Pastor Betty Rendon was a doctoral student at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago and pastor of Emaus Lutheran Church in Racine, Wisconsin. Ten years ago she fled her native Columbia after guerrilla soldiers threatened her life. As a school principal she opposed attempts by the guerrilla soldiers to recruit her students during the country’s civil war. Her application for asylum in the United States in 2009 was denied because there was no police report made of the guerrilla threats on her and her school. ICE moved her deportation proceedings forward and on May 8, 2019, ICE agents barged into her Chicago home, handcuffed her while she was still in her pajamas as her granddaughter watched in horror and took her away. On May 28, 2019 ICE flew her and her husband back to Columbia despite protests that she was legally protected by DACA.
The ICE officers were following orders and will carry on until the broken immigration system now in existence is fixed.
Pastor Rendon was just one of many refugees fleeing for their lives. The number of refugees today worldwide is unprecedented. The UNHCR estimates 70.8 million people are homeless, nearly 25.9 million are refugees, half of whom are under the age of 18. The greatest number of new refugees come from Venezuela. The top refugee hosting countries are Germany, Sudan, Uganda, Pakistan and Turkey.
Jesus challenges us his followers to love not only like-minded people, but love those who are different. Jesus said: “For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?” (Matthew 6:46–47)
As Christians we must demand that our legislators fix our immigration system guided by Biblical principles: “When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:33-34). “‘Cursed be anyone who deprives the alien, the orphan, and the widow of justice.’ All the people shall say, ‘Amen!’” (Deuteronomy 27:19). Paul wrote to the Roman: “Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers” (12:13).
We also have United Nations principles to guide us. On January 31, 1967, the UN Convention and Protocol relating to the Status of Refugees was signed. The atrocities committed by Nazi Germany had led to the 1948 UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights, declaring four fundamental freedoms: freedom of speech, freedom of faith, freedom from want, freedom from fear. The Declaration was revised in 1967 by lifting temporal and European geographical boundaries, acknowledging refugees come not just from Europe but from the world over. The US was one of 146 countries to sign the Protocol.
The “1967 United Nations Protocol” must guide our new immigration laws by including the following (Summary of the Declaration by The Global Sanctuary Movement):
- Compassion: Care deeply about refugee children, families and all migrants and urge our nation to protect and preserve their human dignity. Reject detention of migrants as a violation of human rights and dignity.
- Due Process: Advocate for fair and timely legal proceedings, competent legal representation and due process for children, asylum seekers and all migrants.
- Family Unity: Uphold and respect the unity of families as a basic human right.
- Restorative Justice: Call for healing of our borderlands, not militarization. The only long-term solution is a holistic approach that prioritizes safety and opportunity for migrants and addresses root causes.
Our work ahead includes letters to our legislators and the President advocating a repair of our broken immigration laws. The laws are to be guided by both Biblical principles and the UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees. Let us also be mindful of the words of greeting on the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York harbor: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me: I lift my lamp beside the golden door” (Emma Lazarus).