“Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt? –Moses, Exodus 4:11
The program of fear mongering and dehumanization of people of color by the current domination system is expanding. Together Colorado’s faith leaders are not chaplains to the empire! Like Moses, we are prophets of resistance! The blocking of asylum seekers at the border is contrary to the foundational teachings of our faith traditions and our common humanity. The Pharaoh must be challenged. If not by us, who? If not now, when?
The thousand-strong caravan, referred to as the Central American Exodus, started small, a dozen from this town, a hundred from that, fleeing danger and desperation. Humanitarian workers explained that it was easier to move in groups. Soldiers were turning individuals away at the Honduran border, but not large groups of seniors and people with small children. They formed a caravan to protect themselves from the very conditions they are running from: gang violence, sexual assault, and rates of homicide that rival war zones.
Countless families fleeing danger will be turned away at the border by President Trump’s executive order, including an elderly woman walking with two young children. She joined the caravan when her daughter, the mother of the twins, was murdered by gang members because she couldn’t afford to pay them off. The grandmother couldn’t afford the extortion fee either, and wouldn’t let the same fate befall her grandchildren. She packed what little she had and began the long, dangerous journey.
Instead of giving people in the migrant caravan the opportunity to follow the legal process to seek safety and welcome in the United States, the administration has mobilized soldiers to meet them at the border. Instead of giving each arrival the ability to share their story of credible fear, President Trump has passed an executive order blocking every member of the migrant caravan from applying for asylum. People seeking safety at our southern border is not a political crisis; it is a test of our humanity.
The U.S. asylum system was created in the wake of World War II, to provide refuge to those fleeing violence and persecution who arrive at our doorstep. It allows refugees, like many families in this caravan, to apply for protection in the United States.
While many of these families will seek refuge in Mexico, it is not a safe option for many others. The Mexican asylum system is rife with corruption and fails to protect many of the most vulnerable. According to research organization WOLA, women and children migrants in Mexico are often targeted by gangs for kidnapping and human trafficking, while LGBT migrants face severe violence. Failing to allow these families and individuals to seek safety in the United States would violate the Refugee Convention.
Blocking asylum at the border is not only illegal, but will lead to more detentions and more children being separated from their loved ones – a deep moral outrage. We are still discovering and reuniting children who were separated from their parents during this spring’s family separation crisis, which had its roots in our hostile response to asylum seekers. The United States should be building a fair and generous asylum system that treats all people with dignity and recognizes their legal right to seek asylum. The asylum system is instead being destroyed by dehumanizing lies and rebuilt in a form that is irresponsible and based on fear.
The answer is clear. The U.S. must comply with its own laws and international obligations to protect the asylum system that has been in place since the horrors of the holocaust.
-Rev. Bill Kirton, Metro Denver Faith Leaders Caucus