Whether we want to be or not, Christians are connected with other Christians from around the world. Our connection with these believers in the life to come will be more real and more complete than any other relationship. In the life to come we won’t be thinking of where we lived, but the reality of where we are, sharing life with believers from across the world and across the ages.
Given that truth, the plight of believers from across the world should have a greater hold in our attention and affection. In this life, just because someone is a Christian from another place doesn’t mean they are perfect or free of sin, but it does mean that we shouldn’t so easily dismiss their concerns, their wants, and needs, and indeed their plight.
If the last several years has taught us anything, it is that the 21st century may very well be the century of the fleeing, the migrant, and the refugee. Collapsing socialist and dictatorial regime leave human crisis in their wake. The war in Syria gave us some of the most poignant imagery of people seeking a better life, even a more stable life and willing to do anything for the mere opportunity. Venezuela whose communist government has taken up power for itself, is creating a natural human disaster, causing people to flee. In China how can a regime survive when it brutalizes its minority Uyghur Muslim population in Xinjiang, jails pastors; changes the very words of life in the Bible, and tears down crosses. Such a regime cannot be long for this world.
Here at home, we also face a serious problem. The border crisis and challenges of an undocumented population aren’t new. Indeed, they are decades long in the making, a result of a lack of national consensus around what to do with our history of welcome and our history of uneven integration of immigrants.
Yet recently the image of Oscar Alberto Martinez with his 23-month-old daughter face down in the water, are a shock. They tell the story of human suffering and our moral paralysis in dealing with the crisis at the border.
There are many good and godly men and women who have jobs trying to keep our national borders safe. The President did not create this problem. Indeed, he wasn’t in politics when the seeds of this crisis were planted, but he does have important choices to make.
This administration has consistently put forward policies and practices that would speed up the government’s ability to depart undocumented residents. From seeking to increase detention centers, fundamentally challenge how the asylum process works, increase the number of enforcement agents, and building a physical barrier. Like many administrations before them, when Congress does not act, the Executive Branch seeks to push the limits on its legal authority in order to get something done.
In some ways you cannot deny that the rushed and unfocused nature of these executive policies are making the short-term human crisis worse. While the recently passed legislation from Congress should give many of the agencies involved the funding and tools they need to ensure more sanitary and safe conditions for children, the underlying legal problems remain.
Undocumented persons simply cannot fix their legal status without leaving the country, persons crossing the border illegally cannot be held indefinitely, and short-staffed agents cannot fully patrol our southern border without adequate resources.
Americans have to decide, progressives and liberals, and people of faith and no faith at all whether we can come to some sort of sensible consensus on our national immigration laws. Can we balance our need for jobs with certain industries with safety, compassion, and the sort of policy supports that help a family transition from one nation to another?
Will we finally have the moral conviction to act? Will Christians demand that policymakers on both sides of the aisle work together, and will they organize and fund serious efforts that help America regain its moral center when it comes to immigration?
America has welcomed immigrants from all the countries of the world throughout our history. We have been a light to all regardless of religion or creed. And while we have had significant blemishes, scars, injustices, and sins that have painted this process, we have always managed to regain our moral center when people of faith and good will stopped being silent about the things that matter.
We simply cannot deport all undocumented persons. We simply cannot ignore the plight of Oscar Alberto Martinez. We must re-establish fair rules of the road and reject the polarization which has come to dominate our immigration debate.
We must and can do better. If this is the century of immigration, America must be an example of how to balance our sense of morality and our sense of compassion, and must no longer delay the process while waiting for someone to fix these unilaterally.
Alexei Laushkin is the Executive Director of Kingdom Mission Society based in Herndon, VA.