My father and his parents emigrated from Poland to the United States in 1965. After World War II, Poland was a communist state under the control of the Soviet Union. The Polish people faced repressions, economic difficulties, and a lack of freedoms, leading my family to come to America. They settled in Camden, New Jersey, in a Polish neighborhood centered around a Catholic Church. Through the Church and family connections, they were able to find work, learn the language, and build a good life. My family’s experience led me to research whether faith-based organizations (FBO) continue to assist immigrants from various countries and faiths. Currently, 50+ years later, the United States is more secularized, and fewer people participate in organized religion. There has also been an increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric in the U.S.
I have been reaching out to FBO in the Washington metropolitan area (DMV) to learn more about the immigrants they serve. Since January 2021, stories of Central American migrant caravans and the increase of unaccompanied minors on our southern border have filled the news. Children and teenagers are attempting to cross into the U.S. to escape the poverty and violence in their countries. Meanwhile, over half a million “Dreamers” live in the U.S., worrying about deportation to a country they don’t know or remember. Our immigration system and laws need to be reformed and revised to be more just and meet the needs of immigrant, refugee, and asylum-seeking people. Through my research and contact with these faith-based organizations, I hope that I can help identify and facilitate opportunities for an interfaith dialogue focusing on immigrants’ human rights and welfare.
Author: Bailey Haraburda