Church Leaders Try To Ease Growing Fears From Legal Immigrants

Church Leaders Try To Ease Growing Fears From Legal Immigrants
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The possibility of new immigration and deportation rules has some Four Staters from Mexico worried. Local church leaders say they’re trying to calm fears; but it can be a difficult task, even though their church members from Mexico are here legally.

“You need to know where your family needs to be. You need to tell your children where to meet,” says Pastor Shirley McBridge.

That’s what McBridge, of Vida Abundante Church in Neosho, tells her 80 parishioners, many of them from Mexico. It’s a contingency plan for those church members, just in case they’re forced back south of the border.

“You want your children to have a better future than you had. You want to give them every opportunity,” says McBridge.

“When you’re living in your home country and they say, ‘OK, your child is going to join a gang or we’ll kill you,’ yeah, what do you do? I would flee, too,” says Father Derek Swanson of St. Canera Church in Neosho.

Swanson’s church is 60% Latino.

“Most of them have documents,” says Swanson. “They’re nervous for relatives. What if they go home and visit someone? Are they going to be able to come back?”

Swanson says being a legal Mexican in this country still carries, for the time being anyway, uncertainty.

“We’ve had all kinds of requests from our parishioners to get immigration lawyers in to be able to just explain things. Say, OK, this is what’s going to happen. The lawyers right now say we can’t do much, because we don’t know what’s going to happen,” says Swanson.

Swanson says recent hate has made uncertainty turn into fear.

“After the election, people in Anderson, Noel, some of them here have had people say slurs against them. Some of the kids in school, other children have said, ‘Oh, well, your parents are going to get deported, you’re going to get deported,’ even though they were born here. Their house is vandalized. Can they call for help? Because they’re worried then the police may not like them,” says Swanson.

Church leaders say from their perspective, faith has become stronger.

“God has a great destiny for you. Where ever you may find yourself on the planet, in the future,” says McBridge.

McBridge tells her church members be ready and prepared.

Church leaders say deportation is nothing new, of course. But leaders say their parishioners feel recent immigration enforcements have become more unpredictable. They want a more stable, reliable immigration policy, no matter a republican or democrat president.