This letter was sent this morning to Governor Abbott.
Dear Governor Abbott,
I am a follower of Jesus who works at a community center in Washington DC where you have been sending busloads of asylum seekers for the past almost year. By your own count, you have chosen to send about 16,000 asylum seekers to multiple cities, including Washington DC. Asylum seekers are people and families who have arrived in Texas fleeing violence in their home countries. They did not choose to have violence perpetrated upon them. They did not choose to make an enormously long, arduous journey across many miles, often experiencing violence and hunger along the way. And they did not choose, immediately upon their arrival, to be put on a bus, not knowing where they would end up, only to find themselves in New York, Chicago, Washington DC, and even dumped in front of the Vice-President’s on Christmas Eve when the temperature was in single digits.
You made that choice for them and in so doing, you have perpetuated the violence these immigrants have experienced living under governments that cared little to nothing for them. You seem to think that the humanitarian crisis at the border will be solved through building walls and treating asylum seekers as objects with no human dignity, no story, no history, no personhood (which is stunning since you seem to champion yourself as being “pro-life” though it seems the only lives you deem worth defending belong to United States citizens).
Though my part has been quite small, I am one of a large group of community leaders, leaders of good will, and faith leaders in DC who have welcomed, housed, fed, clothed, supported, listened to, and loved the new visitors to the United States. You have objectified immigrants and used them to make yourself popular with your political base: people who have a deep-seated and racist hatred for immigrants. But people in DC, New York, and Chicago, have done just the opposite of what you have intended. We have welcomed and honored them. What you have meant for evil has been transformed for good, which is what followers of Jesus and people of good will have historically done when their rulers act wickedly.
The reason for my writing is this. On Christmas you tweeted out this statement: “May the hopeful promise of our Savior’s birth bring comfort & joy to you & your family.”
In light of your horrific treatment of asylum seekers I was stunned to read that you wrote “our Savior.” Respectfully, who’s Savior are you referring to exactly? Is it the same biblical Jesus who acted compassionately and lovingly towards those who are most vulnerable? Is it the same biblical Jesus who refused to cower before religious or political leaders who accused him repeatedly of acting “illegally”? Is it the same biblical Jesus who so identifies among the most vulnerable in society that he will charge all of us on Judgment Day, “when you have not welcomed the sojourner among you, you have not welcomed me”?
Can you show me any Scriptural basis whatsoever that would show Jesus dehumanizing sojourners for political gain as you are doing weekly? Can you show me any Scriptural basis that would justify taking asylum seekers – once again, people fleeing violence in their home countries – and once they have finished this dangerous journey, and with many of them having serious medical needs, to force them, often in the dead of night, onto buses to unknown destinations? Can you imagine the biblical Jesus doing anything like this?
I suspect you are alluding to the acculturated, individualistic, syncretized, American, evangelical Jesus who is solely focused on our individual happiness but who makes no claims on our social behavior – our ethics. This American evangelical version of Jesus is ripped out of the history and context of Scripture and is used to justify affluence and power even though in Scripture he rails against both. When your Savior looks like and acts like you, then you have spiritual license to frankly do whatever you want to whoever you want. This is dangerous.
As a brother in the biblical Christ you claim to follow, I invite you – I urge you – to meet and immerse yourself in relationships with the asylum seekers you are treating so inhumanely. Stop treating them as political pawns to grow your political career and know them as human beings with hopes, fears, and dreams. I can assure you, as you do get to know them you will increasingly discover the biblical Jesus who so strongly identifies himself among sojourners.
Governor Abbott, it is not too late. Turn away from such inhumane treatment and find Jesus in the most vulnerable in your state. Find creative ways to use your expansive power to welcome asylum seekers and to find solutions for our broken immigration system. You have nothing to lose and liberation awaits.