One of the most common phrases you hear in the Senate immigration debate is “border security.” This is one of the few things that many Republicans and Democrats find common ground. They want to secure the border from illegal entry of drugs, weapons, and persons. But there is more to immigration reform than security. Biblically we are called to welcome the sojourner, yet this idea is challenged by increased border security, stigmatization of immigrant communities, and the physical separation of families.
This past March, I went to the U.S./Mexico border with the Hispanic House of Studies at Duke Divinity School. At the border, my group sang songs and shared communion together, even extending communion to two migrants whom we just met. Unlike in United States, many people gather along the Mexico side, visiting the wall or enjoying a stroll along the iron fence. On the wall, people have written in both English and Spanish, everything from political phrases to Bible passages.
But, it wasn’t the references to Israel/Palestine or the Berlin Wall that convicted me; it was a passage from the Gospel of Luke. Someone wrote, “For give U.S. we know not what we do.” In Luke, Jesus cries out to God saying, ‘“Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”’ (NRSV) Could it be that we ‘know not what we do?’
How are we able to truly welcome the immigrant when we have physical and militarized borders that keep our southern neighbors out? No, we do not want drugs and weapons to pass through our borders. But the average person trying to cross is doing so solely for the opportunity to work and have a better life for them and their families.
We should urge our Senators and Representatives that an accessible pathway to citizenship and family unification of all families is what the faith community wants, not more border enforcement.
Border security comes with hiring tens of thousands of new border agents, fencing, and an increase in drones and other means of surveillance. In ¶165.C of the United Methodist Social Principles, it says, “We believe that human values must outweigh military claims as governments determine their priorities; that the militarization of society must be challenged and stopped…”
The preface to the United Methodist Social Principles calls for all members of the church to be in "a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith in practice" about this issues of our contemporary world. In your prayerful dialogue, please consider these questions:
- In what ways is your church welcoming immigrants in your community?
- How have you personally reached out to immigrant communities to understand their needs, concerns, fears and desires?
- Do you think the militarization of the border would protect or harm residents in the areas and/or immigrants?
- Does increased border security create a welcoming community?