“Because the poor are despoiled, because the needy groan, I will now rise up,” says the LORD; “I will place them in the safety for which they long.” - Psalm 12:5 (NRSV)
In the wake of World War II, and the tragedy of Jewish immigrants being turned back from American borders only to be slaughtered at home, the government instituted the legal process of asylum.
Asylum seekers can only apply for asylum once they are physically on United States soil. Crossing the border and requesting asylum triggers a process in which asylum seekers must prove that they have what is legally described as “credible fear” about the danger of returning to their home country.
With many seeking asylum at the border between San Diego and Tijuana, there is now an additional step in the process. Asylum seekers are given a number and told that their asylum request will be received in days or even weeks. While they wait for their number to come up, the displaced persons return across the border into Mexico and camp where they can.
Last winter a rumor ran through camps at the border that anyone with an asylum request would be accepted the following day, even those who had been waitlisted. The asylum seekers, believing it was their one chance, ran for the border only to be turned back by guards wielding tear gas. Women and children, already traumatized by violence at home and weeks of travel, were further traumatized in an attempt to follow our nation’s legal asylum process.
The debate remains if this behavior is “who we are” as a nation. But it most certainly is not who our God is. Our God prioritizes the poor and needy and “the safety for which they long.”
Holy God: We notice. We repent. We act. Amen.
Jennifer Brownell is the Pastor of First Congregational Church of Vancouver, Washington, and the author of Swim, Ride, Run, Breathe: How I Lost a Triathlon and Caught My Breath, her inspiring memoir.