"Yes, they broke the law, but it's not a felony. It's an act of love; it's an act of commitment to your family."
"I honestly think that is a different kind of crime, that there should be a price paid, but it shouldn't rile people up that people are actually coming to this country to provide for their families. I think we need to kind of get beyond the harsh political rhetoric to a better place."
Unfortunately, for some of these communities, it became an occasion to act out their frustrations and displeasure with the federal administration. As a consequence, small groups of tired, hungry and traumatized refugee children, rather than being met with mercy, became the target of scary demonstration and insults, by rogue and insensitive crowds.
The 200 or so demonstrators with Americans flags and protest signs that surrounded and blocked three buses of migrants in Murrieta, CA, causing the buses to turn back, made news around the world. It was indeed shocking to hear about it: this is one of wealthiest cities in California, one of the safest places to raise a family, about 100,000 inhabitants and 66% Catholic. How can such a privileged community not show a bit of mercy? Is it for hatred of immigrants that they want to be known around the world?
What was surprising was not that there were people with anti-immigrant feelings, nor that their mayor was the instigator of the demonstration, because people with such feelings are present in every community. What was surprising was the indifference and complacency of everyone-else. Eventually, there was a pro-immigration event held in Murrieta, two weeks later, but it made no news. By then the city was considered an unwelcoming community.
In Arizona, Pinal County Sheriff Babeau, known for having made his political career as a tough enforcer of immigration laws, instigated a similar demonstration in Oracle, AZ. Here too, a group with flags and anti- immigrant banners was ready to meet the busses bringing refugee children to a local facility. However, in this case, a larger group of Oracle citizens gathered early in the morning and staged a simultaneous counter-demonstration, making sure that the media noticed them. They wanted the world to know that Oracle was not Murrieta. The busses never materialized, as immigration authorities heard of the commotion and sent the children elsewhere. Soon friendly posters and big hearts appeared all over town as signs of welcome.
Situations like these can happen anywhere. The question for each of us is: what are we going to do about it, if it happens in our town? Do we let a fringe group, with its negative message, speak for the community? Or, are we ready to take a stand for our Christian moral values?