Free the Detainees

Free the Detainees June 22, 2019

In The New York Times we are reading that “chaotic scene of sickness and filth is unfolding in an overcrowded border station in Clint, Tex., where hundreds of young people who have recently crossed the border are being held, according to lawyers who visited the facility this week. Some of the children have been there for nearly a month.” [1] The article goes on to describe the appalling conditions:

“Children as young as 7 and 8, many of them wearing clothes caked with snot and tears, are caring for infants they’ve just met, the lawyers said. Toddlers without diapers are relieving themselves in their pants. Teenage mothers are wearing clothes stained with breast milk.

“Most of the young detainees have not been able to shower or wash their clothes since they arrived at the facility, those who visited said. They have no access to toothbrushes, toothpaste or soap.

“’There is a stench,’ said Elora Mukherjee, director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Columbia Law School, one of the lawyers who visited the facility. ‘The overwhelming majority of children have not bathed since they crossed the border.’”

But the border station at Clint isn’t the only location where deplorable conditions exist.

“Conditions at Customs and Border Protection facilities along the border have been an issue of increasing concern as officials warn that the recent large influx of migrant families has driven many of the facilities well past their capacities. The border station in Clint is only one of those with problems.

“In May, the inspector general for the Department of Homeland Security warned of ‘dangerous overcrowding’ among adult migrants housed at the border processing center in El Paso, with up to 900 migrants being held at a facility designed for 125. In some cases, cells designed for 35 people were holding 155 people.

“’Border Patrol agents told us some of the detainees had been held in standing-room-only conditions for days or weeks,’ the inspector general’s office said in its report, which noted that some detainees were observed standing on toilets in the cells ‘to make room and gain breathing space, thus limiting access to the toilets.’”

This is, quite simply, an outrage; a human and moral outrage. The question of whether the presence of these people in this country is legal or not is entirely beside the point. Human beings shouldn’t be treated this way, and there is no excuse for it. Every American should be filled with shame that this atrocity is being carried on in our name.

Combine this with the family separations affecting children as young as four-months-old. [2] Shame on us!

Shame on us.

But the migrants are coming in such numbers they are overwhelming our facilities. What should we do with them?

Here’s an idea that’s better than the plan that’s currently in operation: do nothing with them. Free the detainees. Let them go. If we’re concerned about them taking jobs from Americans, then impose heavy penalties on the businesses who hire them. But let the churches and other religious and charitable establishments do their job with these people, and treat them like human beings.

Most of all, heed the warning of Jesus Christ:

“And when the Son of man shall come in his majesty, and all the angels with him, then shall he sit upon the seat of his majesty. And all nations shall be gathered together before him, and he shall separate them one from another, as the shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.

“Then shall the king say to them that shall be on his right hand: ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, possess you the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave me to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me in: Naked, and you covered me: sick, and you visited me: I was in prison, and you came to me.’

“Then shall the just answer him, saying: ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, and fed thee; thirsty, and gave thee drink? And when did we see thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and covered thee? Or when did we see thee sick or in prison, and came to thee?’

“And the king answering, shall say to them: ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.’

“Then he shall say to them also that shall be on his left hand: ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat: I was thirsty, and you gave me not to drink. I was a stranger, and you took me not in: naked, and you covered me not: sick and in prison, and you did not visit me.’

“Then they also shall answer him, saying: ‘Lord, when did we see thee hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister to thee?’

“Then he shall answer them, saying: ‘Amen I say to you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me.’

“And these shall go into everlasting punishment: but the just, into life everlasting.”

(Matthew 25:31-46)

Strangers who are the least of these are currently being housed at our border under deplorable conditions. Our choice is between the kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world, or the everlasting fire which was prepared for the devil and his angels.

It’s as simple as that.



The icon of St. Joseph the Worker is by Daniel Nichols.

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