I don't know a more divisive issue in America today than the border crisis. More than 57,000 unaccompanied children have come to the Rio Grande border in the last nine months. The number arriving from El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras has increased tenfold in the last three years. How do we enforce our immigration laws while extending compassion to immigrants?
Scripture requires us to "be subject to the governing authorities" (Romans 13:1; cf. 1 Peter 2:13). The Lord of the nations has "determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place" (Acts 17:26). Border security is clearly a biblical priority. At the same time, God warns us: "Do not mistreat an alien or oppress him, for you were aliens in Egypt. Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan. If you do and they cry out to me, I will certainly hear their cry" (Exodus 22:21-23).
Making the situation more complex is the 2008 Feinstein Amendment, signed by President George W. Bush. The law requires unaccompanied minors from countries other than Mexico and Canada to be housed in shelters and then released to family members or sponsors where possible while their cases are being resolved. Many of the children now coming to the U.S. are legally eligible for such treatment.
Why are they coming in such numbers today? Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world, while El Salvador and Guatemala are in the top five. A civilian in these three countries is twice as likely to be killed as in Iraq during the height of the war.
Boys are forced into gangs or killed; girls are raped and forced into prostitution. So families pay a human trafficker 18 months of salary to take their children on a 45-day, 2,000-mile journey to the U.S., where they hope for political asylum. One mother explained: "I would rather see my child die on the way to the United States than die on my doorstep."
One of our ministry team members just returned from two weeks in Guatemala. At night she heard gunshots as she went to sleep. She drove past a government-run orphanage, which is trying to care for some of the 350,000 orphans in the country. International adoptions closed several years ago, since so many of the children were bought, coerced or kidnapped. This crisis shows no signs of resolution.
A variety of proposals have been made, from repealing the Feinstein Amendment and forcing deportations to expediting the existing process, creating a pathway for political asylum within the affected countries, and forging "safe zones" for children. What would Jesus do? Please share your thoughts in our comments section.
And know what Jesus is doing. He loves every child (Matthew 19:13-15), and grieves for every family in crisis (John 13:35). He leads every official who is willing to seek his wisdom (Jeremiah 33:3), and uses his people as his hands of ministry to those in need (1 Corinthians 12:27).
To join Jesus at work, we need solutions that are both legal and compassionate. President George H. W. Bush once stated, "Ours should be a nation characterized by conspicuous compassion, generosity that is overflowing and abundant." And he added, "Any definition of a successful life must include serving others." How successful will you be today?
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