Dear Editor:


Pastor Tim Borseth’s letter Jan. 17 is so rife with ignorant misinformation about immigration and so violates my personal understanding of the teachings of Jesus that I am compelled to respond.

First of all, Pastor Borseth repeats the resoundingly repeated insistence of FOX NEWS and other far-right voices that we have an immigrant crisis on our border with Mexico that can only be cured by building Trump’s magic but impossible wall. He typifies all immigrant effort to enter the U.S. as representing “a high level of abuse by those who wish to enter our country illegally for all sorts of reasons, both noble and ignoble,” and that “it is our government’s responsibility to protect citizens from the inordinate amount of illegal immigration going on there (the caravans),” and that “by all measures that would be a wall.”

Everything in these claims has been proven false. The vast majority of those in the caravans, and others who approach the border for entry, have arrived to do so legally through our perfectly legal (not to mention Christian) system of application for asylum. Those we see trying to breach the wall that is already there are doing so more than anything else because they have discovered upon arrival, another truth: our asylum system is so backed up and broken that even our legal opportunity to relieve them of suffering in their home countries is essentially unavailable to them. 

Perhaps while FOX was reporting that Trump was claiming 4000 terrorists had been apprehended at our southern border, Pastor Borseth missed the facts reported everywhere else that of the 2,554 people on the FBI’s terrorist screening list who were stopped trying to enter the U.S. in 2017, 2170 were stopped in airports, 49 were stopped trying to enter by sea, and 335 by land. How many from the border with Mexico? Zero. Perhaps he also missed the fact that the number of refugees actually admitted to the U.S. in 2018 was 77 percent less than it was in 2016, but that the number of kids in detention shot up 433 percent. Are they also God’s children, Pastor?

I, too, have traveled extensively in some of Trump’s “shit hole” countries, and as the Pastor claims, I have also discovered that “people in developing Third World countries appear to be happier than most Americans.” Apparently he has no knowledge of what Syria looks like these days, those formerly happy neighborhoods bombed into oblivion. Maybe Pastor Borseth has missed the fact that a substantial percentage of Venezuela’s population has had to flee to neighboring countries just to avoid starvation, those same happy people the pastor would like us to believe are still safe at home. I lived a summer in El Salvador back in 1963 when that now gang and violence ridden country was largely safe, too, and which now feeds these so-called reprehensible caravans heading north in search of some kind of safety.

As for that wall Trump considers such a magic solution, hardly anyone in the know about immigration agrees that a wall, could it ever be built all the way coast to coast, agrees that it would solve any of the claimed problems. This ridiculous idea is opposed almost universally by those who actually live along the border, who repeatedly reveal that this region is one of the safest in the country. And for reasons ranging from impossible terrain and geography and Big Bend National Park standing resolutely in the way, to practically universal opposition by private land owners whose property would have to be expropriated, the wall will simply never happen. None of the above has anything to do with Nancy Pelosi, but it has everything to do with the ignorance of our president in this matter, and the ignorance of those who still support him.

Another misconception which is defied by factual analysis is that immigrants, especially illegal ones, are heavily responsible for crime in this country. This is a blatant falsehood. The fact of the matter is that if we did not have an abundance of immigrants - and, pastor Borseth, I am specifically talking about immigrants of color – you would nearly starve. The vast majority of the fruits and vegetables you eat and the meat you consume gets to your table thanks to the back-breaking labor of immigrants (many of them here illegally) slaving away at jobs very few white folks are willing to do. 

Try one of those jobs sometime, I dare you, picking your dinner from pesticide-laden California Central Valley fields in 110-degree summer heat. Or perhaps when you gather your mission together at the border to convert those heathens, you might do the very Christian thing of giving the Latina help in your hotel a day off while you white folks clean all the toilets and make all the beds.  Not only that, but it has long been known that our immigrant population pays more taxes than they use up in services, just as they do in European countries, and the remittances they send home help stave off poverty in their home countries enough to reduce the economic need to emigrate to America in the first place. And that fact includes those who are here with papers as well as those who have none.

I would like to sympathize with your experience trying to enter China, a country you claim asked you to revoke your pastoral occupation. If you consider that a human rights abuse, how might you define the need to escape the dangers of rape, gang violence, or political genocide? I’d say you got off pretty easy. You apparently did not even end up in a detainment camp of the quality we have relegated to God’s children at our own border.

And while I am on the subject of God’s children, may I please point out the most egregious statement of all in your letter?

“It is the church’s job to come alongside potential immigrants and help them with the necessities of life, with the process of legally entering our country ...” So far, so good. Perhaps instead of taking your mission to the border, how about taking it to Washington, D.C. and offer to our racist, xenophobic president your support for a fully functional and expedient asylum process, as mandated by existing law, instead of one constipated with thousands of backlogged cases and waiting times in years. How about advocating for a truly Christian reform of our whole immigration process?

But then you continued, and to help them “find the joy of attaining eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

I thought we all understood our constitutionally guaranteed separation of church and state. Your statement that the church is not the government simply will not cover it. The right to immigrate is not, and constitutionally cannot be, limited only to Christians, or to those potentially vulnerable to the work of Christian missionaries set on winning converts. We are a country of religions freedom, in case you and your Life House Church have forgotten. And last time I referred to the Good Book, it was my impression that Jesus our Lord insisted that we are all God’s children. But that, of course, would have been well before any such thing as a Christian church had been invented.

However, it might be worthwhile to remind Pastor Borseth that all of the Latin American countries from which immigrants are fleeing north are predominantly Catholic, the few remaining being Christians of other denominations. Catholicism is a faith that last I heard still embraces Jesus Christ. Unless, of course, he assumes no immigrant could possibly have a religion, or that the caravans are, as Trump claims, full of Muslims, criminals, and other “really bad dudes” who could obviously not be Christians. He might be more correct to assume that the vast majority already subscribe to a Christian God, thus saving himself all the trouble of staging a mission to our southern border.

                                                    

                                                                                                                                                                                        David Cavagnaro

Decorah