Amid the deeply political and social media-fueled debates that continue to swirl around the perpetual tinder box of immigration, it can be tempting to get caught up in the rhetoric — whether it be to “Build the Wall!” or to champion a kind of reverse battle cry that advocates for opening the borders to all.
What we tend to forget, though, is that the issue does not easily boil down into such simplistic narratives, despite what our political parties may be telling us. And while it is beyond time for the development and implementation of bipartisan, comprehensive immigration reform, as people of faith, we also know that it is imperative to view immigrants as not simply a problem to be solved, but as human beings created by God. Indeed, as the embodiment of Christ himself.
All too often, however, immigrants are regarded as less than human — as those who, because of their “otherness,” do not share an equal dignity and worth in the eyes of God. This most unfortunate “dehumanization” was a central theme of a recent article in The Washington Post that chronicled the “adoption” of children from central America by non-family members to facilitate travel to and entry into the United States. Many of these children are purchased from desperate parents for the journey because traveling with a minor is both cheaper (the coyote guides charge less) and more effective (those with minors are dropped off immediately with border patrol to seek asylum rather than dangerously smuggled across the border). Such a practice opens a very real, and dangerous, market for the most innocent — one which turns young children into commodities to be bought and sold as a means to an end and then abandoned. The Washington Post tells of an entire kindergarten class in Guatemala that has disappeared through these horrific tactics.
Such methods epitomize the dehumanization in which today’s society unfortunately has become so adept. The weakest among us are deemed disposable — whether through abortion, as embryos during the process of in vitro fertilization, or through physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia. Many of us have become comfortable, even if unwittingly, with indifference or prejudice. We find it tiresome to make the constant effort to recognize the human dignity of those who may look or speak differently from ourselves, or who are of a lower social class, or who are hidden from our sight in their mothers’ wombs.
The immigration crisis represents a failure of policy, yes. But even more so, it represents a failure of humanity. We have forgotten what it means to love our neighbor.
On this Second Sunday of Advent, we hear John the Baptist quoting the prophet Isaiah, anticipating the coming of the Lord: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:4-6).
What does such preparation for the Word made flesh look like for us today? As we prepare our hearts to welcome the Christ Child in two short weeks, how can we open our hearts to those we have stripped, intentionally or not, of their God-given dignity? How can we respond to the cruel dehumanization of others that is all too pervasive in our society? How can we prepare a space for the Lord in our hearts, not only during Advent and Christmas, but year-round? Let us not miss this opportunity to rediscover what it means to honor the dignity and humanity of every human being — no matter on which side of the border he or she stands.
OSV Editorial Board: Don Clemmer, Gretchen R. Crowe, Scott Richert, York Young