The debate over immigration policy and border security often focuses on the border shared by the United States and Mexico. However, The New York Times recently offered  a revealing and troublesome picture of efforts by the U.S. Border Patrol along the dividing line between the US and Canada.
According to the report, the border agents “hover outside the warehouse where Mexican immigrants sell the salal they pick in the temperate rain forest. Sometimes they confront people whose primary offense, many argue, is skin tone.”
One of the agents detailed to the area testified before Congress that the assignment was regarded as “black hole” with “no purpose, no mission.”
This increased presence has had real consequences, both economic and human. The story goes on to mention “schools are losing enrollment because students’ parents have been deported. Mobile home parks are half empty. At Thriftway, the main grocery store in the town, the weekend rush has slowed because the salal pickers who used to shop after getting paid on Saturdays have disappeared.”
Perhaps the saddest part is the story of Benjamin Roldan Salinas, who drowned in a local river after fleeing when the border patrol showed up to assist the U.S. Forest Service.
Harsh crackdowns on immigrant communities by law enforcement instill fear and breed distrust, preventing members of those communities from seeking help in moments of crisis and reporting legitimate offenses or providing evidence that may be useful in solving crimes. As noted above, the economic consequences can also be devastating. Yet, it is the moral implications of these actions that prove most pernicious.
How can strong communities be formed when people cannot trust their neighbors or those sworn to serve and protect them? How can children acquire an education and flourish into the person God created them to be when they are worried about their parents being deported? How much damage to a person’s God-given dignity is caused when law enforcement agencies focus their energies on a group of people on the basis of skin color? After all, the border patrol, at least from this report, does not seem overly worried about undocumented white Canadians.
Christians need to hold the government accountable for policies that so blatantly violate The Golden Rule and deny our neighbors the love due to them as Children of God.
Beau Underwood is Campaigns Manager at Sojourners.
Passport photo, Jennie Book  / Shutterstock.com