A Rev. Ken Commentary: Thoughts about Borders

Many of us were shocked to learn that tear gas was recently fired at people seeking asylum on the southern US border.

We’ve been shocked before, such as when we learned that children were routinely being separated from their parents on the border, or when we saw pictures of innocent children in cages.

Each time we hear some shocking news like this, we rightfully feel as if we need to express our objection to it with elected officials and the public.  So, we call our representatives and go to protests to insist that these kinds of tactics are uncalled for and extreme.  Indeed, many of us believe that draconian tactics such as these should never be used in America.

I have to say that I agree with this sentiment and, like many of you, am appalled that the US Southern Border has become a place where we see this kind of thing happening on a regular basis – that is, if we choose to look.

I’ve also heard from some people that think what’s going on, on the border, is regrettable, perhaps, but necessary; maybe even good.  In this view, the enforcement of border security of the United States has long suffered due to political concerns; we are doing a good thing by finally enforcing the legal standards we have regarding migration.

These two views are, of course, contradictory – at least a little.  If you’re at all sympathetic with the latter view, how should we enforce our immigration laws in light of the eleven million undocumented people already living here, and the longstanding belief among many people in Latin American countries that the United States is a refuge that will accept as many as show up?

The question, as I see it, is not what tactics we should or should not be using at the border.  I think the question has to do with the nature of borders and migration itself.  To what extent is the United States a refuge?  How much should we police our border?  Should economics or politics be the determining factor?  I think these questions get to the heart of what the United States is – the nation of immigrants that we’re so often called.  Is this who we still yearn to be?  Are we at a point in which our identity is changing?

The American Friends Service Committee is leading a delegation of religious leaders from across the United States – including many of my colleagues in UU Ministry – in a public action on the US/Mexico border in San Diego on December 10.  There is a religious witness to be had in this complex situation, a witness that is guided by the religious principle that there are no actual borders between people – that is only a politically expedient tool.  Our faith, along with many others, maintains that we are all one human family, bound to and responsible for our siblings on any side of the fence.  I will be with my colleagues in spirit as they make this statement publicly on the border and will continue to strive to live by the principle that our humanity trumps borders.

Rev. Ken