New neighbours moved in several months ago, hailing from the other side of town, previously from Florida, before that in Pennsylvania and originally from Cuba. They have an American flag hanging out their back window and scoff at people who think they don’t know the laws.
“We’ve been here for fourteen years,” the wife says, “It’s people who grow up here who don’t know!”
For myself, I hardly ever let where I’m living sink in, besides the fact that it is humid, flat and far away from where I grew up. The language and rules of the road are the same, even with my New Brunswick licence. But I was carded at a restaurant one evening, and after asking to see my passport they told me that they technically couldn’t serve anyone who didn’t have current paperwork.
Because the fiance visa is issued for 90 days, it doesn’t matter if I’ve fulfilled the terms of the entry and married an American citizen within that time. My passport still has an ‘expired’ visa and without a study of immigration types and rules, I can’t expect anyone to understand.
I felt jarred and vulnerable, even when they made an exception, handed me my drink and kept thanking me for not being annoyed. The FYI was too much to swallow right then. That scrutiny and a panicked feeling the leaped up as quickly as the need to explain why I even exist here.
In a moment of clarity I understood a little more of the other side of immigration. I’m not immediately pegged as someone from ‘away’ but in that moment in a restaurant I could only imagine how it feels when your appearance, clothing or accent is a flying flag to the fact that you did not begin your life journey in this place.
I do not venture opinions about immigration policy or the wisdom of open doors, but beyond that issue is another. Once the wanderers are here, how do I treat them? Deserving or undeserving, do I think twice before I assume their story? This is not a watery porridge of tolerance – but simply the kindness to strangers, the prodigal, the Samaritan, the woman at the well that God calls us to.
A new land and heart. A redemption and changing and pathway for us to follow is at the very heart of who we’re remade to be. So this will flow to the homeless and confused and shy in the back corner of church.
Belonging isn’t something I take for granted and these days…it is most certainly something I want to share.