Rev. Stephanie Arnold, a member of the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), recently spent time at the U.S.-Mexico border. Here are her insights and a video of her impressions of that experience.
I had the privilege to be part of a delegation from the General Board of Church and Society in an immersion experience on the Texas/Mexico southern border at the end of October. This visit took place prior to our annual GBCS board meeting. Throughout the trip we heard, “We need more eyes watching what is happening at the border and in the courtrooms” because the presence of the church makes a difference in the outcome for others. But I often found myself asking, “Do we really want to see?” Seeing something for what it is takes intentionality. Seeing can be hard. Seeing can be painful. Yet, I am convinced seeing, as people of faith, is imperative.
When we look we will see the complexity of immigration in our world and the ways it impacts life across our globe. I don’t pretend to have the answers. I don’t pretend to see through anything other than my own privileged and unique lens. Yet, I do long to see more objectively and clearly…so I am trying to educate myself on issues of justice facing our world. Here are some of the things this trip has invited me to see more clearly, prayerfully and intentionally.
- When walls are erected it does ecological and environmental damage as these unnatural barriers create dams in communities that perpetuate flooding and stops migratory patterns of multiple species causing further harm to endangered species.
- When walls are erected it cuts communities in two, causing division and separation that previously had friendly borders where relationships flourished, economies benefited and children played.
- Violence against women is being perpetuated and endured without prosecution and punishment. Many women begin birth control months prior to fleeing their countries for asylum because it is expected and known that rape is imminent in their journey.
- Unfortunately, despite what our intentions may have been, our country has connections to many of the root causes for the migration of people from poor and violence stricken countries in Central and Latin America.
- People leaving their native lands are often fleeing violence and extreme poverty.
- We are violating the Geneva Convention for asylum seekers.
- We are criminalizing asylum seekers and overburdening our courts with nonviolent crimes.
- Families are still being separated without the proper documentation to bring them back together.
- This is racist. There is no way around the fact that these issues are systemically directed largely to brown and black skinned people. We aren’t concerned about our northern border.
- And maybe one of the most difficult aspects for me is just how complex it all is, particularly when our minds want to figure out who is good and who is bad. We want to say there are good people on this side of the issue or that there are bad people on that side of the border. But the truth is there are just people on all the sides and across all borders. People are complex. We are always a mixed bag of good motivations and selfish motivations. This is clear at the border and it is clear in the jobs being done at the border. There are people doing their jobs with integrity and compassion even as they deny someone status and there are those who are not. It isn’t easy to figure out each others motivations. It is complicated…Yet we as people of faith must all agree there are more human and dignified ways to treat people regardless of how or why they try to enter our country. As Sister Norma with Catholic Charities said, “We must restore human dignity.” I believe that means we must restore ours and theirs.
This trip has been full of hearing the most devastating stories of loss and trauma largely from mothers and fathers who have borne abuse in body and been pulled apart from their children. This trip has been full of meeting heroes working hard to do their job, striving to provide justice for all, and a compassionate witness to the image of God in each of us. This trip has been for nothing, if as people of faith, we cannot move to action to stop the possible atrocities that could come if we do not change our course and see all
people as full of worth and in God’s image. If we continue to be emboldened by nationalistic rhetoric and forget that we are first allegiant to the Gospel of love
born incarnate in the fragile humanity of a refugee named Jesus, we will be doomed to repeat our world's worst sins.
Please write your representatives, write your Bishops, to call for compassion and justice. Ask them to hold the US accountable in following the Geneva Convention to not impede persons from seeking asylum but instead welcoming them with due diligence in hearing their case. And if you are able, head to the border to bear witness to how we will handle the caravan of asylum seekers and immigrants. They will be arriving as we are close to entering the season of Advent when we remember that Jesus and his family knows what it is like to hear, ”There is no room for you in this inn.” We must be another pair of eyes on the border. We must stand up and speak out for one another's humanity for the sake of all
and for the sake of the Gospel.
Read the statement released by the GBCS.
You are invited to share your opinion with representatives on important immigration policy at protectingimmigrantfamilies.org
You are also encouraged to call your representatives today. Find their numbers here