When I turned 22 years of age (just a few years ago), I graduated from college and moved to Laredo, Texas to teach and serve in one of our border United Methodist Mission Schools. After teaching classes, I would walk along the Rio Grande River and occasionally see individuals and families swimming across it in innertubes and empty plastic grocery bags tied up with air inside with all their belongings, searching for a better life. I would also go to the bridges and watch people freely going back and forth daily (tourists and those from Mexico working in stores and businesses in Laredo). Over the years, I have worked with Hispanic Ministries and families since that early and formative experience in my life with a culture that offered me rich hospitality as a young adult and beyond.
The issue of immigration we currently wrestle with has been debated year after year, and it is complex. We have many businesses encouraging and informally inviting families to come here illegally through relational and other channels to work for low wages in our country. The immigrants build our highways, pick our fruit and vegetables, do our landscaping work, usually pay taxes (unless employers give them cash), build our schools they and we attend, go to college and become professionals, and the majority are very good citizens and church members in our local churches.
I understand that we need limits and good policies on people coming into this country, and our elected officials need to work smarter together on a better plan — and stop talking about each other through their preferred news channels. Yet, why is it that we primarily go after those who are the most weak and vulnerable in this situation, especially children? Employers benefit from the labor but are seldom penalized. The wealthiest are often most protected and have cheap labor working to enrich them while proclaiming they want strict border policy. This is called hypocrisy in the Bible. People live in isolation, fear, and hiding, while benefiting us. Families are separated from loved ones, often calling them in loneliness back home, while not seeing one another for years. We do possibly need some kind of policy or solution that allows people to work here (we do not have enough people here who will work many of their jobs), while not allowing them to be treated so harshly. Other nations also need to step up to take care of their own people with fair labor laws and practices, so that the people who do not want to leave their countries, families, and cultures are not forced to travel in treacherous conditions to survive poverty and violence at home. This is a systemic issue that does not have a single solution, like only securing the border.
The new developments now bringing harm to children (damaging them psychologically and emotionally for years to come) while separating them from their parents is deplorable. The Church needs to continue to stand up to this treatment of families, no matter what political affiliations we have so that this does not continue. This is not in line with our National nor our Christian and United Methodist beliefs or values.
Last Sunday, Dr. Bruster shared his concern regarding these issues in his excellent message.
You can read an important resolution that was made at our 2018 Central Texas Annual Conference, along with this article, “2018 Central Texas Annual Conference Votes to Oppose Current U.S. Zero Tolerance Immigration Policy.”
I encourage you to voice your views on these issues to your elected officials. In the meantime, I am exploring our United Methodist Response on our National level to this need to provide aid to these families and should have more information soon. I have called the Rio Texas Conference, and they will have more information this coming Friday on how local churches can help on the border. Please continue to pray for these children and their families.
Grace and Peace,
Associate Pastor of Adult Ministries