By John Mark Boes
Allow me to say something that should go unsaid: The COVID-19 pandemic that is currently gripping our country is scary. We are at the hands of a silent, invisible plague that seems unshakable. Where is the Gospel hope we so boldly proclaim in the most challenging of times?
Now, imagine you are an immigrant who is here only for the benefit of your family. You have no government stimulus to fall back on, because you do not have a Social Security Number. You only have an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN), because you pay taxes. But you are not eligible for the stimulus check that is a much-needed lifeline. If you stay in your house, your family will most certainly suffer the consequences of a lack of money. If you go work, you are risking contracting the disease, spreading the disease to coworkers and customers, or even spreading the disease to your family. The choices are bleak.
Imagine you are an 8-year-old immigrant child who is in detention. All the most up-to-date research and science indicate detention environments are prime hot spots for contracting and spreading COVID-19. Suddenly, harsh symptoms are not only possible, but also probable. How can you escape from the impending doom in front of you? The easy answer is you simply cannot.
CBF Advocacy’s Stephen Reeves states it clearly: “Because we believe in the inherent dignity of all of God’s children, everyone—regardless of immigration status—deserves protection from this deadly virus. We owe an even higher duty to those held in our detention centers. No immigration enforcement action is worth the life of any immigrant, nor the personnel working in the system. Moreover, the immigrants working among us are just as impacted by the economic fallout, if not more so, and are just as deserving of federal aid. In a time when we all feel vulnerable, we should be even more mindful of the most vulnerable among us. Ministry among migrant communities in this moment means advocacy for their protection and support.”
When discussing the protection that is due to immigrants and refugees, Fellowship Southwest Coordinator Marv Knox argues we must find Jesus among our immigrant brothers and sisters. “When God judges our lives, how we treated ‘the least of these brothers and sisters of mine’ will be considered how we treated Jesus himself. In the Western Hemisphere in the time of COVID-19, ‘the least of these’ are immigrants seeking asylum in the United States. Look upon these refugees and imagine you are looking at Jesus. What would you want for him? If you love Jesus, you would want him protected from the coronavirus. You would want suspension of normal procedures, so he could be safe. Look upon these refugees and imagine you are looking at Jesus. Want for them what he wants for them.”
Elket Rodriguez, CBF’s Immigrant and Refugee Specialist, argues: “All across our country, immigrants are hungry, thirsty and in need of someone to care for them and their families. They are the vivid picture of Matthew 25:35 right now. As followers of Jesus, now is the time for us to show God’s love and mercy to the stranger among us through advocacy. Now is the time to advocate for the protection of our neighbors, just as our Lord called us to do.”
In this time, we can be the kingdom of God here on Earth. We can loudly proclaim that Jesus calls us to a higher standard, love of our neighbor. Let the words, actions and commands of Jesus “to bring good news to the poor,” and “to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19 NRSV) be our pillar of fire and cloud to guide us down the path of justice.
So, join CBF Advocacy in advocating for immigrants and refugees. Now is the time to be the presence of Christ. Now is the time to act so that justice rolls “down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream” (Amos 5:24 NRSV). Now is the time for us to give food to the hungry immigrant, drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked and care for the sick. Now is the time to speak on behalf of those who are not being heard. Now is the time for us to speak the truth. Now is the time to realize that the highest law is love.
Join us. Together, we can work toward the inbreaking of the kingdom of God.
John Mark Boes serves as CBF’s Partnerships and Advocacy Specialist.