I recently had a passing conversation with someone in which he asked if Taller de José might be able to help a family member. He made a point to tell me that this family member was a U.S. citizen. I replied that Taller de José served anyone regardless of immigration status, and he responded, “Well, you’ve got to serve citizens first.”
In the moment, when I was in a rush and didn’t want to alienate a potential client, I responded with an awkward pause and a simple, “Well, I’ve got to be going.” I’m sure that he could tell I disagreed with him, but since then, I have thought about how I could have responded with more conviction.
One thing I have reflected on is what it would mean on a practical level if Taller de José responded as this man wished. When a survivor of domestic violence came in, it would mean saying, “I know you are looking for shelter and advocacy. I know you need help to keep you and your children safe from harm. Are you a citizen? No? Well, we can put you on a waitlist, since we have a lot of citizens to serve first.” Would that person feel accepted without judgment? Would she trust us enough to return? Would our response help her and her community to flourish?
I feel grateful to be in a community in Little Village and at Taller de José where I see the mentality of divisiveness subverted on a daily basis. Partner organizations spend their time and energy responding to needs and working for the community’s wellbeing without discriminating between citizens and non-citizens. The sisters of St. Joseph call this way of being “serving the dear neighbor without distinction.”
At Taller de José, we don’t ask about a person’s immigration status or focus on their past; instead, we respond to the person in front of us and what they need to thrive. This attitude reminds me of a quote from Father Greg Boyle in Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion: “Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” This is a lesson I continue to learn every day in this work, and I give thanks that my dear neighbors in this community are showing me the way.
*Name and details have been changed to protect client’s identity.