What You Need to Know About What Is Happening to People Seeking Asylum at the US Border and Elsewhere

Earlier this month, the White House announced a new “zero tolerance” policy on illegal border crossings at the US-Mexico border. In less than two-weeks’ time, roughly 600 children have been separated from their parents after crossing the border together, meaning the parents have been placed in immigrant detention centers and the children have been placed in shelters or foster care. Unfortunately, this zero tolerance policy is being applied toward those who are lawfully presenting themselves at the US-Mexico border and requesting asylum. This is alarming considering the fact that between October 2016 and December 2017, the Department of Health and Human Services was unable to locate 1,475 out of the 7,635 migrant children that it had placed in homes all across the country. The government lost track of them, and although many of them were probably reunited with their undocumented family members who have reason to wish to remain off the grid, some of them were later found to be victims of human trafficking and other forms of abuse. [Addendum 5/29/18: The number of children who ended up being labor trafficked was 35, but this was out of nearly 100,000 children who were placed and is probably a similar or smaller percentage of children in the US welfare system who end up in the hands of abusers. Please read this important explanation of the actual implications of the story about the “lost” unaccompanied minors.]

While the administration is not governed or guided by the scriptures, believers in Jesus Christ are. If we are God’s people, and we happen to possess the privilege of earthly citizenship where we live, then God wants us to care for those who are considered non-citizen foreigners. The widow, the orphan, and the foreigner are repeatedly mentioned together in the Bible as populations of people requiring an extra measure of TLC. That’s because they are the most vulnerable among usuniquely vulnerable to violence, abuse, poverty, exploitation, exclusion, and merciless abandonment/expulsion. Consider the following scriptures that reflect God’s particular notice of foreigners:

“Do not oppress a foreigner; you yourselves know how it feels to be foreigners, because you were foreigners in Egypt.”  Exodus 23:9

“When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.  Leviticus 19:33-34

“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.”  Leviticus 23:22

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.”  Deuteronomy 10:18

The entire book of Ruth.

“The Lord watches over the foreigner and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked.”  Psalm 146:9

“This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”  Jeremiah 22:3

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’”  Matthew 25:34-36

What can you do?

STEP 1: Become informed. The following articles provide additional information to help you understand what is happening.

Families Who Cross the Border Together Won’t Stay Together


Image: John Moore/Getty Images.  A caravan of Central Americans seeking asylum in the US made its way through Mexico in April.

Though families seeking asylum had previously been allowed to stay together, under the new policy, adults are to be detained while they apply and await review, while their children could spend years in shelter care in the US, The Hill reportedClick here to read the full article.

‘Whatever’ isn’t an option for immigrant children

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@Getty Images

The phone rang at 1 a.m. on a Friday morning earlier in May – a child recently separated from his family at the border needed a home. For the sixth time that week, the staff at Bethany Christian Services’ Refugee and Immigrant program answered the call. “Jose” was just three years old, sick with chicken pox, and had clearly been crying for quite some time.

Earlier that week, Jose and his mother presented themselves to U.S. Border Patrol officials at a port of entry on the southern border. She feared gang violence and threats in her native Guatemala. Escaping this terrifying existence consumed her. Upon arriving in the United States, Jose was taken from her and she was placed in an immigration jail…[click here to continue reading]

A terminal wait: Religious minorities targeted in Iran find the welcome mat yanked also by the United States


One U.S. relative, an Assyrian Christian from Iran who has lived for 18 years in the United States, told me his nephew in Vienna learned early in 2017 he had passed his medical exam and his final background check, and would be issued a U.S. visa. But the visa never came through, and he did not receive information on his case until he learned on Feb. 19 that U.S. officials had reversed themselves and denied his case “as a matter of discretion.” Authorities also informed him he had two weeks to leave Austria. Click here
to read the full article.

Apartments Are Stocked, Toys Donated. Only the Refugees Are Missing.

Screen Shot 2018-05-24 at 3.06.07 PM.pngThe flow of refugees to the United States has slowed nearly to a halt, demonstrating that what President Trump’s administration could not achieve by executive order, it is accomplishing by bureaucracy…

“Every stage in the process works like the assembly line in a factory — each station knows exactly what to do and how to do the handoff to the next step,” said Barbara Strack, who retired in January as the chief of the Refugee Affairs Division at United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. “This fiscal year,” she added, “the administration essentially ‘broke’ the assembly line in multiple places at the same time.” Click here to read the article.

STEP 2: Advocate.

  • Write letters to the editor of your newspaper.
  • Blog, share what you know with your social network.
  • Contact your members of Congress. Find the contact information for your Congressional Representatives and Senators (phone numbers, email addresses, mailing addresses) and save it to your contacts. A simple script to use: “I’m calling to express my concern about children being separated from their parents at the border under the new policy. Please speak out against this and fight for families to remain together.”
  • Attend the advocacy training in Washington, D.C. on World Refugee Day, June 19, 2018 being organized/led by the Evangelical Immigration Table


STEP 3: Give.

There are so many needs right now related to immigrant and refugee care. The people I know personally who are directly involved in caring for these populations are currently in a seemingly never-ending period of crisis, and everyone needs money to keep doing what they’re doing. Here are just a few reputable organizations you can give to. Feel free to make suggestions for others in the Comments section.

Immigrant Hope Atlanta
El Refugio
National Immigrant Justice Center
World Relief

STEP 4: Commit to pray regularly. 
Here are some helpful prayer guides.

10 PRAYER TOPICS – Responding to the Global Refugee Crisis
Prayers & Intentions: For Immigrants and Immigration Reform (Archdiocese of Chicago)
Immigration Through the Lens of Faith
Prayer for Migrants and Refugees
Prayer for Immigrants (and Prayer of Confession)
Prayers for Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

I will close with the prayer by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

Lord Jesus, when you multiplied the loaves and fishes, you provided more than food for the body, you offered us the gift of yourself, the gift which satisfies every hunger and quenches every thirst! Your disciples were filled with fear and doubt, but you poured out your love and compassion on the migrant crowd, welcoming them as brothers and sisters.

Lord Jesus, today you call us to welcome the members of God’s family who come to our land to escape oppression, poverty, persecution, violence, and war. Like your disciples, we too are filled with fear and doubt and even suspicion. We build barriers in our hearts and in our minds.

Lord Jesus, help us by your grace,

  • To banish fear from our hearts, that we may embrace each of your children as our own brother and sister;
  • To welcome migrants and refugees with joy and generosity, while responding to their many needs;
  • To realize that you call all people to your holy mountain to learn the ways of peace and justice;
  • To share of our abundance as you spread a banquet before us;
  • To give witness to your love for all people, as we celebrate the many gifts they bring.

We praise you and give you thanks for the family you have called together from so many people. We see in this human family a reflection of the divine unity of the one Most Holy Trinity in whom we make our prayer: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Categories: Church/Ecclesiology, Culture/Social issues, Immigration, Uncategorized

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