UndocuAmerica: ‘Wandering in the Desert’

An open letter to my fellow Christians.

Laura and her daughter at an immigration prayer vigil. (Dave Russell/Buffalo Heart Images)

I need to talk to my fellow Christians — my brothers, my sisters. I know immigration is not a topic that is comfortable, but we need to have this conversation. Because, you may not know I’m in pain right now and that you might have, perhaps without realizing it, contributed to my pain.

I share my heart knowing that you are good people. I have seen you help out at church and the shelter, and care for the elderly. I have seen you bring food to the homes of people in need. And I know that most of you don’t really mean for all immigrants to be deported. So I don’t understand why so many of you support leaders who are promising to deport my mom and dad.

Many of my brothers and sisters of faith tell me I don’t have to worry because they will be there to support me, and that they would never let anybody take me personally. But those same people are helping to elect leaders who have the intention of separating parents from their children — deporting millions of immigrants who are just trying to support their families.

We often get disappointed by our politicians because they don’t fulfil their promises. In this case, I know many Christians are actually counting on our elected officials not delivering on promises to deport all undocumented immigrants. But these hopes are not enough for me right now, when I’m being told that I should fill out an Emergency Plan for my children’s school so they know who to call if ICE picks me up. The thought of this possibility is forcing me and my children to live with so much anxiety… I really don’t think that you want my children taken into foster care — left up for grabs to a destiny without a mother.

There is a teaching in the New Testament about a woman who was about to be killed by a mob because of her sins. But despite her transgressions, Jesus stood up for her. He challenged those who had never committed a sin to throw the first stone. And there was no person able to throw a stone at the woman.

Of course, many Christians feel my family and I made a mistake by coming here undocumented. But if you know me, you know we didn’t come here to cause harm, but simply to preserve our own lives: We were hungry and we needed bread. We were thirsty and we needed water. We were persecuted and we chose life and freedom.

I want you to know, from what I have seen in my community, most people who are undocumented crossed the border, like my family, just trying to survive. We would have chosen a safe and legal path — without wandering in the desert, without the freezing nights, without the cactus and thorns digging into our feet, without the threats of robbers and smugglers, without carrying tired little children for miles and miles — if there would have been another way.

I also know from my personal experience crossing the border that my family and I were not alone. We were held by God’s hand into this country. And when I see the beautiful faces of my healthy, happy children, I know that I was meant to be here, and I am so grateful to be part of my community, and our country.

I write to you now because I cannot sit in silence with you at church, or in my faith, while watching my friends and family get deported back across the desert we risked everything to cross; called harmful names; told that we can live in the shadows and pick the fruit but we cannot eat the fruit; told that because we were born in another country, even if we were raised here, that we cannot sit at the table together with other Americans; and told that this country will not accept us, no matter how hard we work, no matter how much we give. There are too many families suffering and being separated; too many refugees in this country that are being sent back to their deaths. There are too many of us devastated by the pressing circumstances around us — like watching the little children in cages, exposed to abuse; the teargas in the eyes of mothers and fathers; the realization that at any moment our beautiful life, as we know it, could be over.

I find guidance in the teaching of Jesus and in the way he stood up in front of the mob to save a life. I pray my fellow Christians will stand with me against cruel immigration policies and help me save the lives of my family, my friends, and many other parents who are just trying to provide for their children. If you believe in Jesus, you know that Jesus loves you. So when you think of my children, my family, and the undocumented immigrants in this country, please remember His commandment to love one another the way he loves us.

Everyone makes mistakes. I have. You have. And I believe our leaders have too. But we can learn from our mistakes and stand together in God’s love.

(David Zalubowski/Associated Press)

Laura Peniche is a Motus Theater UndocuAmerica Monologist. Originally from Mexico, Laura Peniche is a writer, director, producer, performer, and community organizer living in Denver, Colorado. She was a producer of the documentary film “Five Dreamers”; Her dream is to continue creating a positive impact in the community through storytelling. Laura currently works with the Colorado Immigrants Rights Coalition, as Hotline Coordinator, documenting cases for the ICE Incident Report Hotline. She loves mountain hiking, yoga, and playing with her children.

You can listen to more autobiographical monologues like this on the Motus Monologues Podcast, here.

Or, hear prominent Americans step into the shoes of our undocumented neighbors, on the Shoebox Stories Podcast, here.

This picture came from a 2019 story: https://denverite.com/2019/09/16/healthcare-is-complicated-if-youre-undocumented-getting-it-can-be-a-nightmare/ (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

This autobiographical story was written by Laura Peniche in collaboration with Kirsten Wilson as part of Motus Theater’s UndocuAmerica Series: Stories From Our Undocumented Neighbors.

Creating original content to facilitate dialogue on the critical issues of our time >> www.motustheater.org

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