Rev. Rhina Ramos
National Coordinator for Proyecto Encuentros
The White House’s recent declaration to deny asylum to those who travel through another country before arriving to the U.S. blocks the possibilities and dreams of safety for any immigrant crossing Mexico (and potentially Guatemala). In order to enforce this declaration, the U.S. would need to have “Safe Third Country” agreements with Mexico and Guatemala. Currently, the U.S. only has this type of agreement with Canada.
In the 1951 Convention on the Treatment of Refugees, many European countries entered these collaborative agreements to atone for their past failures to provide refuge to those fleeing the Holocaust. Governments were also trying to prepare for people trying to escape the spread of Communism during the Cold War. This collaborative approach was intended to provide protection for those in fear of persecution.
However, the U.S. government, which views immigrants as a threat, does not have the same purpose in mind. President Trump’s recent declaration attempts to move the border further south and to prevent the arrival to U.S. of those people he has dehumanized.
According to Susan Gzesh from Just Security, “A Safe Third Country must provide safety, security, and due process for asylum seekers.” The notion that Mexico and Guatemala are “safe” countries to Central Americans or immigrants from Africa and the Caribbean, among others, is ludicrous. Guatemala has a recent legacy of indigenous genocide. The Mexican parents of the 43 disappeared students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College in 2014 are still chanting “Vivos se los llevaron, vivos los queremos”—“You took them alive; we want them back alive.” Mass graves full of immigrants have been found in Mexico in recent years.
Even 35 years ago when I was crossing Mexico to get to the U.S., we were scared of the Mexican authorities. When the group I was traveling with was caught by the federal Mexican police, all 20 of us were put in a jail cell for an entire day. After we bribed them, they had connections with smugglers, who treated us as hostages until we were able to cross the U.S. border.
We can continue citing Matthew 25:44-45 and calling fellow Christians to see Jesus on the faces of terrified desperate immigrants, but it does not seem to click as if this image is too remote to register in our hearts. We can only hope we will realize and accept that their humanity is as valuable as ours, and that we will understand that this earth is vast and rich and not only the property of the wealthy and powerful. Our call to love justice and act mercifully is now.
A recent development on this: “A federal judge on Wednesday blocked the Trump administration from enforcing new asylum restrictions for immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, marking the latest defeat for a president waging an all-out battle in the courts to stop the flow of migrants into the country.”
Las Vegas – Review Journal
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The Rev. Rhina Ramos is National Coordinator for Proyecto Encuentros for the United Church of Christ.