A lot of news coverage has been devoted to nightly stories about a caravan of people from Honduras. Like the Hebrews long ago, they have known the slavery of poverty and abuse. Threatened by drug gangs, and witnesses to atrocities many left with the clothes on their backs to seek safety on our borders.
They travel in a large group because it is a safer way to travel on foot with children. They come, knowing that they will be detained and held in custody, but it is still safer than staying in Honduras. They may be scared but they don’t know what else to do.
Some people in our government say this caravan of people are a threat to us. But we absorb 1.4 million foreigners who emigrate to the United States every year. This group looks large because of all the news coverage, but they represent less than one tenth of one percent of this year’s immigrants - a very small fraction of people who come to our borders seeking asylum.
The reason we hear so much about them is that it makes a good talking point for people who are afraid of poor immigrants. The saddest thing about this news story is that it distracts us all from other problems, which are much more pressing.
Sadly this news story is a distraction from so many of the issues we should be addressing. In the time it takes them to walk north, 16,800 Americans will die from drugs, almost 700,000 Americans will become homeless and 8,800 Americans will die from gun violence through murder or suicide. We don’t need to imagine that the problems in our country come from outsiders. We have plenty of issues we need to address right here at home. In fact if we really want to help people decide to stay in their own countries we should be helping their societies provide good education, healthcare and jobs. No one wants to leave their family and friends to make a journey of 1000 miles on foot. Humanitarian relief is one of the few ways to stabilize poor societies; it remains the best deterrent to gangs activity. These gangs are more frightening than most of us can imagine. We were upset by stories about cruel treatment of children when immigrants arrived, but that has not been a deterrence because the gangs are much worse.
I highlight this situation because it has so many Biblical parallels and because I believe that our faith pushes us to respond not out of fear, but with human kindness. Jesus saw people’s human needs. That where we should all start, if we want to be his disciples.
Read more about this issue in Nicholas Kristoff’s article in the New York Times October 25, 2018.