Anyone close to news sources knows about the increasingly large number of unaccompanied children making their way to the United States through our permeable borders. They make the trek by God only knows what horrific means of transport.
I have heard an estimate of about 72,000 coming in this year and perhaps up to 90,000 next year.
They come, not just from the increasing economic and social chaos to be found in Mexico, but from farther south, from Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, all societies rife with violence and terror.
Parents are apparently sending them, hoping they make it and can live more safely here. Maybe and maybe not. Frankly some of our exceedingly dangerous, poverty-stricken and drug-infested inner city areas easily rival those nations for violence and danger. For example, Chicago saw 84 shootings over the Fourth of July weekend.
Even so, I can’t begin to fathom the depth of human suffering that is represented by these lonely and scared children.
And what are we going to do?
This is not a simple case of, “Well, anyone who loves children is of course going to keep them here.” Such a statement implies that anyone who has hesitations about this must necessarily hate children.
So far from the truth. Let’s all hold off making judgments here and recognize that there are no simple and right solutions.
Every decision made carries myriad implications and repercussions. And none of us know what the unintended consequences will be of any decision made, especially one like this.
Yes, Jesus is quoted as having said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”
However, an undocumented child coming to the U.S. is not necessarily coming to Jesus. First of all, this is hardly a Christian nation, and those children are coming to the U.S. government, not to religious communities. And, unfortunately, religious communities are not always the safest place for children anyway.
Furthermore, Jesus is also back in their homeland — as are there what I can only assume are agonized families.
So what are we going to do?
I don’t know. But one of the hallmarks of a just and righteous society is how it treats the sojourners, the foreigners, the lonely and lost and least of these. I think the Scriptures speak strongly to this — we who have much and live in some safety have obligations to those who have less and live in danger.
The plaque with Emma Lazarus’ poem sits on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Except for the small number of American Indians among us, pretty well all U.S. citizens could trace our ancestry to someone who was tired, poor and yearning to breathe free.
They came to this country with that hope.
The need for freedom springs from the depths of human consciousness. No one wants to be enslaved. No one wants to live in fear, without hope and subject to cruel and arbitrary powers. No one.
The idea of even one child suffering at the hands of terrorists nearly drives me over the edge of personal pain, but there are millions of them around the world suffering right now. Who knows how many have been killed or injured in the time it took me to write this article or you to read it. Probably too many to count.
Of course it is wrong. So what are we going to do?
If we take them all in, more children could easily end up dying by being exploited by unscrupulous traffickers. Such despicable people promise safe passage to parents, take money and then dump the children or use them for sex or forced labor, never to be heard of again.
There is not one easy answer here. We all need to take a deep breath, stop, pray and think about what each of us can do, be it small or be it large, to offer protection to every child born on this planet.
THE REV. CHRISTY THOMAS can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is at www.christythomas.com.