Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Mission Musings

A Broken System

By Caitlin Kastner

As a US-2 Global Mission Fellow assigned to work in Miami, I have come face-to-face with issues of injustice that continue to plague this country. One such issue is our immigration policy.

Working for SFJFON, an immigration legal aid ministry, I interact with immigrant families almost daily and have come to the conclusion that most US citizens do not understand where immigrants are coming from, why they seek entry into the United States, or what they have to go through to be deemed “legal.” Our clients come from various cultures and speak different languages, but all seem to have one thing in common: they have fled from desperate and dangerous situations.

Some people risk their lives on these makeshift rafts, riding north to Miami in the open sea.
Some people risk their lives on these makeshift rafts, riding north to Miami in the open sea. Photo: Caitlin Kastner

Teenagers have walked from Guatemala to Texas to escape gang recruitment, the constant threat of violence, or even death upon refusal to comply. Families have walked across a brutal dessert and scaled a wall hoping to find work because they have exhausted all other options for feeding their children. Yet, in most cases, the immigration system recognizes them simply as “illegal aliens.”

Proponents of immigration reform say “we need a path to citizenship.” In reality, gaining US citizenship is an incredibly difficult and expensive process. Plenty of time, education, and a good lawyer are helpful, but these are not easily acquired.

It can be frustrating to go to work every day to try to help immigrants through a broken system. Despite these challenges, immigrant families are determined to build a future of hope for their children. I’m reminded of this when a mother gives me a hug, saying, “thank you, thank you,” or when a father shakes my hand saying, “bless you, bless you all.”

Caitlin Kastner, a US-2 Global Mission Fellow from Missouri, serves as a community relations coordinator working in immigration with the South Florida Justice for Our Neighbors (SFJFON). This is an edited version of her February 2016 blog post. (

Copyright: New World Outlook magazine, September-October 2016 issue. Used by permission