The Reverend Karen Campbell of Christ Episcopal Church in Sag Harbor is the latest East End resident to return from the southern border with eyewitness testimony of what’s happening there, despite the politically charged rhetoric that has made conversations about immigration so difficult. But they are necessary conversations — and perhaps they are most effective when led by ministers, who can remind everyone of the moral imperatives that often get overshadowed.
In the border town of Brownsville, Texas, in January, through the Community Justice Ministry of the Episcopal Diocese of Long Island, the rector came back to share her experience, which was disquieting: “I am not positive that anyone who hasn’t been there really knows the extent of this evil, which is pervasive, and that there is really no way out for these people.” She saw the defective court system in tents, talked with the asylum seekers, heard their stories, saw the conditions they must endure. She spoke with men and women who were “fleeing certain death,” saying it felt like “peeking into the death camps during Nazi Germany,” simply because deportation to their home countries meant certain death.
And she came away with a simple message that must be sent to our elected officials: “This is not right. This is not who we are.”
There’s another key point: Asylum seekers are not breaking any laws. The United States has always been a port of refuge for people fleeing persecution. Is America truly “full,” as our president has tweeted, to the point that we should turn away the most desperate people, knowing full well that it is a death sentence? Is that “who we are”?
On Thursday, February 27, the conversation will continue, in the sanctuary of the Christ Church in Sag Harbor, with a discussion titled “Our Experience of the Crisis at the Border,” featuring other local clergy who have made the trip to bear witness firsthand to the impact of “America First” when it comes to the brutal policy at our borders. If any group can speak without politics being a factor, it is these men and women who serve God, first and foremost. It’s up to the rest of us to listen. And act.