Commentary
By Jim Wallis 12-13-2018

This Saturday, Dec. 15, I will be joining a group of 400 people of faith in San Diego and Tijuana as we take part in a religious observance called Las Posadas, which will enable us to transcend the politics of fear regarding our broken immigration system. I will be accompanied by a Sojourners team that will document the events and speak to families directly affected by the United States’ cruel immigration policies on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Las Posadas is a centuries-old Christian religious tradition observed mainly in Latin America and by Latinx people in the United States. It has its origins in the Catholic Church, but is observed today by many Latinx Protestants as well. Las Posadas, which traditionally begins on Dec. 16 and ends on Dec. 24, re-enacts Joseph and Mary's search for a place to give birth (roughly translated, posadas means inn or a shelter). In the ceremony, those playing Joseph and Mary lead a street procession and carry candles as they follow along a pre-arranged route, knocking on the doors of homes or other buildings in a neighborhood as others sing a litany of request and refusal. The procession culminates at a home or a church, which opens its doors wide to the holy family and kicks off a celebration with Bible readings, food, and piñatas for children.

For at least the last 25 years, there has also been a tradition of using the Posada liturgy in a service at the U.S.-Mexico border, as a way for ministers and immigration advocates to represent the lack of hospitality of the United States toward Central and South American immigrants and the hope of a future where the religious value of hospitality is reflected in U.S. policy. It’s also (and perhaps primarily) a witness that we serve a God who does not recognize borders between human beings, and who has taught us radical hospitality in the Old and New Testaments, especially toward “the stranger.” The tradition at the border is called La Posada sin Fronteras, or Posada without Borders. This year is the 25th anniversary of La Posada sin Fronteras, which takes place at the historic Friendship Park located at the San Diego/Tijuana border. The border ceremony each year involves Latin American Christians singing the request and North American Christians the refusal verses, culminating in all singing the welcome verses. Catholic bishops on both sides of the border, as well as the leaders from Nazarene University/Seminary at Point Loma and a number of other evangelical and mainline church leaders, will be participating in this year’s 25th anniversary Posada.

As we move through the Advent season toward Christmas, we lament the border crisis under the Trump administration and the climate of rejection toward immigrants the president has exacerbated by using the language of fear and demonization. This reality, combined with current negotiations between Congress and the White House around funding for Trump’s wall, makes it even more important to observe the old and beautiful tradition of Las Posadas.

Accordingly, Sojourners will be involved in a second observance of Las Posadas — this one on Tuesday, Dec. 18, which is International Migrants Day — here in Washington, D.C. Last week, Congress passed a two-week continuing resolution to push the deadline for funding decisions, which all hang in the balance around wall funding, to Dec. 21, making this event even more important and timely. With that funding deadline in mind, here’s what you can do right now. Please sign this letter, and we will deliver it to members of Congress during our Dec. 18 Posada. The letter urges Congress to:

  1. Ensure the timely processing of interviews at the border.
    Currently, 40 to 60 asylum seekers per day are allowed to present themselves at the San Ysidro point of entry to have a credible fear interview. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has capacity to screen at least 100 people per day.
  2. Secure moral funding.
    Our budgets are moral documents, revealing the values we hold. Within the current DHS budget levels, we call for allocating more money toward cost-effective and humane alternatives to detention. Alternatives include surveying and regular check-ins, which offer effective — and cost-saving — means of ensuring immigrant people comply with the process. By contrast, current detention centers are costly and often privately operated with little-to-no government oversight, which ofter results in neglect and abuse.
  3. Continue to pursue comprehensive immigration reform.
    On International Migrants Day, we remember our continuous need to develop a sensible and logical comprehensive immigration reform that offers meaningful pathways to those who are an important part of the fabric of our communities.

Christians must say no resoundingly to a 2,000-mile monument to racism, which is what building Trump’s wall would represent. Breaking down the $5 billion Trump is arbitrarily requesting for the wall (based on no data or evidence of what such a wall should or would cost), this would mean $2.5 million per mile — an absolute waste of tax payers’ dollars based on racism. The last thing the draconian enforcement efforts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection, and other DHS agencies that have been cracking down on undocumented people need is more funding to terrorize vulnerable people, many of whom have committed no crime other than entering or living in the United States without proper documentation. And finally, given the horrors like family separation and the detention of asylum seekers that we’ve seen under this administration, we urgently need as much of the existing funding as possible to be steered toward the many viable alternatives to detention that exist and have proven track records.

As we wade through the muck of our current news cycle that is focusing again on the president’s involvement in payoffs to some of the women with whom he had relationships outside of his marriage, I’m once again confronted by the hypocrisy at hand. As commentator John Heilemann said this week, “One of the greatest puzzles in the 2016 election remains how the least godly candidate that any of us have ever covered in a Republican or Democratic campaign became the darling of the evangelical Christian right.”

All of Trump’s sins — of adultery and misogyny, racism and pride — have been passed over by the white evangelical leaders who continue to support him. They also pass over what the God of the Bible instructs and expects from people of faith about how they should treat the stranger, the immigrant, the migrant. Time and time again, the evangelical supporters of Donald Trump can only keep doing do so by passing over biblical morality.

The faith leaders at the border this weekend will lift biblical morality instead of defiling it.

Jim Wallis is president of Sojourners. His new Audible spoken-word series, Jim Wallis In Conversation, is available now, as is his book, America's Original Sin: Racism, White Privilege, and the Bridge to a New America. Follow Jim on Twitter @JimWallis.

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