Here’s the same story observed from slightly different angles. On the front of Time magazine is a now famous picture of a little girl crying, superimposed on a red background with President Trump looking down at her. The headline: “Welcome to America.”
Trump wasn’t there when her photo was taken of course: she and her mother, an illegal immigrant, were picked up on the Texas border on June 12 and placed in custody. Time initially reported that they were separated as per Trump administration policy. They were not (the mother was told briefly to put down the child in order to be searched). Regardless of Time’s correction, the image remains that of an exhausted, possibly terrified little girl: the face of a migrant crisis that, for many, reflects the iniquities of capitalism and the inhumanity of America’s immigration policy.
This is more to that tale, however. The father of the girl says the family is from Honduras and that she has three other siblings. According to him, the mother left with the child without telling anyone, and perhaps paid a people-smuggler around $6,000. This was the second time the woman had tried to reach the United States. “I don’t have any resentment for my wife,” said the husband, “but I do think it was irresponsible of her to take the baby with her in her arms because we don’t know what could happen.”
Irresponsible or desperate? Criminal or legitimate? Economic migrant or refugee? One can be all of those things with scant contradiction. A desperate person often acts irresponsibly; anyone who breaks the law to help their children is forgivable; the line between escaping oppression and poverty is very thin.
And the image of a distraught child is sufficient narrative in itself because it tells you there’s something very wrong here and change is needed. But what, precisely? Are we Catholics ready to confront the moral complexities of the biggest challenge facing our generation?
Put aside whatever you think or feel about immigration and it comes down to this: the world is on the move in numbers never seen before, and not necessarily for the traditional reasons of famine or war.
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