As ICE agents were fanning out in different cities raiding homes and workplaces to capture and deport admittedly illegal immigrants, our church was revisiting the parable of the Good Samaritan.
When Jesus was asked to explain who is our neighbor, he tells of a man who, while going down a road, fell into the hands of robbers who stripped and beat him and left him half-dead. A priest and another man passed by on the other side of the road without offering help before a Samaritan (whose tribe was usually scorned as unworthy) stopped and cared for him. After rhetorically asking which of those three was a neighbor, Jesus instructs us to go and do likewise.
As we study this eternal parable, it is impossible not to reflect on how our country is now treating thousands of humans fleeing danger, oppression and extreme poverty. They are working for us at the lowest wages to raise their families. Although here illegally, they are guilty of no other crimes. At the same time our country is holding thousands more children who are separated from their parents and confined in what objective observers describe as unconscionable, inhumane conditions in camps with armed guards.
Sadly, very sadly, immigration has again become an American tragedy. Our history is replete with attacks on the "others," whether Irish, Slavic, German, Italian, African, Chinese, Catholic, Jewish, or someone else - the dreaded and feared "others." Just as emphatically, our history is replete with the enormous economic, scientific and cultural contributions of those others to our nation.
Positions have again become rigid and partisans have become intransigent as the bases of both parties insist on all or nothing, either refusing to acknowledge the humanity of immigrants or refusing to accept reasonable national security restrictions.
Most unfortunately, our incumbent president has shown himself unable and unwilling to lead the way to any resolution of those differences. In fact, he demonstrates little if any interest in meaningful immigration reform because it would deprive him of a partisan "red meat" issue he can use to solidify and enlarge his base. It complements nicely his overtly racist tweets and declarations. After all, during his first year in the White House, after initially accepting a bipartisan immigration reform proposal that would have addressed the precarious status of the "Dreamers" while obtaining more resources for tighter border security, including even substantial funds for "The Wall," he balked and rejected the agreement after it was heavily criticized by his immigration "hawks."
The latest nationwide ICE raids or the brouhaha over the citizenship question on 2020 census forms or his calling for native-born American members of Congress to "go back where they came from" have no legitimate policy justification but are instead White House efforts to enhance the president's standing with his base. It is an immoral and deadly political game they play.
So families suffer. Children suffer. Our consciences suffer.
Is our country truly a neighbor in the Biblical sense? Are we - each of us - acting more like those passersby or like the Samaritan?
Are we not a better people than this? Are we not a better nation than this? Let us all follow the example of the Good Samaritan. Let that neighbor be our guide.
Aubrey King is a native West Virginian now retired in Huntington after a career as a government affairs professional and university lecturer in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Marshall University and The Johns Hopkins University.