49m 32s):
And I would just say this, you brought up those who are coming from the patients that are either a Christian or have predominantly Christian values and views as well. I was at a conference and I heard a pastor say, you know what? The majority of he's, he's a pastor here in the U S and that's another great thing. You can look for other types of congregations in your community. If you know, there's a Hispanic congregation in your, or a Korean, a congregation in our community, it might be a nice just to pop in and sit and see what that's like. Like that would be a great experience to have, but this, he was okay, a pastor of a predominantly Hispanic church and the us. And he said, do you know what the number one thing my congregants want to do?
Bri Stensrud (50m 12s):
And we were all thinking like, of course they want permanent status. They want people to understand them. They want free English classes, like all of these things. We're just thinking that. And he said, they want to drive to church together and the same way. And we were all kind of like, what does he mean by that? Can't they do that? Why can't they do that? And he said, the majority of people who are here without status, I have mixed status families. So mom or dad is here without status. And if they were to be picked up on the way, driving to church, there there'd be a permanent deportation. Cause they're here without status. And so mom and dad are driving a separate cars are splitting up the kids'. So that only half of the family would be deported.
Bri Stensrud (50m 53s):
If someone got pulled up for her. And I just got to thinking like, wow, this is how dedicated some of our immigrant brothers and sisters are to the church. They are risking family separation or permanent deportation from a way from their families to, to gather what the body of Christ and their community and doing. So they are driving in separate cars. So he said, my mixed status families want to drive together to church on Sunday mornings. And it just hit me like, where is our compassion and trying to keep families together? Is that something that we are truly mindful about?
Bri Stensrud (51m 36s):
Is that something that we truly care about? Because when family separation was happening with kids at the border, there's many ways that family separation is, is happening. And its not just at the border, it's in our own communities as well with families who, who love Jesus and who love America and want to be here and be contributors. So just being curious about the people around you that might look differently than you can really put you in a position to, to show price like Welcome in a way that you didn't think was possible.
Amy Julia Becker (52m 7s):
I agree. Thank you so much for just offering kind of big picture, but also some of those more small details so that we get a better sense of the head, the heart and the hands when it comes to Immigration. I really do.
Bri Stensrud (52m 19s):
I appreciate your time. Thank you so much for having me.
Amy Julia Becker (52m 25s):
Thanks so much for listening to love is stronger than Fear. We made some references to books and articles in such today. So it will be sure to note those in the SHOW NOTES. And of course I'd always love for you to share this episode, subscribe to this podcast, give it a quick rating or review. It's been so fun to hear from some of you on Instagram and on Facebook and through a email about how your responses to these podcasts. So please keep those comments. I love hearing from you. I did mention at the top that I've got a new paperback version of head heart hands. I've also got a paperback version of my e-book missing out on beautiful, which is a series of reflections about having a child with down syndrome written both from my perspective and Penny's prospective in honor of world down syndrome day, which is on March 21st.
Amy Julia Becker (53m 12s):
I also have a YouTube channel now, so you can look that up and I always have a lot of thanks to you as my listeners, to Jake Hansen, for editing to Amber Barry for doing social media, coordinating in an extraordinary way. Thank you. All of the people who support making these conversations happen. And now as you go into your day to day, I hope you will carry with you. The piece that comes from believing that Love is Stronger.
2 (53m 39s):