|Photo by Barri Net / flickr|
On July 3rd in desperation a horde of immigrants—a great many children and women and some men—somehow managed to get over the border into the states. Some were sick, some were scared. Some had been traveling for days. Many had paid thousands of dollars just to get to the US. Interviewed, many of them said they came because they afraid of their safety and the safety of their families back home in Honduras or El Salvador or somewhere in Mexico. Drugs gangs were running rampant—some of their relatives had been killed. So they traveled some hundreds of miles to find a place called America where people would be safe and they could build a better life.
Many were taken to Murrieta, California for processing until the government could figure what to do with all these people. Remember this was July 3rd—on the eve of our annual July 4th celebration. You can read a splendid article, which comes from Media Matters, which also shows a video of some citizens' feelings as they encountered these newcomers. These immigrants found fury and anger and abuse from the people of this upscale California town. Of course all the residents did not feel this way—but those who came from so far must have wondered if this was the same place they had seen and dreamed of on TV.
The sheer enormity of so many has scared many Americans. Couple this with wild rumors of disease and crime. No wonder many screamed: “Go back to your own home!” This is a serious problem. Yet we are teaching these little children and their desperate parents the wrong kind of lessons about America.
If you’ve ever been to Ellis Island you know that we have reluctantly welcomed many that have come to our land. And when many did come—the Irish, the Jews, the Italians, the Poles and many from China and Japan—the reception they received from many was not much different from those frightened immigrants in California. There have been many days in "our history when we seem to have been poles apart from the dreams of what this country was supposed to be.
We cannot simplify this issue. And for God’s sake—and I mean that—this is not the time to politicize the issue of hurting people It is high time for those we send to Washington to do something positive for a change about an issue that says a lot about us as a people. I know this matter is enormously complicated and hard to decide what to do. But I do know this. We deal with human beings and once again we are being measured as a people. Will we treat these that come with respect and decency or will we act as if they are dangerous and subhuman?
The old question comes to mind: What Would Jesus Do? I do know this—he wouldn’t be standing in a crowd with a sign spitting and screaming out expletives.
(Want to read the human side of this particular immigrant crisis, read USA Today's article on one Honduran family's journey to this country.)