America is facing a crisis at the border. Tens of thousands of children have come from Central America looking for asylum, protection, and a chance at a future that they will not find in their home countries. Drug Wars have ravaged their nations. Also, confusion from Washington and our politicians on what the immigration situation actually is has created the misperception that if the children come and turn themselves in to border guards, they will be allowed to stay. The political problems are vast, solutions are hard to find, and America is divided. The Church is also divided on the issue of what to do with the children coming to us looking for help.
Let me say a few things up front:
- I believe in secure borders and that every nation has the right and responsibility to secure its own borders. I have traveled all over the world and if I don’t have the proper passport/visa, then I fully expect to be detained and jailed if I am trying to enter a country illegally. I am not debating that.
- The current immigration situation and political debate is important, but it is not the main thing right now when it comes to these children. Why have they come? What is President Obama’s responsibility? What happens if they stay? All of these questions are secondary. In some of my training on development work, I have learned that you have to differentiate between disaster response and development work. Disaster response is what you do when the hurricane or earthquake has hit. You help everyone you can and provide aid, food, shelter, and comfort. You don’t ask questions. You just help. Development work is what you do when there is an ongoing problem. You look for long-term solutions and you are careful not to create dependency. There is a completely different metric at work. The situation with the children at the border is “disaster” not “development.” The long term immigration problem is “development.” So, different problems lead to different solutions.
- We have to differentiate between the political debate in Washington over immigration and the actual children in need right now. News erupted today in Alabama that immigrant children were headed to Maxwell AFB in my city of Montgomery. The report proved to be premature, but response from many in Alabama was that we do not want them here. Our own Congresswoman Martha Roby released a statement saying that the children were not wanted under any circumstances at Maxwell. The question that I have for Congresswoman Roby is, “does caring for children in need temporarily pose a national security threat to America? Does it make our nation weaker or stronger?” She is representing the view of many of her constituents in Alabama who have made their voice heard today saying, “Send the children away! They are not our problem!”
- I am not suggesting that the children should stay in America or that they should never be sent home. Rep. Roby says that we should “send them home with care.” What does that mean? If Lackland AFB in Texas, where many of the children are, is overwhelmed (as are other facilities), then is it not caring for the children to put them in good environments for a time until we can figure out what to do with them? I do not think that they should just be unleashed upon America with no families or support structure, but should they not be compassionately cared for now, until we can find permanent solutions?
With all of that said, here is my position: The lives and well-being of children who come to our border looking for help trumps every other concern. If you are a Christian, you place the priority of the children first and you show them love and concern. Then, from that place, you try and solve the bigger problems. Just saying that you don’t want to fool with them and send them out of your sight does not solve any bigger problems. It simply sacrifices the children in need to your own convenience and belief that you have solved a problem by getting rid of kids in need. You haven’t solved anything. You are just forcing someone else to deal with it.
Alabama can be part of the short-term solution and would then have the moral authority to speak to the long-term solution. If, as Christians, we don’t know that we should help those in need, then we need to reread our Bibles. But, when we do help others, we are able to speak to bigger issues. Alabama cuts off its own voice and declares that it is has nothing to offer the situation if we just say that these children are not welcome under any circumstances. Rep. Roby has no ideas or solutions to this problem. So, it is easier for her to just say, “Send them away.” That isn’t leadership. That is surrender.
America is undergoing a moral collapse. Christians across the country are either siding with the collapse and joining it or they are wringing their hands over it and bemoaning the fact. Many are taking a third option, though, and are praying and engaging and are asking God to speak to our country and visit us one again. Here is a question: What if God is answering our prayers and is speaking to us through a visitation of 50-60,000 homeless, starving, sick, diseased, and abused children on our Southern border? What if God is giving us a chance to rise up and show compassion and to extend care to the least of these? What if THIS is how God answers prayers for revival – by allowing waves of needy children to come to us to test us as to where our hearts are and to give us an opportunity to love and live sacrificially so that He can prove Himself strong?
Jesus lays this scenario out for us in Matthew 25:31-41 when he says,
What would Jesus say about our attitude toward children in need? That is what matters.
Edit: I wanted to add one last thing here from a comment that I left on Facebook discussing this:
I was reading last night how Hispanic Evangelical churches are at work at this very moment in Central America getting the word out to parents to NOT send their kids north. This is a HUGE coalition of Hispanic Christians from North and Central America who recognize that what has happened here is wrong, dangerous, and is devastating for the children. They have taken this project on themselves. It is a GREAT initiative and one that we can build on while we care for the kids here right now. THEN, we work with then nations to return them. Perhaps it is a huge movement and many American Christians get involved. But, we can’t come up with any solutions if we don’t engage the problem. And, once we engage the problem, then we have the moral capital to offer solutions.