By Jackson Curreri
June 1, 2014

As part of my internship with Liberti Church, I will have the privilege of living in intentional community at the Aquinas Center in South Philly. The Center is connected to the Saint Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church, and one of the facility’s primary goals is to serve and assist South Philly’s immigrants. As I live and commune within the parish, I will be able to learn from and interact with these unique immigrant groups.  At the same time, I want to express the vast challenges many of these immigrants face as a result of United States immigration enforcement laws and procedures.

Many immigrants who live in South Philly are considered undocumented, meaning their presence here has not been approved by the government and if identified, they may be subject to detention and deportation. Additionally, undocumented immigrants cannot obtain a driver’s license, and undocumented students are unable to attend colleges and universities at in-state rates. Instead, students must pay the same out-of-state rates that international students must pay, even if they have been living in the United States since infancy. Undocumented immigrants are subject to mistreatment by employers as well. Employers will underpay and overwork undocumented workers, and these workers are powerless to turn to authorities for help, because they know if they do their employers will report them to ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement). Once ICE gets involved they begin the process off deporting the undocumented immigrant. This process often includes detention in for-profit prisons where immigrants with no criminal record are housed side by side with immigrants whom are guilty of committing violent felonies. In these conditions women are particularly vulnerable. There are documented cases of sexual assault on women by both “inmates and detention center workers” (José Villalobos, from "Promises and Human Rights").

It is within this reality that I want to remind all of my Christian brethren of our call to love other as Christ loved us (John 13:34). This call by Christ to radically love others by sacrificing of ourselves for others is modeled by Christ’s decision to die for those who had rejected him rather than respond with violence and judgment. We must recognize that this call is not limited to those with whom we choose to love; instead Jesus calls us to love the other as he loved us. This does not leave room for us to withhold love and sacrifice for immigrants, because we view them as being here illegally. Christ’s call to serve does not recognize worldly boundaries of Jew and Gentile, American and Hispanic, Christian and Muslim. So Liberti Church, let us love our immigrant neighbors. 

Jackson grew up in Perry Hall, Maryland which is near Baltimore. He played the clarinet and guitar in high school, and is currently studying Theology at Eastern University, and might double major in Sociology. He participates in several campus ministries including a homeless ministry and concert band, and is the treasurer for the Eastern Theological society. In his free time, Jackson enjoys making music with his friends and am a member of an amateur band known as the Fridge Magnetiers and the Jackson Curator. He is very excited about this opportunity to serve the Philadelphia community. 

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