Thursday’s headlines told us that the light of seven-year-old Jakelin Ameí Rosmery Caal Maquin’s life was extinguished after she and her father were detained by Border Patrol agents in New Mexico. Jakelin died because she did not receive timely medical care. I call on our churches to extinguish this Sunday’s Advent candle, the rose candle, the Candle of Joy, after lighting it:
in memory of Jakelin,
to express solidarity with Nery Gilberto Caal whose heart is darkened with grief by the death of his daughter,
to bring to light the joyless conditions of thousands of children waiting outside U.S. ports of entry and inside child-detention facilities,
to bear witness against the current U.S. border enforcement policy, and
to remember all of the children exploited and murdered in their journey.
Jakelin was taken into custody on December 6, Western Christianity’s Feast of St. Nicholas, patron saint of children. Nicholas’s patronage of chicas y chicos (girls and boys) comes from an ancient story of St. Nicholas raising from the dead three small children who had been murdered by an innkeeper. In the spirit of St. Nicholas we renew our commitment to the most precious of our Three Great Loves – love for children. We pledge ourselves to the ministry of extravagant welcome and hospitality for our most vulnerable neighbors so that they may have new life and have it abundantly in our midst.
What happened to Jakelin is one more tragic reminder that there is nothing great about our nation’s inhumane border enforcement policy. When daily applications for asylum at our ports of entry are “metered,” people die. When desperate asylum seekers are forced into the streets because there is no room for them in the shelters, people die. When migrants are forced into the harsh terrain of the Chihuahuan and the Sonoran, people die. When communities are militarized, people die. When U.S. Border Patrol officials blame their victims, people die. When Congress refuses to pass immigration reform legislation, people die. When the Church remains silent about the politics that under gird injustice, people die.
Along with you I long to hear a joyful word this Sunday. But a voice is heard on our southern border, mourning and great weeping, Nery crying for his daughter and refusing to be comforted because she is no more. (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18)
God of unconditional love and justice, comfort Nery and his family. Open our ears to hear the cries of all our suffering neighbors. Tear down the wall in our hearts between faith and politics so that we might speak and act boldly to transform the political systems that perpetuate injustice. Give us courage to walk the life-giving paths of trust and good will born from our hope for a new day in which everyone can indeed rejoice in a just world for all.