What is your opinion on illegal immigration? I’m sure you have one. This is a topic that everyone is passionate about, no matter which view you take. Provide amnesty? Send them home? Seal the border? Open the border? On the one hand, the Bible tells us to obey the law. On the other, we’re to welcome the foreigner and alien in our midst. How do we apply those verses to this political—and very human—quagmire?
Our Global Sunday school class had a guest speaker this past week. Jeff Hines and his family are missionaries to Honduras. He had a perspective that totally rearranged my thoughts on this difficult subject. What he had to say on this topic is important enough that I want to share some of it with you.
Why Honduras? Honduras is the second-poorest country in the western hemisphere (after Haiti), and ranks as the most violent nation in the world. (That may change with current events in the Mideast).
As a result, Honduras is the primary source of illegal immigration to the United States. An amazing 20% of the population—over two million people—have left home, heading north. The majority of these are men who leave to get work. The promise is that they’ll send money home, providing for the wife and children left behind, but only 30% actually do. The rest abandon their Honduran families and start over north of the border. This mass exodus of working-age men is destroying Honduras.
Then there are the children. Half of Honduran children are not born in a hospital, and thus have no birth certificate. As a result, they are not allowed into the government-run schools. This perpetuates the cycle of poverty. With no education, they have little hope of getting a good job. With no money, their children are born at home, since hospitals are expensive.
Like parents anywhere, Hondurans hope for a better future for their children. When a man comes to their neighborhood with an offer to take their child—a seven-year-old daughter, for example—to the United States, they listen. These predators claim that they’ll get the little girl legal residency in the U.S., allowing the parents to legally go north to join her. That “anchor child” will get an education, and the entire family will prosper. Unfortunately, that promise is all lies. The men are gang members. (Gangs thrive in among the poor.)
If the child is lucky, he or she will end up at the U.S. border; many never make it that far and are trafficked right there in Central America. The U.S. has a policy of putting these unaccompanied children on a plane and sending them home again, but the Honduran government doesn’t want them either. As they point out, there is no proof that these children came from Honduras. They have no papers.
In an effort to bribe the Hondurans to take back the kids, the U.S. now pays a bounty of $59,000 per child! Add in a bit of corruption, and that money is cycled right back to the gangs. Meanwhile, the children end up as slaves or worse. It’s a human trafficking problem of enormous proportions. In the past three months, 50,000 children ages 3 to 11 have been taken to the U.S. by gangs.
The true solution to this horrific issue doesn’t lie at our southern border. Rather, it’s to transform Honduras into a nation that prospers. The men don’t want to go north, but they see no alternative. Parents don’t want to hand over their children, but desperation compels them. But what can we do?
The Hines and others have created an organization, Transform Honduras, which has a successful track record of transforming the poorest, most violent neighborhoods. Their first project was in the worst part of the city where they were living. In three years, that neighborhood went from the most violent to the safest! At the same time, most of the residents became followers of Jesus.
How did that happen? The Hines family and others went into the streets and began asking, “How can we serve you?” They provided clean water. They opened a kindergarten that accepted anyone (even 50-year-olds!) who wanted to learn, regardless of legal status. They came alongside families and helped them learn job skills so that parents could provide for their own children. As Jeff says, “You have to earn the right to share the gospel. We do that by serving others.”
Now God is leading Transform Honduras to expand its influence to the rest of the nation. Obviously, they can’t do this without new resources. Check out their website and learn what you can do to make a difference—by praying, by giving, by going—both overseas and right here at home.