WASHINGTON, D.C. – Karina Ortman, a high school senior at Freeman Academy in South Dakota, has earned grand prize for her essay on immigration in the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office annual essay contest.
In her essay, “A Voice for Those Who Are Not Heard,” Ortman discusses immigrants’ motivations for coming to the United States, as well as issues they encounter once they arrive. Her analysis focuses attention on U.S. policies that drive migration to the U.S. while making it difficult for immigrants to seek opportunity here.
Ortman, whose home congregation is Salem-Zion Mennonite Church in Freeman, argues that for most people, migration is a natural choice when they are unable to safely provide for their families in their home country. She reminds readers that the majority of Americans are descendants of immigrants and that historically, “we were welcomed and even encouraged to migrate. The Bible tells us to love our neighbors … Are not the immigrants our neighbors?”
In addition to the grand prize, national honorable mention prizes were awarded to Rebecca Hardy of Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Va., and James Helmuth of Bethany Christian School in Goshen, Ind. Their essays both focused on U.S. military spending and its effects internationally and domestically.
The annual Washington Office essay contest highlights the perspectives of youth on significant public policy issues and promotes the involvement of young people in faithful witness to government authorities. Topics for this year’s contest included the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, U.S. immigration policy and U.S. military spending.
The contest is open to Anabaptist youth of high school age and to all youth who attend Mennonite high schools. Entries are judged on the participant’s understanding of the issues, clarity of argument and degree of creativity in crafting thoughtful policy positions. Grand prize is $500, and honorable mention winners receive $100.
Excerpts from the winning essays will be published at washingtonmemo.org and in Washington Memo, the quarterly newsletter of the Washington Office.