In this season of Christmas as Christians around the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, it is important to remember the journey Jesus, Mary, and Joseph traveled. Their journey is recounted in the Gospel of Matthew where Mary and Joseph flee Judea for Egypt fearing Jesus would be murdered by King Herod. That journey, in an effort to save the life of Jesus, makes clear they were refugees.
In fact, much of Christianity is based on the welcoming of refugees and immigrants. We are taught to welcome the stranger and treat them as you would a family member or neighbor. The Bible, and countless sermons, are filled with stories about the kindness of strangers to those less fortunate. “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19).
In stark contrast to these Christian beliefs and teachings, today we witness the cruel and inhumane treatment of refugees fleeing their homes, fearing for their lives, walking thousands of miles to the United States border, often with children, some as young as several months old and toddlers. After enduring this journey, refugees aren’t met at our border with kindness but cruelty. They are subjected to a bait and switch game where they wait for weeks at the designated port of entry to apply for asylum, which they are legally entitled to do, only to be turned away and told that there aren’t enough Customs and Border Patrol personnel to process them. After weeks of being denied entry, desperation sets in and they attempt to enter the United States at other points. Ironically, when they do there’s always enough Customs and Border Patrol personnel to arrest them.
We have witnessed refugees dodge tear gas while running with children holding their hands. We have seen them detained, we have seen children separated from their parents, then placed in facilities that are more like prison camps and that are unsuitable for children. Tragically, many children have been neglected at the hands of the Trump administration and those entrusted to care for them. Children have become ill with pneumonia from the frigid temperatures in some of these facilities, among other illnesses due to the conditions there.
There are multiple reports of sexual abuse by those caring for them, who are hired without background checks. And, worst of all, children have died in custody. Most recently a 7-year-old child, Jakelin Caal Macquin, died while in the custody of the Customs and Border Patrol. It was revealed she was denied water, food, and medical care for hours until it was too late. Each child is a casualty at the hands of the Trump administration, whose cruel and callous disregard for refugees, children – human beings – is as stunning as it is inhumane and wrong.
Tuesday is Christmas. As we celebrate the birth of Christ we should remember the journey of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. We should also remember the cruel and inexcusable treatment of refugees by the Trump administration fleeing for their lives to seek a better one here. Then ask yourself one simple question: What would Jesus do?