The Christmas story is a migration story. Not the story of Joseph and Mary having to return to Bethlehem for the census, which resulted in Jesus being born there. And not the story of Jesus, Mary and Joseph having to flee from Herod’s order to kill all newborns, which set them on the road again.
Christmas is the celebration of the greatest migration story of all time, when God migrated to earth, in the person of Jesus. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us.” (John 1:14) The Incarnation, at the center of our Christian faith, was only possible because of migration.
The Kino Border Initiative was founded five years ago to be a presence among migrants. The KBI’s vision is to help make humane, just, workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico a reality. Our mission is to promote US/Mexico border and immigration policies that affirm the dignity of the human person and a spirit of bi-national solidarity through direct humanitarian assistance and accompaniment with migrants, social and pastoral education with communities on both sides of the border; participation in collaborative networks that engage in research and advocacy to transform local, regional, and national immigration policies.
Every day we attempt to place the migrant at the center of all that we do. In Nogales, Sonora, Mexico we offer simple, humanitarian aid to men, women and sometimes children. We provide two meals a day at our comedor. We bandage wounded feet, the result of walking in the desert for days. We listen to stories of poverty and injustice that are the reasons that the migrants set out on their journey in the first place.
On the U.S. side of the border we work for more just and humane policies that recognize the dignity bestowed upon all humans by God and the contributions of the new immigrants. Through educational programs and by advocating for comprehensive immigration reform, we hope to contribute to building a new world where all that divides God’s children will be torn down.
In spite of our immigrant history, only 1% of us checked “Native American” on the 2010 census, advocating for more just and humane treatment of immigrants is a tough sell in the United States. In spite of the more than 120 passages in the Bible that speak of welcoming the stranger, our Churches are not always supportive of comprehensive immigration reform. In spite of the fact that in the past most of our families, whether we be Irish, Chinese, German, Italian, Polish, Japanese, etc., were almost certainly discriminated against, we continue to discriminate against the newly arrived today. In spite of the fact that we human beings are a migrant species, very few of us die where we are born, it is difficult to get people to see the centrality of the migrant experience in all of our lives.
Jesus was a migrant at least twice. First when he came from God to live among us humans. Then again as an infant when Joseph, Mary and Jesus were living in Egypt. Pope Pius XII wrote in Exsul Familia that, “The Holy Family of Nazareth, fleeing in Egypt, is the archetype of every refugee family. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, living in exile in Egypt to escape the fury of an evil king, are for all times and places, the models and protectors of every immigrant, alien and refugee of whatever kind.”
We enter the New Year disappointed that the expected hope of comprehensive immigration reform did not happen. But the Christmas story is not just about the past, about a baby born over 2,000 years ago. The Christmas story is about a future where all of God’s children are received and made welcome.
We Christians believe that our God became one of us. How can we best live out this central tenet of our faith, the Incarnation, God as Human, Emanuel, God with us? Could it be by living out another central belief of our faith, that Jesus, that God resides in each and every person? And by treating each person that God puts in our path as a blessing and a gift?
This Christmas, let us welcome Jesus into our lives once again, by welcoming those that he has sent to live amongst us, the new comer, the migrant.