When Rev. Jennifer Crumpton began attending Union Theological Seminary, in New York City, she also began working as a community minister at the nearby Judson Memorial Church, which partnered with an interfaith coalition offering sanctuary to people at risk of being deported. Coalition members “cared about the families, the personal stories, and the faces of children who were going to lose their parents because they were going to be deported,” recalls Crumpton.
It was then that Crumpton heard firsthand accounts of families traumatized by violent raids, of children brokenhearted after watching parents taken into custody, and, in some cases, of women raped in deportation centers.
I really want to see the system change to protect families and focus on keeping families together.
The stories woke Crumpton up to what she calls the injustices of the U.S. immigration system. Born and raised in Alabama, Crumpton spent much of her life in overwhelmingly white communities that viewed immigrants with suspicion. In 2011, the state passed one of the harshest anti-immigration laws in the country, barring undocumented immigrants from enrolling in public colleges, making it a crime for anyone to knowingly rent a home or even give a ride to an undocumented immigrant, and authorizing police to demand proof-of-residency papers of any suspected immigrant at any time. “It was meant to make illegal immigrants’ lives as miserable as possible,” says Crumpton. “That was the goal. In Alabama, your politics is your religion and your religion is your politics. Christian faith says the law is the law.” In other words, Crumpton says her Alabama community equated Christian faith with the rejection of undocumented immigrants.
But in New York, Crumpton saw a very different vision of Christian faith. Her work at Judson “turned on its head my understanding of my own Christianity; I came to realize I had it all wrong,” she says. Today, Crumpton is a vocal advocate for immigration reform. “I really want to see the system change to protect families and focus on keeping families together,” she says. “I would like to see less violence around how immigrants are treated, particularly by ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).”
In her work as an author, commentator and consultant to faith-based social justice organizations, Crumpton hopes her advocacy for immigration reform spreads to other Christians. “The Bible is full of a lot of crazy stuff and contradictory stuff, but one thing it never wavers on is welcoming the stranger and caring for people who are foreigners,” she says. “You should be feeding them, treating them like brothers and sisters. After all, we’ve all been there. We’re all immigrants.”