“The USA has to protect its borders.”
“Border crossers are breaking the law.”
“If they die in the desert, it’s their own fault.”
In response to sentiments like these, Mr. Trump thunders, “Build a WALL!”
I wonder if Mr. Trump knows what I now know: many would-be immigrants are children, who are deeply loved by their parents.
So deeply loved, that their parents pay a small fortune they cannot afford to have their kids led through the desert by “coyotes” (smugglers) in the faint hope that they can cross the Mexican/US border into freedom.
Does that surprise you?
It surprised me, because that’s not what I’m hearing from the media. I hear about drug smugglers, murderers, and thieves climbing our inadequate wall, intent upon invading America. I hear about valiant border patrol agents keeping America safe against overwhelming odds.
But then I saw this movie on YouTube:
…and I realized it was a lot more complicated than that. I realized it was about poverty and violence and how people of faith like me choose to respond to the least among us.
In the first 6 months of the 2016 fiscal year, over 27,000 unaccompanied children were apprehended by border patrol agents at the US-Mexico border.
“The root causes that are driving children out of Central America have not changed, and that’s violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras,” explained Wendy Young of Kids in Need of Defense (KIND). She said the threats are “caused by gangs and criminal cartels who are very specifically and viciously targeting children at very young ages.”
“Seeking asylum is not illegal immigration,” Young notes. “And it is the right thing for these children and families to do because they are fleeing violence in their home country; they are a refugee population.”
Yet, many of these children are deported after a hasty trial they cannot understand.
Jesus would be appalled. His attitude towards children is very clear:
“Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me, welcomes not me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9: 36-27)
But just what does it cost, to welcome Jesus in the person of a traumatized child? Can America afford it? After all, children need secure, stable places to live, food to eat, and education. This doesn’t come cheap.
But neither does building a wall. The “super wall” Mr. Trump wants to build is estimated to cost $15-25 billion dollars, not counting maintenance. Mexico isn’t keen to foot that bill.
Neither am I.
As a minister and a pragmatist, I think it makes far better sense to spend those billions ensuring these children and their families receive the protection and the care they so desperately seek. These brave kids deserve a better life.
And we deserve a better America, not a bigger wall.