Photo by Elias Castillo on Unsplash

By Kelsey Hochstetler
Friday, June 22, 2018

Mennonite Mission Network has a long-term partnership with RAICES, a refugee and immigrant support center in Texas, through MVS.  

Berlin, OHIO (Mennonite Mission Network)—Katrina Kniss, a Mennonite Voluntary Service participant, works with Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES). RAICES and Mennonite Mission Network's MVS program have partnered together for 11 years. Seven MVS volunteers have served there; many have gone on to law school.  

"As Christians, we are called to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God," said Kniss. She is a Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, native and graduated in 2017 from Goucher College. "In this case, I think that means we should speak truth to power and make our voices heard against inhumane immigration policies." Kniss does that each day through her work with RAICES. "Love is the fulfillment of the law. That is what my faith is about, and that is what guides my actions." 

Joanna Thiessen (left) and Katrina Kniss serve with MVS in San Antonio. Kniss works with Refugees and Immigrants at RAICES.

RAICES is the only nonprofit in the country that provides free legal work to unaccompanied minors and mothers with children. Last year, they closed 51,000 immigration cases. Day in and day out, Kniss and her coworkers at RAICES work behind the scenes to help immigrants find a safe future. Until they were thrust into the spotlight in response to a migrant family separation policy. On Saturday, June 16, Charlotte and Dave Willner began a Facebook fundraiser for RAICES, with a goal of $1,500. Less than a week later, they've raised more than $18 million. At one point, donations were coming in at $10,000 a minute, according to NPR. 

Kniss warns the public not to become complacent once the media moves on. "Family separation is not the answer, but neither is family detention or many of the other problems with our immigration system," she said. "These issues will not be resolved without ongoing awareness, dedication, and advocacy for the stranger in our midst." 

RAICES suggests getting involved in the following ways: 

  1. Observe an immigration case. Immigrants have the right to legal representation, but at their own expense. Find out for yourself what it looks like when immigrants don't have legal representation.  
  1. Learn. There's no shortage of videos, podcasts, books, or articles on immigration. Learn about policies and the people who are affected by listening to RAICE's Roots of Hope podcast.   
  1. Raise awareness. Social media advocacy has its place, but nothing beats face-to-face conversations with friends and family.  
  1. Organize a prayer vigil or peaceful protest in your community.  
  1. Educate members of your congregation or community.  
  1. Volunteer locally. Translate legal documents or accompany migrants to their ICE check-ins. There's power in showing up.    
  1. Volunteer at RAICES through Mennonite Voluntary Service. 

"Our world needs more compassion," said Lizzy Diaz, director of Mennonite Voluntary Service. "I am hopeful that through the help of our placements, our units, and our supporting faith communities, MVS is helping to shape generations of love, peace and compassion."


Kelsey Hochstetler is a writer for Mennonite Mission Network.



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