Crossing borders

At the time our daughter came into our lives, I was serving as the chair of the Church and Ministry Committee of the North Dakota Conference of the United Church of Christ and we were working with a new congregation forming in Winnipeg, Canada. The congregation was meeting in the church building of an existing, but aging congregation and the host church was preparing to transfer ownership to the new congregation at the occasion of the signing of the charter of the new congregation. We had worked with these two congregations for some time and the celebrations were all set. As part of those celebrations, I was committed to going to Canada and our plan was for our family to all go along on the trip. The timing of the arrival of our daughter meant that we had custody of her but the adoption process was not yet complete. Before heading to Canada, we made sure that we had all of the paperwork we needed to be able to prove at the border that we had legal permission to take her temporarily out of the United States and return with her. It turned out that there were no problems at the border crossing in either direction. No questions were asked about our daughter at all. Looking back, it seems strange to me that our attention had been so exclusively focused on getting the paperwork for our daughter in order. I don’t think we had any documentation for our 2 1/2 year old son who was also on the trip with us. The only identification we had for ourselves were our drivers licenses.

Those were different days. Crossing the border to Canada was a different matter. Our children applied for and received their passports when they were high school students in preparation for exchange trips to Japan. Our new grandson received his passport when he was four weeks old. He also received his official citizenship papers attesting that he is a US citizen. He was born in Japan, but there is no question of his citizenship as his parents are both US citizens and he was born in a US military hospital. But getting the paperwork, including a passport so he can travel with his parents, was an important step in the process of becoming parents for our daughter and son in law.

Our other grandchildren all have passports as well. Living just 50 miles from the Canadian Border they cross the international boundary to take their kids to the zoo or to take us to and from the airport in Vancouver.

Except for four years of graduate school when I lived in Chicago, I have always lived in states that border Canada. As a child we made several trips to Canada as a part of our family life. We had cousins who lived in Canada. Border crossings were no big deal. I didn’t have a passport until I was preparing for a trip to Europe when I was 25 years old.

From my earliest years my family has hosted people from other countries in our home. Both my grandfather and my father served as members of the Board of Trustees of Rocky Mountain College and international students were frequently invited into our home. We hosted missionaries and other guests from other countries. My parents belonged to a travel organization that matched international travelers with hosts. We had a stream of guests from other countries, many of whom became friends.

Growing up as I did, I never developed a fear of those from other countries. I have a difficult time understanding the fear, anger and passion that some express over immigration. I was proud of my immigrant forebears. I thought immigration was a part of what made our country great. I really don’t understand why this has become such a potent political issue in our country today. I’ve lived next to an international boundary. I’ve flown across it in private airplanes. I know how long and large the edges of our country are. The thought of a border wall boggles my mind. The President of the United States being so obsessed with a physical barrier that he is willing to encourage wall builders to ignore the law and promises pardons to those who subvert due process seems bizarre to me. How could a man who occupies what is arguably the most powerful office in the world be so blatantly afraid? How can prominent members of his political party stand by and silently tolerate such behavior?

I’ve read the editorials. I know the arguments. I understand that the changing demographics of our nation don’t bode well for maintaining current political power. There are more and more states where Republican majorities can only be maintained through voter suppression. Abandoning democratic principles in order to maintain power, however, seems contrary to the values of our country.

I guess it is possible that our country is so vast and so diverse that there are no longer any values that we share, but I shudder at the thought. Can’t we agree that we share humanity with people who were born in other places? Can’t we agree that separating children from their families is wrong? Can’t we agree that traveling across borders and meeting people in other countries is a valuable experience?

All of this turmoil is causing me a bit of anxiety about the future. When you combine that with our current administration’s constant and consistent actions to degrade environmental protections and ignore the science of global warming there are legitimate causes for concern about the world our grandchildren will inherit. But there is a difference between fears based on real threats and fear that exists when there is no threat.

I’ve worked hard to avoid making political comments in my journal and in the worship of our congregation. There have been times when I have been silent when I have felt the call to speak out. We may have reached the point where silence is no longer an option.

I will not give into the fear mongers who proclaim that those not born in our country are somehow a threat. Wall or no wall immigrants will continue to come to our country. And the Bible is very clear in its instructions on how we are treat widows, orphans and immigrants. I’m no prophet, but I can hear the prophets’ words.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!