More than 7,000 people–mostly women and children–from Central America, are waiting desperately at Mexico’s northern border, hoping for safe haven in the United States. They are running from horrific violence and grinding poverty in their countries, and they only want safety.
They want to apply for asylum, but they must be in the U.S. to do so.
What is asylum?
According to the American Immigration Council, asylum is legal protection for foreign nationals who are at the border or already in the United States. It is legal for a foreign national in the United States or at the border to apply for asylum. To be granted asylum, the person applying must have a well-founded fear of persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” Also, their government cannot or will not protect them. This has been the law in the United States since 1980.
They may have a history of past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution “on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion.” This has been the law in the United States since 1980.
According to international and United States law, a refugee is someone who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her home country because they cannot be protected there.
I can’t imagine the terrifying conditions that would drive a mother to pack up her children and belongings and walk–walk–for hundreds of miles toward our border in hopes of finding a safe refuge here in America. Can you? And can you imagine that mother’s shock and grief when her hopes are met with tear gas?
Wandering in the wilderness
I am reminded of the story of Hagar, who was forced from her home with her little son Ishmael (Genesis 21:14-20). She wandered in the desert wilderness with her boy, carrying what little food and water she had. When the water was gone, Hagar was sure it was the end. She set Ishmael down in the shade of a bush and went some distance away, thinking, “I cannot watch the boy die.” And she lifted up her voice and wept.
In the scriptures, God hears the cries of this desperate migrant family and saves them. I pray God hears the cries of the migrant families at our borders. I pray that we who call ourselves Christians hear the cries of the migrant families and act.
I pray that we who call ourselves Christians hear the cries of the migrant families and act.
In Leviticus 19:34, God tells us how we are to treat refugees and immigrants: “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”
Meeting refugees with barbed wire, tear gas, and armed guards is not loving the alien as ourselves.
So what can we as Christians do?
First and foremost, pray for the safety of migrant children and families on the journey and for justice when they reach their destinations.
Call and email your U.S. representatives and senators. Visit the U.S. House of Representatives website and enter your ZIP code to find out whom to contact. To find your U.S. senator, go to the U.S. Senate website and choose your state.
Join the ELCA’s AMMPARO (Accompanying Migrant Minors with Protection, Advocacy, Representation and Opportunities) network.
Become a welcoming congregation to accompany these children and families through their transition to life in the United States.
Accompany migrant children and families as the presence of the church in the courtroom through the Guardian Angel program.
Learn more about why people are leaving their homes in Central America. Endless violence, poverty, environmental displacement and lack of opportunities in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have far-reaching effects. See the ELCA’s AMMPARO resources.
What will you do to show God’s love for all?
Jen DeLeon is director of justice for Women of the ELCA.
Photo by Swapnil Deshpandey from Pexels