These reflections from our southern border were shared by director of youth ministries D.C. Veale on his return from a pilgrimage with parishioners Charles Molluzzo, Keri Piester and Lauralyn Lee. The purpose of the trip was to explore with other Episcopal churches, the possibility of a continuing immigration ministry there. (Photos by Keri Piester)
Hola Amigos! Estoy escribiendo de McAllen, Texas.
I have spent the past four days in Texas and Mexico with a group of Episcopal lay people and clergy as we have sought to gain a better understanding of the many issues involved with immigration. It is a difficult and complex issue without simple or obvious ways to make things perfect. We heard many perspectives.
We heard from representatives of Catholic Charities and Team Brownsville who are dealing with the humanitarian needs of several thousand asylum seekers – food, shelter, bedding, clothes, medical care, etc. We heard from local ranchers and land owners about what it's been like to live with so many people moving across their property. We listened and asked questions of agents from Customs and Border Patrol (CBP). We heard from local clergy and town officials about what they're doing and how the immigration crisis is affecting their communities. We also had a retired State Department foreign service official tell us about the history of immigration policies of the United States and where things stand today.
While many people want to paint this issue as black or white, it is incredibly nuanced, with many shades of gray. I'm proud of the way that God's people are doing their best to help the least, the last and the lost. I respect the professional way the CBP agents go about their business to maintain the safety and security of our country. I empathize with the local Texas population and land owners who are dealing with significant problems, not of their own making. But I will carry the memory of Cecilia, a young mother of an 11-month-old, who had traveled from Nicaragua to avoid political persecution. Government forces had forcibly taken her two sons (ages 11 & 8) before she could flee the country. She is now waiting at the border for an asylum hearing, with a less than 1% chance of gaining entrance to the U.S., even though she has relatives here.
I expect that these issues will gain more visibility at St. C's in the coming months as our group reports back and shares our experiences. I don't know what the specific answers are to these vast and difficult issues. I just know that our Statue of Liberty bears lines from a poem that say, "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore." We can and we must do better.