January 29 marked the one-year anniversary of the Migrant Protection Protocols, otherwise known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. The policy prevents asylum seekers from waiting for their hearings in safety in the United States and forces them to wait in locations across the border in Mexico where they face violence and extortion.
So last Wednesday, Gwen offered us a vigil to mark the injustice and give us an opportunity to meet the impossible with prayer. I want to keep that prayer going with this post. I know I have readers from all over the world, so let’s wrap the world in prayer with and for people desperate enough to flee their homes — and hopeful enough to run up against the borders of an uncaring, violent world.
One picture of the country’s unkindness keeps getting replayed in Mexico when detainees are released from U.S. detention without shoelaces. They appear on the doorsteps of shelters where caregivers maintain stockpiles. One refugee reported, “They took away our shoelaces because so many people tried to hang themselves with them.” But the prison keepers did not give them back when they were released, thereby preventing laceless people from becoming targets for gangs and kidnapers.
Save us from MPPs
“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 13:2)
The administration is using MPP (Ironically titled “migrant protection protocols”) in tandem with other illegal policies, including turn-backs and the third-country transit asylum ban, to subvert U.S. law. The result is effectively a near-ban on asylum. The Department of Homeland Security has forced more than 60,000 asylum seekers and other migrants to wait in Mexico under MPP.
We see you in the stranger, Lord
“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
There are now at least 636 public reports of rape, kidnapping, torture, and other violent attacks against asylum seekers and migrants returned to Mexico under MPP.
Give us big enough hearts
This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:38-40)
A recent study by the U.S. Immigration Policy Center at UC San Diego found that one in four people affected by the MPP in Tijuana and Mexicali have been threatened with physical violence. The study did not include the extremely dangerous MPP return locations of Ciudad Juárez, Matamoros, or Nuevo Laredo.
May we love as you love us
For the whole law can be summed up in this one command: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14)
Asylum seekers who miss MPP court hearings because of kidnappings are being ordered deported. A pregnant Salvadoran woman in a Laredo court told an immigration judge that her husband had gone missing in Mexico and couldn’t attend his hearing. The judge ordered him deported. A 9-year-old disabled girl and her mother missed their immigration court hearing while being held captive and raped. They were ordered removed by an immigration judge in San Diego.
Give us courage to see and act
“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?” Jesus asked. The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.” Then Jesus said, “Yes, now go and do the same.” (Luke 10:36-37)
Only 4% of individuals subjected to the Remain in Mexico policy have lawyers. Less than 1% have won their cases. This inhumane situation and practices of the DHS violate U.S. asylum and immigration law and U.S. Refugee Protocol obligations.
Show us the way beyond the border
In a global village it is overwhelming to see everyone as one’s neighbor. Our minds have trouble embracing them all. We let ourselves be complacent because we are not on a road, like the good Samaritan, where we encounter all these suffering outcasts. At best they are a passing headline or picture for many of us.
We have limitations and we are not the saviors of the world. But Jesus can help us suffer with him. We can pray, like we are doing now. We can share resources. We can support those who are on the front lines of love for us — we are already connected to people through our own Solidarity Beyond Borders Team and through our MCC partners.
We can pay attention and learn to sympathize through people who lead us in compassion. Our friend, Ron Byler, executive director of MCCUS, was on the southern border all last week and reported what he experienced on his Facebook page. He not only reveals how wicked the situation is, but also how many wonderful people are giving their lives to be light in that darkness.
We can keep turning into love, even when it is daunting. Often that means not turning away from the suffering, just as Jesus never turns away from ours.