By Rep. Darrio Melton
This year, the United States is facing a humanitarian crisis as more than 52,000 children are seeking refuge in the United States from violence in Central America.
Children from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala are seeking refuge from violence and poverty in their home countries by traveling to the United States and other Central American countries like Belize and Costa Rica.
On the Eastern end of this country, we have a Statue of Liberty that says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” a welcoming gesture to European immigrants since the late 1800’s.
On the Western end of this country, we have citizen militias taking up arms to secure our borders against children trying to reunite with their families or avoid oppression in their home countries.
It’s a mixed message, don’t you think?
If we look past the current political context, this situation reminds me of a similar situation from our past. More than 2,000 years ago, a King in the modern-day West Bank ordered all babies and toddlers to be slaughtered. A young couple was expecting their first child, so they fled to Egypt to escape the king’s slaughter and allow their son to live.
While they were traveling, the expectant mother went into labor. There was no room for them at the inn, so she delivered her baby in a manger.
Is this story starting to sound familiar?
Mary and Joseph took tremendous risks to give their son, Baby Jesus, a better life. We can imagine that there were people who helped them along their journey into Egypt, just like there are Good Samaritans today offering food and water to Central American refugees at the US border.
But what if Mary and Joseph had been met with an armed militia telling them to get back across the border into Bethlehem? What if Herod had been successful in his efforts to kill Jesus to prevent him from becoming King?
I’m not suggesting that any of these children will grow up to become the Messiah, but Jesus grew up to give us some great advice and guidance for situations just like this–as individuals and as a nation.
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”
If we are to truly be the land of the free and the home of the brave, we must extend these ideals from sea to shining sea. We must embrace the foundations on which this nation was built. These are children who are coming into our country seeking refuge. They’re tired, scared and alone. They don’t need a gun barrel shoved in their faces–they need a helping hand and a little compassion from this Christian nation.
Representative Darrio Melton is a Democrat from Selma. He was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives in 2010.