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Spiritual

Immigrants Are Made in the Image of God Too

statue of liberty the symbol for immigrants
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Immigration is not a new concept. Since the beginning of time, people have migrated (moved within the same region or country) or immigrated (moved to a new country). However, since 2016, it seems like immigration has become a controversial hot topic. Although it is political or has become political in the last few decades because of policies, I believe we should view immigration with a Biblical lens and view immigrants as image bearers, too, because they are made in the image of God too. 

I believe this because the Bible mentions the vulnerable all throughout. It talks about how we should treat them, and God has a soft spot for them. And who are the vulnerable, you may ask? They are the widows, orphans, foreigners (immigrants), and the poor. 

In the very beginning, the Bible starts by telling us that God made humans in His image. 

Genesis 1:27 (NIV) says, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” 

This includes all of our brothers and sisters who have immigrated to the United States and the future immigrants to come. We need to keep this verse at the forefront of our minds when we are talking about immigrants.

What Else Does The Bible Say About Immigrants?

There are many verses that talk about the vulnerable, but I’ll only name a few. 

  • Deuteronomy 10:19 (NIV) And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt.” 
  • Deuteronomy 27:19 (NIV) “Cursed is anyone who withholds justice from the foreigner, the fatherless, or the widow.” Then all the people shall say, “Amen!”
  • Leviticus 19:34 (NIV) The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.” 
  • Psalms 146:9 (NIV) The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. 
  • Zechariah 7:8-10 (NIV) And the word of the Lord came again to Zechariah: “This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the foreigner or the poor. Do not plot evil against each other.’ 
  • Matthew 25:40 (NIV) “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ 

The last verse is a reminder that how we treat others is how we treat Jesus himself.

Why It’s Important to Hear Immigrant Stories

The podcast The American Dream In The Eyes of Immigrants, shares stories about immigrants who moved to the United States. Immigrants talk about their journey coming to the United States, the cultural shocks they experienced, and how they adapted to living here. 

Some stories are good, and some stories are traumatic because everyone has a different reason for coming, but all have the same intention: to better their lives and the lives of their families. And it’s important to hear these stories because we need to understand our brothers and sisters better. We need to have more compassion towards them and empathy. And the best way to do this is by listening to their stories. 

The journey to come isn’t easy. The decision to leave or move from their home country isn’t a decision that is taken lightly. People don’t want to leave their home country. They don’t want to leave their culture, food, language, and sometimes families. They don’t want to start all over in a foreign land. This is all out of necessity. This decision is one that is thought about and pondered on for months and even years and often times prayed about.

In Conclusion

It breaks my heart how negatively the media talks about God’s children who immigrate here, which is one of the reasons why I started the podcast. Immigrant’s stories matter, and everyone should listen to them. To understand, to empathize, to be grateful that they or their family didn’t have to leave their land to make a better life for themselves. What if your family had to leave the United States? Wouldn’t you want people to listen to your story?

One last question to think about what if God called them here?  

With Love, Heidy

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Categories
Podcast

How to Become an Immigration Specialist

lady liberty in new york taken by the author. lady liberty is the symbol of immigration and freedom.
Lady Liberty – Picture by Heidy De La Cruz

Did you know that there was a way you could provide legal representation to asylum seekers, refugees, and migrants without being an immigration attorney?


The Department of Justice allows accredited representatives to provide legal immigration representation once they earn the VIISTA certification through Villanova University. This program is 100% online and it trains students to be advocates of immigrants and be ready to serve the community.

What Is the Recognition and Accreditation Program?

The Recognition and Accreditation (R&A) program from the Department of Justice allows non-attorney “Accredited Representatives” to represent migrants or asylum seekers before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR). Because migrants aren’t entitled to court-appointed attorneys this program helps provide legal representation for immigration cases. Representatives with accreditation must be part of an organization recognized by the DOJ to provide legal services. Those are non-profits, and federally tax-exempt organizations.

In the most recent episode of my podcast, I speak with Joanne McAfee who went through the VIISTA certification program. She has accreditation with the DOJ, and currently serves as an immigration specialist at Catholic Charities in Delaware. Joanne explains the process of how she got into becoming accredited, and what type of work she does.

If you are looking for a way to help serve in the immigration space but don’t want to become an immigration attorney maybe you can can become an accredited representative. There is an enormous backlog of immigration cases and not enough help. Currently, it takes years for a judge to hear a case. And the judges hear the majority of the cases without legal representation and this includes children.

What’s the Difference Between Partial and Full Accreditation?

Villanova University explains the difference between a partially accredited representative and a full. With partial accreditation, the representative may represent clients before Customers and Border Patrol (CBP) or United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) but not before immigration courts. Representative with fully accreditation have authorization to appear before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA). The majority of the representatives with accreditation are partially partially rather than fully so they aren’t able to represent clients in court. If considering becoming accredited consider going full accreditation.

Immigration Needs Your Help

According to IBIS World – there are 13,498 immigration lawyers active in the US as of 2023. Which is a 3% increase from last year. However, there are over 2 million pending immigration cases currently. There aren’t enough attorneys to represent all the cases. By becoming accredited with the DOJ you 

Because of the backlog currently in the immigration system, it takes years for immigration cases to be complete. Policies and laws are constantly changing, so what may have been valid when the case was first filed may not be valid years down the line. You can listen more about this in episode 8 of my podcast. 

You may like: Episode Summary – Questions & Answers with Immigration Attorney

The immigration system in the United States is complex and outdated. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution possible because every case is unique. Nevertheless, we can involve ourselves by educating ourselves and advocating for policies that center on human rights and dignity. And if you feel called to do more but don’t want to go to law school becoming an Immigration Specialist with the DOJ is a great alternative.

With Love, Heidy

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Categories
Book Review

An American Immigrant: Book Review

iPad with cover of book, there is a woman with a white, yellow, blue and dress and the words an american immigrant Johanna Rojas Vann across.
Picture by Heidy De La Cruz

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I don’t think I’ve ever felt so seen in a book. Until I read, An American Immigrant by Johanna Rojas Vann. This book came to my radar because of Jamie Ivey. She has a book club where you sign up for her Patreon account and receive access to the book of the month before it’s release date and there is a meeting with the author. When I saw that for August, the book was, “An American Immigrant,” of course I signed up! 

Johanna’s mom immigrated to the United States from Colombia, through Mexico in the 80s. Johanna was born here, so she is a second-generation American-Colombian. This book is a fiction story based on actual events about her mom’s story growing up in Colombia and immigrating to the United States, with a mix of her own story of growing up in the United States with immigrant parents.

 Although, I’m not Colombian – I can relate to so much in this book! First, I’m a child of immigrants – my parents came in the 90s to live in the United States, from the Dominican Republic. And second, I’m a writer, just like Melanie, the main character of the book. 

The Review

Melanie is a journalist who writes for Miami Herald and she’s on the brink of losing her job. She is assigned a story that took her to her mom’s home country, Colombia, a place Melanie has never visited. On this trip, she discovers so much about herself, her culture, and her mom. 

There were many misconceptions about Colombia Melanie had, which she discovered were not true while on her trip. She was able to visit her grandma who she had not seen in about ten years, and she found her mom’s journal, in which she wrote about her experience crossing the border to get into the United States. 

In one of the journal entries, Melanie’s mom wrote about how a classmate from a different Latin-American country wrote negatively about Colombia because of the drug issues they had in the past. If you aren’t sure who Pablo Escobar is – look him up. She was very upset that her country was seen in such a negative light and it affected all citizens of Colombia because people would think that everyone was associated with Pablo Escobar. And reading that reminded me of the first time I had ever heard anything about Colombia, I was told that it was the drug capital of the world. I was young and didn’t understand what that meant – but it made me reflect on what Melanie’s mom wrote was true, there was a negative taint on Colombia all because of one man. 

The Identity Crisis with Immigrants

Although growing up Melanie did not embrace her Colombian culture and was more embarrassed – she described the struggle children of immigrants go through with identifying with either culture. It’s like we are too Hispanic for Americans and then too American for Hispanics. 

And lastly, I identified with the writer in Melanie. Everything she described about having too many ideas to write and wanting to start writing right away or the whole process of writing an article and not being able to stop when you’re in a flow and afterward waiting for feedback, I could identify with everything because I go through that as well. 

The ending is very beautiful because Melanie finally finds what she needs to write about and it’s similar to my podcast. Immigration stories are important and are a unique part of this country. They aren’t spoken about enough, which is why I started The American Dream in The Eyes of Immigrants podcast, to share these stories, change the narrative, and provide a safe space for immigrants. 

Whether you are an immigrant, a child of immigrants, or not, I believe everyone should read this book! 

Let me know if you do read it and let’s talk about it! 

With Love, Heidy 

Are you interested in a little bit of a personal development newsletter? With a little bit of poetry? A little of opinion pieces? And some faith-based encouragement? Sign up for my Substack newsletter, “Into My Thoughts.”

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Categories
Podcast

Episode Summary – Questions & Answers with Immigration Attorney

For Episode 8 of The American Dream in The Eyes of Immigrants podcast, I spoke with immigration attorney Chris Acklin to provide information on some of the processes migrants go through to achieve legal status in the United States. 

Before recording this episode, I asked my followers on social media which questions they would ask an immigration attorney, and those were the questions I asked Chris. 

The episode starts with Chris providing background information about him and how he got into immigration law. He began by helping another attorney with her immigration cases, they had a few wins, and then he continued with immigration. 

The most significant impact on his job is the policy changes that presidential administrations put in place. Migrants could have valid visas, but if a policy is changed, it could overturn the visas changing the legal status of the migrant. 

One thing that blew my mind in our conversation is that he mentioned an application can be valid for four years (because the process can take this long), and finally, when the judge hears the application, it may no longer be valid because of policy changes. 

We talked about the four main ways (there are more) people can come legally to the United States, which are:

  1. Family Member Petition 
  2. Work Visas
  3. Asylum 
  4. Visa Lottery 

Before getting involved with this immigration podcast, I had no idea there was a visa lottery. Chris explained that it’s a Diversity Visa lottery, and the applicant fills out a form and waits until they receive notice. They then go to the Department of State and go through the process of getting their visa. He believes right now, they are only issuing about 50,000 of these per year. And the idea behind it is to allow immigrants residency from countries where immigrants don’t usually come from. The selection is completely random – a computer chooses, according to Boundless.com.

Chris informed that there are certain legal protections that undocumented migrants have; for example, they should be able to call the police if they feel threatened. Although he does mention that, unfortunately, some police departments will report undocumented migrants; however, it shouldn’t be like that. 

Second is workplace laws that protect them, such as workplace safety and wages. Many employers think that because a worker is undocumented, they don’t have to pay them, but that is incorrect. 

Chris also mentioned the issues that accruing unlawful presence causes. This is when someone comes with a valid visa but stays in the country after their visa expires. They can be barred from coming to the United States for 3 to 10 years. 

We ended the episode with Chris clearing up one last misconception about immigration. He states that people don’t really understand how damaging some of the immigration policies really are. For example, DACA recipients don’t have a set solution, and it’s up in the air. These people don’t deserve to live like this; there’s currently no protection for them. 

If you want to listen to the full episode, you can do so here

With Love, Heidy

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Blog Book Review

Book Review: A Just Mission – Laying Down Power & Embracing Mutuality

Picture taken by me

A Just Mission is about how churches in The West go out into the world on short-term mission trips but rarely do they have people from the countries they are going to leading these trips. Mekdes Haddis uses her experience as an immigrant; she’s from Ethiopia and came to the US for college and culture to provide solutions to better mission trips. For example, she gives suggested solutions from training and development, mutual benefits instead of one-sided, and inclusivity of indigenous leaders on the missions’ team.

There were a few things that stood out to me in the book. First, in chapter three, she said, “We are not made to objectify one another; we are made for holy community, to equally reflect God’s beauty to one another.” This comes from having her hair touched without permission only because of curiosity. This is something I’ve heard people of color experience all the time. But as Mekdes mentioned, she’s never had the urge to touch straight hair, and hair has a lot of representation in many cultures.


Chapter five is about decolonizing short-term mission trips, and there were a few things in this chapter that stood out to me. First, she and her husband are very intentional about which organizations their money is going to. She writes, “For my husband and me, choosing to support mission organization has been a difficult journey because we know too well how culturally and spiritually unprepared people mischaracterize or demean our people. For the most part, we have shifted our financial support from Western institutions that promised to end poverty to those that invested in indigenous leadership.”

On pages 112 and 113, she includes a few steps to ensure good practices of short-term mission trips, and number six is something I’ve felt was always weird. Mekdes tells us to leave our cameras at home or hire a professional photographer from the community and support a small business. I have always felt strange when teams go on mission trips, take pictures and videos, and post them all over their social media. I understand wanting to show others their work in order to motivate others to get involved as well, but have you stopped to think that maybe they don’t want to be photographed?


I went with my church once to feed the homeless at a local park, and there was a person taking pictures and videos of us praying over people and handing out sandwiches. One of the persons receiving the food told them no pictures, which made me feel a little awkward. What are the intentions behind our actions? Are we doing this from the good of our hearts, or are we doing this to show off our good deed for the day to get an appraisal from others?

Matthew 6:3 (NIV) says, “But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your hand is doing.”

I hold this verse close to my heart, and I don’t post or boast of it when volunteering for certain things or making donations to charities, but that’s me. Everyone is different.

In chapter eight, she touches on the issue of immigration because a report from Religion News Service shows that 75% of white evangelical Protestant Republicans believe immigrants are invading American society. Mekdes writes, “This is an area where we need to have a clear stance, because it would be hypocritical to send the very same people who don’t want immigrants among them to the homeland of those they despise with the ‘gospel.’” Of course, this stance is close to my heart because of the work I’m doing with providing a platform for immigrants to share their immigration journey in order to change the narrative of immigration to a more compassionate and empathetic way.

Overall, this book has a lot of information and resources to improve how American churches approach mission trips. And I believe anyone who has thought about going on a mission trip, has gone on a mission trip, or attend a church that goes on mission trips should read it.

With Love, Heidy

What are your thoughts on the way American churches approach mission trips? Do you think any improvements need to be made? Why or why not?

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Categories
Book Review Podcast

Book Review: Far From Home – Discovering Your Identity as Foreigners on Earth

Far From Home Discovering your identity as Foreigners on Earth was written by Mabel Ninan. This book is about how Mabel felt as an immigrant in the US and realizing that no matter where we are on Earth, this is not our forever home.

Mabel is from Hyderabad, the capital of one of India’s states of Telangana. She and her husband moved to the US soon after getting married. She was 30 years old. They both are Christians, and soon after moving to the US, she tried to find a church to call home because she knew the importance of church community.

Back home, her family and church community were very close. She grew up around her church community; they were there for important milestones in her life; however, being in the US, she had to start all over and often felt homesick.


There were a few things in the book that stood out to me. In chapter one, Mabel talks about reading American literature and watching American TV shows; she learned about Western culture, but that did not prepare her for immersing in the culture. So, for example, she knew the language and spoke English in India; however, she was unfamiliar with the nuances of social mores and etiquette as she wrote. In India, it’s impolite to call an elder by their first name, whereas here, it’s normal. And here people do not eat with their fingers unless it’s finger foods but in India and other countries that is normal.

It was difficult for her to navigate life when she first arrived in the US because she came on a dependent visa. Her husband’s job was the one that sponsored him. So, she didn’t have a work permit, and the process can take months; she didn’t have a driver’s license, which made it challenging for her to get around; she felt stuck. She was so used to being independent back home, and now that was gone.

Because of her emotional challenges, she admitted to herself that her faith was not as solid as she professed it to be. She was stuck between two cultures – the one she grew up with and the new one she was trying to embrace.

Photo by Shafi_fotumcatcher on Pexels.com

In chapter eight, she talks about being homesick for heaven. This was a new concept for me. Although I know that Earth is not our final home, I don’t ever feel homesick for heaven. I honestly am not ready to leave Earth yet.

And the last thing that stood out to me in chapter eleven was Christians being in the East before Westerns came. Mabel wrote that many Americans believe Christianity is a Western religion; however, some of the oldest Christian communities can be found in Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, and India.

I recommend this book to anyone, believers and non-believers because she details what immigrants go through when they move to the US. It’s not easy starting over in a new country. And it’s hard; moving to the US is not an easy decision, and many do it every day for a better quality of life.

Mabel was also a guest on my podcast – so if you want to hear her talk about her immigration experience, listen to the episode here. And please, leave a review after. This helps people find the podcast. Thank you.

You can purchase Far From Home on Mabel’s website: https://mabelninan.com/

With Love, Heidy

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