Tomorrow, a small group of St. Paul’s parishioners will assemble in the Parish Hall directly following the 8AM service to learn more about the US border crisis and the dilemma of how to address the humanitarian needs of the unaccompanied minors fleeing from violence and possible death without becoming embroiled in the politics of Immigration Reform.
My hours of research on this current situation all point to the challenging and, for some, unpalatable fact that this tsunami of unaccompanied hispanic children are indeed refugees. They are refugees fleeing in chaos, not immigrants choosing to leave in an organized and joyful fashion - they are fleeing the tentacles of crime imposed by the MS 13 and MS 18 gangs that have invaded their neighborhoods; raped their mothers, sisters, and aunts; in cold blood killed their families, friends and neighbors; and threatened to do the same to them.
These are children who are handing themselves over to another authority, seeking refuge from the terror of organized crime and almost certain death.
My research also indicates that some of these children, indeed perhaps up to 60% of them, may actually have a legal right to be in this country, and that almost 100% of the children have nowhere to return to if they are deported to their home countries.
I believe that we all understand the need for border security and organized immigration that allows entry into this, or any, country based on a fixed and realistic set of policies and regulations.
I believe that we all agree that our borders need to be secured, and quickly.
I believe that we all know deep within our hearts that ultimately many of these children will be returned to their home countries, hopefully to a safer more peaceful life - but, perhaps not.
Finally, I believe that we, as a nation, must step up to this crisis of unaccompanied children who now reside here, within our borders, in the most humane, compassionate and just manner possible. We must accord to these children the same dignity that God has accorded them. We must see these children with the same compassion that Jesus saw the blind, the unclean, and the poor. We must be sure that we do not perpetuate their refugee status.
There is no simple answer here - no quick fix. But, there is the call, and therefore the mandate, for us to work together to afford these children their basic human rights delivered in ways that meet their developmental and cultural realities and needs.
As for those in our little group at St. Paul’s tomorrow morning — some will walk away a bit more informed; some will want to learn more; some will want to do something to assist. We will work on it. We will discern what we, this little group, might possibly do to ensure that compassion and love make their voices heard - heard above the voices of politics and fear.
If we can provide even a cup of water, that might be enough. Rev. Clelia P. Garrity. LCSW