Guest blogger Annanda Barclay is a third-year student at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She is a regular volunteer with Texans United for Families (TUFF) and is a candidate for ordination in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
Very rarely do you see organizations doing interpersonal and systemic work. Between the stream of visitors participating in the Hutto Visitation Program, where volunteers sit and hear the stories and form friendships with women who are seeking asylum in the United States, to the vigils, caravans, town hall meetings and press conferences that bring attention to the systemic injustice of for-profit private detention centers and deportations,TUFF is one of those unique, relevant and desperately needed organizations.
As a faith volunteer, when I participate with TUFF I do so coming from a religious conviction that this particular organization is doing the work of the Church in the world. Frankly, TUFF does a better job at addressing the serious crisis of immigration detention and deportation better than the Church as a whole. If there has been anything I have learned while knowing the amazing volunteers and staff of TUFF, it’s that the Church needs to take a page out of their book. This organization challenges me to live out the things about my faith I am so quick to claim. For example, in Travis County, 19 people get deported a week, many of whom have children or spouses who are U.S. citizens. Most if not all have left their country of origin because of war, complete lack of jobs and not enough resources to compete in the local or global economy due to the mass and cheap production of countries like my own, the United States.
I admit even though I see TUFF as a manifestation of my religious beliefs, my views are incredibly privileged (especially as a Christian). That being said, TUFF addresses and approaches issues that many can relate to, regardless of your beliefs. If you have an interest and a moral obligation to freedom and justice, to families staying together, to a better life, if you are against the abuse of other human beings, then I would hope that you’d want to do work that sustains all of those good things. TUFF would be a great organization to dip your toes in some awesome justice waters. It doesn’t have to be much, you don’t have to be a regular. I am actually one of the very few religious volunteers. The people I’ve worked with have been nothing but kind, loving and welcoming. The stories I’ve heard, I will never forget.
A few weeks ago, I heard a guest speaker say, “Once you see the injustices of the world, you can’t not see them." TUFF has helped me to see the injustices of immigration detention and deportation. If you are the least bit curious, I hope you’ll join in some solid stuff like the justice, peace and goodness that’s happening right under your very nose here in Austin. TUFF is very much worth your time.