To keep you up-to-date on the latest developments in states around the country, I’m proud to bring you interviews with some of the immigration reform movement’s most experienced leaders. I hope their knowledge can inform your efforts. Today, I’m pleased to bring you an email interview with Andrea Martinez, Communications Coordinator for the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America in Houston. LIRS Media Relations Specialist Clarissa Perkins carried out the interview. Beyond this interview, you can also learn the latest about immigration reform legislation or take action.
Clarissa Perkins (CP): What personal experiences led you to become interested in immigration reform?
Andrea Martinez (AM): As a child of immigrants, immigration issues are, have been, and will continue to be very prevalent in my life. Although I was born in the United States, my parents briefly returned to Latin America where I spent the first few years of my life; therefore, I permanently established myself between these two worlds even as a young child. Now, even though I have lived here in the United States for the majority of my life, the “immigrant” title still remains as not only how I identify myself, but also, how others see me. My parents, sister, and I each have our own unique immigrant story. It’s important for us to work towards allowing others to tell theirs.
CP: What is the attitude towards immigration reform in your state?
AM: I am relatively new to Texas, so I am still attempting to understand the complex relationships that exist within the historical context of this state. This state is very unique in that it has a long-standing immigrant story not just in recent years, but with its particularly complicated history between the United States and Mexico. From what I hear, opinions differ greatly here. However, there has been a definite shift; people are quickly realizing the importance of coming together to find a bipartisan solution. The time is now!
CP: Are there any major obstacles you’ve encountered while advocating for reform?
AM: The biggest obstacles I have encountered are division, and in turn, a lack of collaboration: division among the numerous organizations working on these or related issues, division among party lines, division among religious affiliations, and even division amongst immigrants themselves.
CP: What are some ways you’ve worked to advance the cause for immigrants?
AM: We continue to work by raising awareness on the reality as well as helping to dispel myths. I think it’s important to continue to highlight the very human component of all of this. It’s not just about policies and amendments, but rather about people and their children and families. In the fall of last year, we hosted several visits and tours to the local detention center facility taking several pastors and church leaders who have a passion for this, yet many of whom had never stepped into the reality of detention.
CP: Do you have suggestions of ways we can support immigrants and immigration reform in our local states?
AM: I think it’s important to move past the barriers and labels that we impose on ourselves: Republican vs. Democrat, Catholic vs. Protestant, rich vs. poor, white vs. other, etc. Let’s look at this in a human and humane way. In addition, it’s frustrating to see so many different organizations working with immigrants and refugees, yet they are unable to work effectively with other related organizations. I believe that a lot more could be done together than individually. It’s also important to continually involve the immigrant community to walk beside us on this. It’s not about advocating on behalf of them, but rather advocating together as we walk side by side.