You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
-Deuteronomy 10:19 NRSV
The National Council of Churches is outraged at the illegal use of tear gas on unarmed asylum-seekers at the US-Mexico border on Sunday. This asymmetrical use of force against a crowd that included children was immoral and disregarded the standards of international law. Our hearts go out to the people, especially the innocent children, victimized in this horrific act.
Activists in the border region between Tijuana and San Diego report that the situation unfolding there is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis. This kind of cruelty is unnecessary and unacceptable.
An essential component of the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees is that of non-refoulement, the notion that those seeking asylum cannot be returned to the country from which they have fled. In addition, tear gas is banned by the Geneva Protocols and by agreements signed by the United States since 1993. As every human being bears the image of God and is of sacred worth, we decry both the denial of this right to seek asylum and the use of tear gas against unarmed persons and call upon the United States to fulfill its treaty obligations.
We call upon the government to cease the extreme measures of border closures and attacks upon asylum-seekers and treat immigrants with compassion and fairness. We ask that the border crossings be de-militarized, that asylum-seekers’ requests be processed according to legal norms, and that the inflammatory rhetoric that has encircled the “migrant caravan” be ceased.
We urge all people of faith and goodwill to call their Senators and members of Congress at 202-224-3121 immediately and urge the government to end this cruelty, abide by treaties, and reform immigration laws.