(San Diego) As a faith leader who has worked with almost 7,000 immigrants and asylum seekers for over a decade, ministering on the border next of the busiest land port of entry, and at the epicenter of the second migration wave in the last three years, I would like to offer a different perspective on the so called “border crisis”.
It is time we change the narrative to fit the reality of what is going on.
Asylum seekers are coming in accordance with (1) U.S. immigration law, (2) international humanitarian law, and more importantly (3) in accordance with a Higher Law recognized by every major religion to welcome and care for strangers.
It has been established US immigration law for decades that we receive asylum seekers. They are NOT entering illegally when they present themselves to border authorities, either at the ports of entry or after crossing the border.
They have a right to a hearing. Let them have their day in court!
First, it is a national crisis, rather than just a southwest border crisis.
Asylum seekers are appearing at the southwest border, where there are shockingly few immigrant welcoming shelters. Once here, most immigrants are moving far inland to join family and support systems, including congregations and charities who open their doors and hearts to help while they await their immigration court hearing.
They are not coming to harm you or take your job. They are coming for the safety of their family and loved ones.
If you are fortunate, they will come to your community, as immigrants have done for centuries, and will make your community a better place for all.
Secondly, it is a humanitarian crisis, rather than just a border security crisis.
People are fleeing death and political persecution in their homeland. They face incredible hardships and potential death in transit. As most of us would do in similar circumstances, we would rather die trying to save our family than simply give in to gangs, drug lords or pimps who now outnumber law authorities in places like Central America's norther triangle.
Keep in mind the United States helped create many circumstances that forces Central Americans to flee their home countries today.
Violence today in Central America is a legacy of an era when the United States was funding, covering up and excusing corruption under the guise of fighting Communism. Today’s Central American immigrants are fleeing a much deeper problem than street gangs. They are fleeing government-linked organized crime networks with roots in the violence the U.S. supported in the 1980's.
Elizabeth Oglesby wrote recently in an op-ed for The Hill, “…this is not a border security crisis, and we should greet the caravan with compassion, not fear.”
"This is a spiritual crisis because it defines who we are as a nation. How we treat or mistreat “the least of these” says far more about us than it does them."
Thirdly, and most importantly, it is a spiritual crisis, not just a border crisis.
There is understandable apprehension about the unknown, especially when politicians frame this as "an invasion" to fan the flames of fear.
I wrote recently that (1) fear produces hate, and (2) hate produces evil.
We saw that in the tragic massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. A man, who “drank the Kool-Aid” of fear and hate, somehow rationalize that killing innocents was justified because he believed the tweets that somehow Jewish leaders were sponsoring the caravans.
Immigrants will continue to come, no matter how high we might build a wall to keep them out. Why should we? They are not a threat. They are human beings, created in the image of God, just like us, which makes us brothers and sisters.
I believe the Bible when it says: “Be ready with a meal or a bed when it’s needed. Why, some have extended hospitality to angels without ever knowing it! Regard prisoners as if you were in prison with them. Look on victims of abuse as if what happened to them had happened to you” (Hebrews 13: 2-4, The Message)
This is a spiritual crisis because it defines who we are as a nation. How we treat or mistreat “the least of these” (Matthew 25:40) says far more about us than it does them.