How Far We Have to Go
BY FR. BRIAN STRASSBURGER, S.J. | July 4, 2022
Have you ever tried walking around without shoelaces? I can’t say I have ever tried it, but at the migrant center run by Catholic Charities in McAllen, TX, I have seen hundreds of migrants pass through without shoelaces. Think about a young mother trying to lead her kids across a warehouse as they clomp their way to a hot meal. It sure makes for slow and clumsy walking.
You see, the migrants’ shoelaces are removed when they are in the custody of border patrol. (It’s intended to be a safety precaution to prevent self-harm.) But even when they are released from custody and permitted to enter the U.S. to make an asylum claim, the shoelaces are not returned. I can’t make sense of it. Except to see it as a way of humiliating a person.
Jesus sends his disciples out to the world and instructs them to travel light. “Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals.” He doesn’t mention shoelaces, but I suppose that was after his time. Still, I can’t help but think about the migrants coming to our southern border when I think about the disciples being sent out “like lambs among wolves.” After all, many migrants suffer from physical or sexual violence en route, or are subjected to kidnappings where their families are extorted for thousands of dollars to secure their release. Truly, lambs among wolves.
And when they finally arrive at our border? It’s usually not a welcome reception that they find. Most are expelled immediately under Title 42, a pandemic policy that continues to dominate our border, preventing the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free from ever entering our country.
Let these be powerful reminders for how far we have to go as a country while we patriotically celebrate 4th of July weekend. And it’s not just up to our politicians or border patrol agents. We can all contribute to offering a more Christian welcome to migrants. We desperately need an end to Title 42, along with comprehensive immigration reform. Rise up and call your representatives and tell them that these issues matter to you. And keep in mind, every city in America receives migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers. Can you find a way to get involved locally, if you aren’t already engaged?
When the disciples didn’t find a warm welcome, they were told to shake the dust of the town off their feet. I suppose that’s easier to do when you don’t have shoelaces on. But if we want to provide a warmer welcome, true to the ideals of our country, let’s start by restoring dignity to migrants and asylum seekers. And can someone get them some shoelaces, please?
Fr. Brian Strassburger, S.J., is a Jesuit priest missioned to the Diocese of Brownsville, Texas to assist in a local parish and accompany migrants on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. To learn more about the work that he and Fr. Louie Hotop, S.J., are doing, check out their podcast, “The Jesuit Border Podcast,” or reach out to them at email@example.com
Human beings are made in the image and likeness of the divine – declare Holy Scriptures.
Much to think about on this Fourth of July.
“And when they finally arrive at our border? It’s usually not a welcome reception that they find. Most are expelled immediately under Title 42, a pandemic policy that continues to dominate our border, preventing the tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free from ever entering our country.” I am sure my ancestors did not feel the restrictions or restraints coming into the country. All of us need to open our minds, hearts and lives to the plight of this new generation of migrants. They come here for a meaningful life that provides them with food, shelter and a recognition of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in them. They come here to be part of the culture of what we celebrate today-our freedom! It is the place where we give of ourselves to others so that they might live a meaningful and intentional life in service to the God who created us and wants us to serve each other. Like a crowded pew in Church we make room for one more person, and another so that together we may serve our heavenly Father. .
Fr. Strassburger, I think some day you will most thankful for what you are experiencing on both sides of the border. I think about the many ways we can be of help to this situation since we are not right there. But, poverty and needs abound everywhere so I/we dig in where we are at. This brings me to the question of wondering if you or anyone in the vicinity just plain carry around with you multiple shoe laces of various lengths to hand out when it makes sense to give them out? I am recalling when growing up in a rather poor environment that when our shoe laces broke we tied them in a knot and continued to use them until it just wouldn’t work anymore. I realize this is different from having them taken away but shoes with holes and sometimes no laces did happen to be the case. Shoes with velcro would work also. Velcro wasn’t available when I was growing up. Could there just be such a drive for people to send laces or velcro shoes to someone in your area? The sacrifices of many will never be told but Our Lord sees it all. Your heart must be heavy at times with what you see and experience. Blessings to you and all who are at work in this endeavor. Thanks for what you are teaching us about the truth.