It has been tragic to watch the situation unfold as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis sent dozens of asylum-seekers – primarily from Venezuela – to Martha’s Vineyard over the past few days. Governor DeSantis said he was simply trying to force the hand of those places that have declared themselves to be sanctuary communities to prove they practice what they preach. Even sadder was the way the individuals were lured onto transport vehicles under false pretenses.
There were two things about the situation that struck me to my core. First, I was amazed at the way residents of Martha’s Vineyard valiantly rallied to extend humanitarian support to the asylum-seekers. It was beautiful to see communities of faith practice the values that Jesus taught and extend grace and compassion to those in need.
Second, I was horrified at the way some continue to play upon the fears of individuals to justify the horrific treatment of immigrants. These individuals (who I cannot in good faith call “leaders”) continue to portray immigrants in one-dimensional terms – suggesting our siblings from south of our borders are nothing more than threats to the safety of their communities who seek to take away jobs and resources from residents.
Perhaps the only silver-lining in the way the drama has played out is that such so-called “leaders” no longer make an attempt to justify their actions using the language of faith or values. They are well aware there is no way such language could be used in regard to their actions. Instead, their actions are justified in purely political terms.
While the actions of those in positions of leadership is certainly disturbing, what is most disturbing to me is that sizeable portions of the population are still falling prey to their fear-based rhetoric. The two governors most active in the efforts to target immigrants both hold sizeable leads in recent polls leading up to this November’s elections!
It is time that people of all faiths – and people committed to basic principles of human decency – rise up and challenge the actions that are destroying the moral fabric of our nation. We must carefully and prayerfully choose leaders who reflect both the values we profess with our lips and the vision upon which our country was founded (i.e., Emma Lazarus’ words written on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”).
And in the meantime, may we draw inspiration from the response of our siblings in Massachusetts. May each of us, in our own way, find ways to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.