Last weekend I sat in a migrant shelter in Tijuana with a mother and her three children. Three years ago, their husband and father was killed by a gang in Guatamala. The gang members told the mother they would kill her children if she didn't pay them $50,000 for each child. Left with no income and in a state of perpetual fear, the family fled the country. After more than three years of fleeing, they finally gained asylum in the U.S. and made the long journey to the border. But hours before meeting with them last week, they were rejected entry into the U.S.
Another friend's parents brought her into the U.S. as a toddler. She didn't know she was undocumented until she was accepted into one of the most prestigious art schools in the country. She was informed that her legal status wouldn't allow her to attend. She'd do anything to pursue legal citizenship, but our current system offers no way for her to get it. "This is my home," she told me a few days ago, "I love the United States but I have an expiration date."
A few days ago, we sat with a woman who is like family to us to help her make a plan so her children will be cared for in the case of her deportation. Their family will be torn apart and the next generation will pay the price. She'd do anything to pursue citizenship, but there is no way for her to get it.
We don't have to agree on politics or policy, but we have to understand the implications of them. We have to hear the stories of those directly impacted and be willing to seek more nuance than a party line or 30 second clip on our favorite news outlet. The binary arguments of thinking we need to choose between "open borders" or "law and order" are unhelpful, inaccurate, and lacking academic or relational complexity.
Real people, with real stories, and real families are trembling in fear for the future of their families and, in some cases, their own lives. For those of us who follow Jesus, our faith must inform our citizenship — not the inverse. It's time for us to ask better questions, seek deeper understanding, and accompany our neighbors— whether local or global — who are navigating the scariest moments of their lives.
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you took me in ... " Matt 25:35