A Guest Post from Kris Van Engen
Growing up on an Iowa farm, over the course of thousands of hours, I walked beans, detasseled corn, shelled corn, fed calves, fixed fences, chopped weeds, bailed hay, helped thaw frozen drinkers, reorganized the machine shed, and made beds of straw for newborn pigs. A cow even rammed me into the side of a barn and left me with a broken arm and jaw. I have special memories of working alongside my parents and my three brothers.
It was hard work, but worth it, because I have this badge of honor that for some reason people respond to with respect, that I once worked on a farm.
This is why I am frustrated about the U.S. immigration debates. When I work in agricultural it’s noble–farmers feeding the world–but immigrants doing the exact same work are told to “get in line,” and as real farmers know, there is no line.
Seventy percent of all US farm workers are undocumented immigrants. Not just 70% of immigrant farm workers but 70% of all US farm employees.
The legal entry system has not worked for over 40 years. Agriculture utilizes immigrants but our laws say no to their visa requests and yet the IRS collect billions in taxes from undocumented workers. Food flows from farm to table but beneath the surface 70% of the people doing the work don’t have access to a legal immigration system. They are completing the hard agriculture jobs that are not filled by Americans.
At some point we stopped paying attention to real people. God asks us to defend the cause of immigrants and to love the stranger. I pray the 70% statistic will awaken us to just how broken this immigration system is.
When we pay attention to the fact that our food, even our Communion bread, comes from this unfair system maybe we will stop taking sides and work together. Imagine the joy on farms when all workers are granted access to legal immigration–when employers don’t feel the guilt of a precarious work force. Proposals to achieve this have been endorsed across the political spectrum. Now Congress needs the will to act.
This isn’t about Republicans vs. Democrats. This is about all of us and every bag we fill with groceries. The choice is ours to pray for new immigration laws with our words and actions or to ignore ongoing suffering.
If you want to act you could host a viewing of this film, or even bring this workshop to your church. You can also call your member of Congress at 866-877-5552 and tell them you are ready for new immigration laws. Here is CRC Justice’s advocacy page for easy ways to help.
You may remember Paul Harvey’s ‘So God Made a Farmer’ speech from the Super Bowl. What if, when we listened to those words, we rightly ascribed such thankfulness to all U.S. farmer workers–
Kris VanEngen lives in Holland, MI with his wife and two children. He is the Congregational Justice Mobilizer for World Renew and the Office of Social Justice. He carries with him some precious memories of growing up on a farm with his three brothers; Kirk, Nic and PJ.