In the Disciples
by The Upper Room for June 1, I came across thoughts about God’s desire for righteousness, which seem to apply to us, here and now, in the United Methodist Church, as supporters of the ministry of Justice for Our Neighbors. “In the midst of reciting God’s acts of compassion on behalf of the oppressed and hurting, the psalmist writes this new and different line: The Lord loves the righteous.”
“And who are the righteous? We might assume they are morally perfect people. Instead we find the answer in the psalm’s invitation to embody the compassion of God: Not to behave in ways that disempower the powerless; rather to see ourselves as God’s feet traveling to the places where the shamed hide, God’s hands tenderly lifting a chin. God’s eyes lovingly seeing a person with distorted self-worth, God’s voice advocating for the oppressed. The purposes of the righteous align with those of God’s.” p. 188
Here, church, is an example of the way that your righteous actions bring hope to powerless and oppressed young people through Iowa Justice for Our Neighbors:
April Palma, JFON attorney, shares this story of recent clients whose names* have been changed:
Carlos* and Edwin* are cousins from El Salvador. They came to the US in July 2015. Back in El Salvador Carlos and Edwin were living together with Carlos’s mother and step-father.
The boys made the dangerous journey to the US for several reasons. First, they came to the US to escape extreme levels of gang violence in El Salvador. Both boys were threatened by gangs; they were told “join or be killed”. They had to drop out of school because it was too dangerous to be out of the house.
Additionally, Carlos fled the country because he no longer had a safe home. Carlos was abandoned by his biological father when he was very young and his mother remarried. For most of his life Carlos got along well with his stepfather, his stepfather was the only dad he ever had. However, in 2014 Carlos’s stepfather began sexually abusing him. The abuse occurred over a year but at first was very rare and then began to occur more frequently. Carlos was afraid to say anything about the abuse because the stepdad’s brother is in a gang and his stepfather threatened him saying if he told anyone he would be killed. His mother never discovered the abuse on her own because she worked during the day and Carlos’s stepdad worked the night shift and was home during the day. The abuse started happening more frequently when Carlos had to drop out of school because of gang violence. Eventually, Carlos’s little sister saw the abuse happening and told their mother. Carlos's mom didn't do anything about it and continued to go on as if she didn’t know. At that point Carlos and Edwin fled to the US. They are now reunited with Edwin’s mother here Des Moines.
Edwin was abandoned by his biological father while his mother was still pregnant. Edwin’s father is now dead so there is no chance of reunification and since Edwin’s mother is here, he has no one in El Salvador to return to if he were deported.
I referred Carlos and Edwin to Iowa Legal Aid for guardianship orders. Once the guardianship orders are in place I will be assisting them in applying for the Special Immigrant Juvenile Visa. Additionally, I will represent the boys in their removal proceedings. Our goal is to get them legal permanent residency so that they can remain in the US safely.