The Christmas celebrations have ended, the decorations are now packed away for another year (or 10 months), and we are all settling back into our normal routines. For some, however, there is no going back. Like the Magi who were warned to find a different route from which they had come in order to avoid the wrath of Herod, returning by another route is not an option for them. Setting their sights on the U.S. where they have hopes of freedom—perhaps reuniting with family or at least the comfort of friends—mothers with young children, teenagers traveling alone, fathers forging ahead to prepare a safer pathway for their families, and young couples in love hoping to survive to old age often face treacherous journeys as they cross through unfamiliar terrain and traverse countries which may or may not afford them safe passage
We are called to welcome those in need of shelter and safety. We are called to see the God-given dignity in each person we encounter, to see Jesus himself in their faces. As a nation, we also made commitments to not turn away those in need of our protection, but to offer them a means to share their fears and to find a new home.
Once again the U.S./Mexico border has been in the news because of President Biden’s recent visit to El Paso and Ciudad Juarez on his way to meet with President Lopez Obrador. Below are excerpts from news coverage (mainstream and religious) about the President’s visit and concerns about his new border policies.
We invite you to join us and people of all faiths to seek an end to the Asylum Transit Ban using the Action Alert and Toolkit included at the end of this article.
“It’s a very difficult situation because they [asylum seekers] can’t go forward and they can’t go back. People who aren’t processed can’t leave El Paso because of U.S. law enforcement checkpoints; most have traveled thousands of miles from their homelands and refuse to give up and turn around.” Dylan Corbett, Hope Border Institute
Several hundred people marched through the streets of El Paso on Saturday afternoon, and when they arrived at a group of migrants huddling outside a church, they sang to them “no están solos”—“you are not alone.”
Around 300 migrants have taken refuge on sidewalks outside Sacred Heart Church, some of them afraid to seek more formal shelters, advocates say, amid new restrictions meant to crack down on illegal border crossings.
This is the scene that will greet President Joe Biden on his first, politically thorny visit to the southern border Sunday.
Dylan Corbett, who runs the nonprofit Hope Border Institute, said the city is experiencing an increasing “climate of fear.”
He said immigration enforcement agencies have already started ratcheting up deportations to Mexico, and he senses a rising level of tension and confusion.
On Sunday, January 8th, President Biden arrived in El Paso where he spent a short time at the border wall and the El Paso County Migrant Services Center. Bishop Mark J. Seitz, of the Catholic Diocese of El Paso, was there to meet the President and was invited to accompany him throughout the day.
Just two days earlier, Bishop Seitz had released a statement on behalf of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops committee on migration critical of the Biden administration’s newest Border Enforcement plan.
As reported by the Jesuit Review:
While praising “the announcement of new legal pathways to the United States,” Bishop Seitz said, “it is difficult for us to consider this progress when these same pathways are contingent on preventing those forced to flee their native land from availing themselves of the right to seek asylum at our border.”
At the El Paso County Migrant Support Services Center, where Norma Pimentel, M.J., the executive director of Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley, and Ruben Garcia, the founder of Annunciation House, also welcomed Mr. Biden. Bishop Seitz handed Mr. Biden a prayer card depicting the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
On the back, a child living in a migrant shelter in Juárez had written a short prayer, which read: “Lord, I ask that you get me out of here fast, help me with my case, I want to be with my mommy and my sister soon. Amen.”
As part of the new policy statement, the U.S. Government will turn back any asylum seekers who have not requested asylum in other countries along their route, commonly referred to as a “transit ban.” This ruling does not take into consideration whether or not the transit countries have the system in place or the willingness to be a country of asylum. Nor does it consider family ties or other factors that might influence where a person seeks this form of legal protection.
Call to Action
The PC(USA), along with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition invite you to call or email today messages to President Biden and Members of Congress. The message is simple: we want to stop new regulations from even being posted.
I urge you to tell the administration not to issue their proposed regulation that would require asylum seekers to seek asylum in a country of transit and bar asylum from migrants who enter without inspection. I also ask you to denounce the recent expansion of harmful and immoral Title 42 expulsions of vulnerable people seeking protection at the U.S. border. Hold the administration accountable to build a humane, welcoming, and just asylum system.
Biden announced these restrictions along with a humanitarian parole program, but that program is only open to a limited number of people who have resources. As a Christian, I believe that a robust right to asylum in the US is needed to provide safety to the most vulnerable. Everyone deserves a safe place to call home, and punitive, deterrence-based approaches to block migrants from seeking safety and protection in the United States should never be used. While new pathways to the United States are always welcome in the context of a restrictive U.S. immigration system, they should never be paired with enforcement measures that cut off asylum access at the border.
I urge you not to issue the proposed regulation that would require asylum seekers to seek asylum in a country of transit and bar asylum from migrants who enter without inspection. I am also asking you to reverse your expansion of harmful and immoral Title 42 expulsions of vulnerable people seeking protection at the U.S. border and to build a humane, welcoming, and just asylum system.
Your January 5th announcement wrongly coupled punitive asylum restrictions with humanitarian parole. As a Christian, I believe that everyone deserves a safe place to call home, regardless of whether they can Punitive, deterrence-based approaches to block migrants from seeking safety and protection in the United States should never be used. While new pathways to the United States are always welcome in the context of a restrictive U.S. immigration system, they should never be paired with enforcement measures that cut off asylum access at the border.
To send your message and read more about the proposed regulations, check out the new Office of Public Witness call to action!
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