My Point of View: The lives of brothers, sisters depend on actions we take
Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, January 24, 2023
My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson
On Christmas Eve, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott delivered busloads of immigrants to a curb in Washington, D.C., in freezing temperatures.
On Christmas Day, he tweeted from his official governor’s account, “Wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas.” He pictured the Nativity and a Bible verse from the Book of Isaiah.
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Gov. Abbott had previously bussed thousands of migrants to D.C., New York City and Chicago without proper coordination with local agencies. The juxtaposition of this same Scrooge-like stunt with the Christian celebration of the birth of Jesus in a stable — because his expectant mother Mary wasn’t welcome anywhere else — underscores that the cruelty was always the point.
To put an even finer point on Abbott’s heartlessness, according to the second chapter of Matthew, the Holy Family fled to Egypt as refugees when Jesus was a baby to escape violence.
Surely one would expect an outcry from other Republican leaders, among a party whose members regularly advertise their “Christian” values, right?
There was no rebuke.
This sad chapter reveals again that the label “Christian” in Republican politics is primarily a tribal identity and is mostly estranged from following Jesus’s teachings in the New Testament.
On the other hand, it has been social service nonprofits like Catholic Charities that have stepped up to Jesus’s injunction in Matthew 25, “I was a stranger and you took me in.” This faith organization has helped to welcome many of the immigrants on Greg Abbot’s and Florida Gov. Rick DeSantis’s buses.
These immigrants each have stories and dreams to which we can relate.
Many of the immigrants have undertaken arduous, dangerous journeys to escape abject poverty and violence. In Fiscal Year 2022, at least 853 migrants died attempting to cross the US-Mexico border illegally, including a 5-year-old Guatemalan girl, who drowned when the Rio Grande’s current swept her out of her mother’s arms. Her name was Margaret Sofia Garcia.
The name Margaret is from the Hebrew “margaron” meaning “pearl.” Sofia (Sophia) means “divine wisdom” in Christian theology.
This child, who bore a Christian name, wanted to help her mother better care for her 9-year-old brother with cerebral palsy by starting a new life with her mother’s sister in Kansas.
Margaret Sofia’s crime was poverty. That is all.
In Mexico, many towns started losing their peacefulness shortly after the assault weapons ban expired in the U.S. in 2004. Drug-related homicides began spiking upward in 2008. Drugs flowed north over the Mexican border, and guns purchased legally (albeit with drug money) flowed south, reinforcing the ability of violent cartels to produce more drugs to sell in the U.S.
It has been an incredibly destructive cycle on both sides of the border. In recent years cartels have begun producing methamphetamines and fentanyl on an industrial scale. Synthetic opioids like fentanyl are a key reason that drug overdose deaths in the U.S. surged past 100,000 in 2021.
U.S.-made guns have enabled this lawlessness to grow. The crises on both sides of the border are partially the fruits of insufficient regulation of both the opioid and gun manufacturing industries.
Republicans and their media megaphones would rather put the focus and blame on immigrants and people of color who are victims of these crises so they can protect industry profits, their one true faith.
Here are some examples from the past week:
“Isn’t it crazy that this is our nation’s capital, and it’s basically a Third [World country], it’s a Somalia. — Greg Gutfield, FOX News. (Washington D.C. is majority minority.)
“But now Philadelphia is hell on Earth.” — Sean Hannity, FOX News. (Philadelphia is majority minority.)
“With the state’s out-of-control violence and crime in Metro Minnesota, it is more common than it should be to leave Minneapolis/St. Paul bruised and beat up than it should be thanks to the Walz administration’s soft-on-crime approach that is finding its way into Greater Minnesota more and more now also,” and “They will return from their fight in St. Paul to us in southern Minnesota as our re-elected Republican state representatives with the left’s mess of the metro on their boots, but they are very respected representatives and perfect for the job.” — Robert Hoffman, Freeborn County GOP chair, in the Albert Lea Tribune, emphasis added. (Minneapolis/St. Paul is about 45% minority and about 10% immigrant.)
Get it? The message is that multiracial cities like the most diverse region of our state are crime-ridden and dirty. Just ignore that crime rates are falling after they spiked during the pandemic, and the Twin Cities offer the most abundant opportunities for jobs, education, entertainment and the arts in Minnesota.
Republicans are going to keep flogging crime, filth and more crime to activate people’s fear response and signal to white supremacists. It’s very effective, unless voters understand the tools being used to manipulate them.
In contrast, I conclude with a quote from the editors of the Jesuit publication America Magazine about immigrants dying on our southern border: “We must demand much more of our government leaders, but we must also demand much more of ourselves. The lives of our brothers and sisters depend on it.”
Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.