The hashtags #MissingChildren and #WhereAreTheChildren were trending on Twitter and Facebook last week.
Citizens were outraged at the Trump administration for potentially losing track of 1,475 unaccompanied immigrant children last year. Coupled with the story, photos of children sleeping in cages fueled the outrage even more.
However, if readers would have read past the headlines and pictures, they would have discovered that the Trump administration did not necessary misplace the children and that the photo was taken during the Obama administration.
The 1,475 children are unaccounted for by immigration officials, but that’s not the entire story. Most of these children were placed with sponsor families.
The Washington Post reported that government officials conducted a survey, which resulted in the 1,475 figure making headlines.
Of the 7,635 phone calls placed, 6,075 children were found still living with their sponsored families, 28 had run away, five had been deported, and 52 were living with someone else.
There is much speculation about where the 1,475 remaining children might be, but immigration advocates point to the possibility that they are living with family members and have consciously decided to remove themselves from the grid.
News of the facts has not tampered the outrage though. Why?
On May 7, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the Trump administration would be implementing the policy of separating families at the border for those who are undocumented.
The administration argues that separating families is part of the prosecution of undocumented immigrants and a natural consequence of breaking the law.
However, human and civil rights groups claim this is an unnatural consequence for parents seeking a better life for their families.
In another development, The Hill reported that a group of centrist Republicans and Democrats were working on forcing a vote on a set of immigration bills.
The bills will focus on undocumented immigrants currently living in the U.S., Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and border security. These bills are still a long way from making it to the president’s desk, but the possibility lingers.
For the last decade, politicians have been talking about the need for new immigration legislation and an overhaul of U.S. immigration policies.
However, nothing significant has been passed. Instead, enough rhetoric has been produced by politicians to create a “natural” barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.
The time has come – it’s been way too long – for lawmakers to seriously consider passing immigration legislation that will address human rights and border security.
Missing politicians on this issue must reappear to offer sensible legislation that addresses the country’s immigration needs.
As Jesus-followers, we should keep in mind a few guiding principles as we debate what will hopefully become a comprehensive immigration policy of the U.S.
First, Christians must resist dehumanizing people from other countries.
When the world saw a Samaritan, Jesus saw a kind woman at the well (John 4:7). When the world saw a leper, Jesus saw a man needing his touch (Matthew 8:2). When the world saw a crazy man, Jesus saw a man needing to be embraced (Luke 8:26-39).
As Jesus-followers, we, too, need to see the world through Jesus’ eyes. We need to look at people from other countries and cultures as creations of God, whom he made perfectly, and for whom his son died at Calvary.
Second, Christians need to reconcile what Jesus meant when he told us to welcome the stranger.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus suggested that “all the nations” will one day be judged according to their hospitality.
However, Jesus went even further. He equated nations feeding the hungry, quenching the thirsty, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoners with doing all this to him.
In other words, if nations are not willing to feed, water, welcome, clothe, care for and visit the strangers among them, they are rejecting Christ himself.
Third, the U.S. can implement border security that is both firm and compassionate.
As a Christian, I understand my commitment to being welcoming to strangers and kind to the suffering. As a citizen, I also appreciate the need for border security to keep people safe.
If citizens listen to the polarized rhetoric of politicians and pundits, one would conclude these two objectives are mutually exclusive. I believe that is misleading and wrong.
The U.S. can have a comprehensive immigration policy that is both compassionate and firm. Politicians need to step away from lobbyists and collectively sit down to work on a comprehensive policy void of polarized extremes.
The U.S. can have a compassionate immigration policy that also keeps the border more secure.
Fourth, we must be gracious and kind to children, for the Bible tells us so.
How our country treats children speaks volumes about the content of our character and depth of our moral convictions.
When children were being prevented from coming to Jesus, he quickly interjected, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (Matthew 19:14).
The nation that treats children with contempt and harm is the nation that will face the judgment of God (Matthew 18:6).
With immigration now back in the headlines, let the faithful pray that something positive can move the U.S. forward to develop and pass a comprehensive plan that is both compassionate to individuals and families while providing a more secure border.
As this debate continues and increases, the rhetoric we use and the policies we consider will reveal to the world what kind of people we have become. As a Jesus-follower, I hope the world sees more Jesus.