Asylum seekers, like refugees, are migrants who flee their homes due to a fear of violence or persecution. U.S. and international laws affirm the right to apply for asylum. However, several changes in U.S. immigration policy are preventing asylum seekers from finding safety.
In recent years, asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border have been forced to wait for months in overcrowded tent cities and shelters in Mexico. The U.S. has sent some to other Central American countries, such as Guatemala, which does not have adequate capacity to take in asylum seekers or process their claims. The countries agreed to take the asylum seekers because they fear U.S. economic and political sanctions.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has further exacerbated the situation, leading to a near complete closure of the U.S.-Mexico border to asylum seekers—in violation of U.S. law. One 2019 study indicates that 92% of asylum seekers have family or close friends in the U.S. they can stay with, but they cannot reach them.
Scripture tells us that all people are made in the image of God and deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. That’s true for all migrants, no matter where they are on their journey — away from home, returning home or anywhere in between. Some U.S. government leaders have used COVID-19 as a pretense to turn away people seeking safety in the U.S., rather than safely admitting them using internationally-recognized procedures; however, we are reminded in Mark 1:41 that when people with incurable diseases approached Jesus, he was “moved by compassion” and healed them. MCC encourages people to pray and to seek ways to show compassion.
MCC asks people of faith to urge their members of Congress to craft policies that welcome those seeking asylum in the U.S. and to focus any federal spending related to asylum seekers on meeting humanitarian needs and addressing the root causes of migration rather than on detention, deterrence and militarized borders.
Find current action alerts at washington.mcc.org.
MCC continues to address the root causes of poverty and violence that push Central American families to flee their home countries. By offering opportunities – from vocational and agricultural training to peacebuilding and education – MCC helps people become more secure where they are.
Sometimes people must flee for the safety and well-being of their families. MCC supports its partners’ efforts to provide food, shelter, legal assistance and psychosocial support to them as they travel. Your gift to Central American migrants helps those who stay home and those who must leave.
A gift to where needed most supports MCC’s work with displaced people and refugees all over the world.
Attorneys, staff of nonprofit organizations and church members who are interested in creating a church-based immigration program or who want to learn more about the complex U.S. immigration system can take MCC’s five-day intensive immigration law training.
Once travel is feasible again, consider participating in a learning tour of Central America or the U.S.-Mexico border to learn why so many parents with their children leave Central America and seek refuge in the U.S.
Reflect on the stories of migration in the Bible, including the story of Abram in Genesis 12 and the book of Ruth.
Reach out to your local MCC office and invite an MCC staff person to speak (in person or via video conference) at your church, youth group or community group about migration and border-related topics and the work of MCC in these areas.
Ask God to move the hearts of political leaders to create more just laws and more legal pathways for immigrants, including those seeking refuge, work or family and those trapped at the border, often in dangerous circumstances.
Ask God to touch the hearts of immigration enforcement officials, staff at detention centers, military service members and judges in Central America, Mexico and the U.S. so that they treat migrants with respect and dignity.
Ask God to bring comfort, courage and wisdom to adults and children in transit, in tent cities, and in detention, and to the church leaders, staff and volunteers of nonprofit organizations and immigration attorneys who work tirelessly on their behalf.
Ask God to show you how you can help respond with compassion to this ongoing crisis.
5. Connect with MCC
Email MCC, at email@example.com, to learn more about opportunities to help asylum seekers stranded in this complex asylum process.