Elder Vijay Aggarwal, Vice Moderator of the Presbytery of Philadelphia, Wayne Presbyterian Church
As I reflect on our trip to the border, I am struck by how well-intentioned people and well-intentioned policies have unintended consequences for those who are seeking safety in our country.
While talking to border patrol officers, their view is placing detained children in open cells or cages is the best way to ensure their safety. However when we see those images, they seem inhumane and unjust and undoubtedly leave long lasting emotional scars on those who are detained.
While in custody, the immigrant’s belts and shoelaces are removed to prevent the possibility of unintended or self-inflicted harm. When those individuals are released in Mexico to await their trial date, the drug cartels target those who have sagging pants or untied shoes. Since these individuals are often without sufficient resources, they are vulnerable to victimization by cartels in Mexico.
While every country has the right to defend its borders, the recent expansion of Expedited Removal allows agents of our government to stop anyone without cause and initiate deportation if they cannot prove that they have been a legal resident of the U.S. for more than two years. I am not sure any one of us could provide that level of documentation in a random search and yet, these individuals are subject to removal without any further court action.
Although there are some who feel these policies will deter immigration in the first place, it seems to me that anyone who has made the decision to abandon their home and family, sell all they own, and risk their lives in a long and uncertain journey will not be deterred by these actions. What does occur is the imposition of additional trauma in an already tragic situation. As we contemplate the balance of law and order and our Christian call to grace and compassion for the stranger in our midst, I hope we keep the unintended consequences central to our prayers.