Many Sunday sermons are addressing the suffering of immigrants at the United States border. The Good Samaritan parable (Luke 10:25-27) is a good place to start. The story tells of a traveler who is left for dead after being robbed. A priest and a Levite see the injured man but pass him by. Only a Samaritan — usually an enemy of the Jews — stops to help. Jesus points out that the Samaritan looks beyond differences and sees a neighbor in need.
As Christians, we are called to help our neighbors who suffer in immigration detention centers. The Bible tells us, “When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself” (Leviticus 19:33-34).
Conditions at Detention Centers
Bekah McNeel writes in Christianity Today, “The world, aching under the power and weight of sin, is grieving and we have always been called to weep with those who weep.” Observers have indeed lamented the inhumane conditions at border detention facilities. Shocking images of extreme overcrowding and unsanitary conditions have circulated throughout news channels and social media.
At one facility in Texas, a doctor reported cold temperatures and poor sanitation, lack of food and water, and inadequate medical care. Other reports stated that cells were so crowded at an El Paso processing center that migrants were unable to sit or lie down. Designed to hold 125 people, the facility held up to 900 migrants.
Children of Immigrants
The conditions at children’s detention centers has particularly shocked the public conscience. Observers at a facility in Clint, Texas stated that children were sleeping on concrete and wearing filthy clothes and lacked soap and toothbrushes. According to a May, 2019 NBC News report, seven children had died in border detention centers this year. No children had died the previous 10 years.
Myths About Undocumented Immigrants
Our faith compels us to dispute rumors and myths about undocumented immigrants draining the economy and causing violent crime. The Marshall Project studied crime rates associated with the 10.6 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Researchers found that undocumented immigrants either had no effect on violent crime rates or were associated with a slight decrease in rates.
Statistics also show that undocumented immigrants pay taxes and are less likely to take public benefits than native born Americans. Most social safety net programs require the recipient to be a lawful resident for five years.
Church Needs to Repent
Christians have called on the church to do more to end the suffering of immigrants. Max Lucado states that the church must lament and “repent for our complicity in their suffering.” He asks God to forgive us when we do not “see their humanity and trust in your bountiful economy.”
Chance to Act On Our Faith
As Christians, we cannot turn away when we hear about cruelty at the border. The American public as well as government officials have seen the conditions at immigration detention centers. NBC News reports that an internal report at the Department of Homeland Security acknowledged overcrowding, excessive heat, illness outbreaks and lack of showers at detention centers.
Our actions align with our beliefs when we work to ease suffering at the border. We can shorten the waiting lists for migrants to apply for asylum. We can reunite separated families. We can end prosecution of those who bring food and water to migrants at the border. When we care for our neighbors at the border, we live out the parable of the Good Samaritan.