Immigration, beans and a Lenten stew

This story appears in the Lent 2018 feature series. View the full series.

by Bernadine Karge


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Do you use canned beans or dried beans? A friend recently shared a recipe that called for dry beans that need to be soaked, cooked and then made into the savory stew. Too much work, time and travel to get the dry beans?

This recipe gave me pause. As I reflected on the situation with immigration reform in Washington, D.C., with the administration's March 5 deadline looming for the end of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), my question was: What is the recipe for compassion, empathy, and embracing the DACAmented, and the undocumented among us during this season of Lent?

How do they get into the mix so that they can be lawful members of U.S. society, recognized as our sisters and brothers, and live free from fear and separation from their families?

We may think of the immigrants as the beans who have been soaked, immersed into American life and longing for the next step of full participation in U.S. life.

Or should we think of the legislators as the beans who need to be soaked in the reality of the immigrants, to become aware of immigrants' gifts and strengths that can be added to the mix?

Perhaps the members of U.S. society are the beans who are soaked in the wash of anti-immigrant media, immigrant-bashing and immigrant-blaming for the woes of life today?

Or do we all need a good soaking by the love and mercy of God, both as receivers and as transmitters of God's love and mercy?

The readings for the first week of Lent challenge us to pray for and love our enemies as well as our friends; to care for the flock entrusted to us; to pray Our Father (not my father); to be like Jonah, catapulted from whatever darkness we have swum into to see the light in the Nineveh of our day; to remember Jesus' words in Matthew 25 — "Whatever you do to others, you do to me."

We are all in the stew. Most of us are "stewing" about something. After the intensity of some immigration bills coming to the floor of Congress earlier this month, the school shooting tragedy and gun control issues have taken the top of the news feed, interspersed with the Olympics!

Aren't all of these issues about community, belonging, being in right relationship so that everyone is acknowledged as her/his unique self, able to do what s/he can to accomplish a common goal, serve the common good?

The Olympics remind us that where there is will, there can be international cooperation and peace among nations. Can we get the will for action on sensible immigration and gun control laws?

Name three things you want for yourself and for your family. Chances are the answers will be more similar than not. Let us strive to become aware of how belonging, family, community will create the "culture of care" Pope Francis calls us to. Enjoy the stew!

[Bernadine Karge is a Dominican Sister of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, and an immigration lawyer in Chicago.]