I am going to El Salvador and Honduras to be in solidarity with the peoples of those countries. It will be my first trip to El Salvador and my fifth trip to Honduras. I have only joyful memories in my time in Honduras.
This trip is different. While our country has always been somewhat divided on the issue of immigration, during the last couple of years the divide has become a canyon. As with so many other issues, immigration has become supercharged.
The natural sympathy that people feel for people fleeing a desperate situation has gotten wrapped up in fear and political warfare. I am reminded of Chief Justice Potter Stewart who said he couldn't define pornography but he knew it when he saw it. In the same way, it is not easy to clearly define a just immigration policy, but it is easy to recognize an unjust policy.
Certainly a policy is unjust when government officials separate babies from their mothers. Certainly the policy is unjust when people are arrested for leaving drinking water for immigrants crossing a desert and dying of thirst.
Now we have the added reality that the push factors in the sending countries has become worse. Gang violence, poverty, and environmental degradation have added more pressure on people to leave and seek a better place for themselves and their families.
So what do I hope to accomplish?
I look forward to new friendships. In my earlier trips I found a people who are exceptionally friendly and hospitable. When I return to the United States, I hope to carry these friendships with me.
Perhaps I can be a bridge of friendship. While good feelings cannot solve complex economic problems, the fear of the stranger, especially when this fear is preyed upon by politicians, can keep us from thinking clearly and compassionately.