As our nation continues to grapple with social unrest and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, an influx of adults and children attempting to cross the southern border has created a humanitarian crisis that demands our attention.
For decades, the United States has struggled in its response to illegal immigrants who have arrived either by force or by choice, seeming to fluctuate between a “take no prisoners” approach and opening the borders to everyone.
As we all have seen, polarized approaches do not work. Recently, President Biden brought an end to President Trump’s Migration Protection Protocols (MPP) or “Remain in Mexico” policy, which kept asylum seekers in Mexico while they waited on the verdicts in their cases in U.S. immigration court. Both President Trump’s and President Biden’s approaches to immigration have been met with severe backlash.
We desperately need a new approach to immigration policy, and I believe that if we act with compassion, protect our borders and enforce our laws, then we will have a system that works.
1. We must treat asylum seekers with the compassion, dignity and respect they deserve.
It is imperative that those who are seeking refuge in our country be treated with compassion, dignity and respect because all people are image-bearers of God. When Jesus told his followers to love their neighbors, he did not simply mean their neighbors who lived next door, the neighbors who looked like them or the neighbors who worshipped the same way they did.
We must realize that many men, women and children are fleeing violence, poverty and oppression in their home nations. Many have endured trauma and suffering and are seeking a better, safer life for themselves or for their children in the United States.
According to The Associated Press, “The U.S. government picked up nearly 19,000 children traveling alone across the Mexican border in March.” With overwhelming numbers like these, we must ensure that these children are receiving proper care, facilities are well-staffed and Border Patrol officers receive full background checks and regular performance reviews.
Above all else, when abuse and human rights violations occur, we must hold the guilty accountable.
2. We must protect our borders from drug cartels and human traffickers.
We must work to create a system that encourages people to come to the United States legally. I believe we can secure our borders and discourage illegal immigration in a way that allows us to prioritize the safety of our citizens while showing grace and love to those seeking entrance.
We have no other choice, because turning aside from this crisis allows drug cartels and human traffickers greater freedom to do harm. Traffickers on both sides of our borders capitalize on human suffering and fear and create more of it.
A recent report from Customs and Border Protection revealed that agents seized 3,677 pounds of drugs on a typical day in fiscal year 2020. From October through April, agents seized more than 400,000 pounds of drugs.
Considering the massive opioid epidemic in the United States, we must have safeguards in place to continue to stymie the flow of drugs across our borders. Moreover, human traffickers often exploit those who struggle with substance abuse or use drugs to control their victims.
As noted in the State Department’s 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report:
“Within the past several years, the United States has prosecuted multiple sex trafficking cases in which the perpetrator used addiction as a tool of coercion. In these cases, perpetrators entrapped victims with existing substance use issues, or initiated dependency in victims with no prior addiction history. They then used the threat of withdrawal — which causes extreme pain and suffering and can be fatal without medical supervision — to control the victims and coerce them to engage in commercial sex, compounding the victims’ trauma. Individuals with substance use issues seeking recovery have been exploited in addiction treatment situations for sex trafficking and forced labor.”
According to the Polaris Project, a watchdog organization dedicated to combating human trafficking in the United States:
“[I]mmigrants are extremely vulnerable to both sex and labor trafficking, in part as a direct result of their migration. In particular, while anyone can fall prey to traffickers, the data shows that an incredibly high number of people who come to this country from Latin America and the Caribbean are being exploited in this way.”
3. We must obey our own laws.
While the current administration has said it will find a way to improve the legal immigration process and address the current crisis, the southern border is in a state of chaos because we do not enforce our own laws.
Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democratic congressman representing Texas’ 28th District, has called for immediate action for the safety of those living in the United States and those who are trying to enter. In an interview with USA Today, Cuellar said:
“They got to look at certain things, and it might be uncomfortable talking about what needs to be done, but it has to be done. If that’s the law, then you got to follow the law. You can’t pick and choose what part of the law you want to enforce. … You got to be compassionate, you got to be humane. But at the same time, there are certain things you have to enforce, the law. Otherwise, the bad guys will see there’s no consequence.”
We need to work together to take serious and comprehensive steps to address the foundational issues in both securing the border and fixing the immigration process. This week, the U.S. Supreme Court took a unanimous step in the right direction by committing to follow the law while prioritizing the safety of immigrants.
I think we would do well to remember that love for our neighbors encompasses both compassion and protection.
If we want to keep America safe and free, we must strengthen the security of our borders against those who would do us and others harm while showing compassion to those seeking a life of liberty in our great nation.
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