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S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster recently signed an executive order barring unaccompanied minors from being housed by foster care or group homes in the state. 

This announcement came right after he made a very public trip to the border last week. His argument is that the state Department of Social Services is already short on foster care and cannot afford to house unaccompanied minors. We understand that the foster care system needs greater support, efficiency and structure, but to deny families that would take up the charge of caring for these migrant children is unethical and cruel.

We did feel that as two individuals who have spent extensive time on the Mexican side of the border, serving, praying with and learning from the migrants at the border camp in Matamoros, Mexico, we could give some insights that are sorely missed in the current discussion.

If you listen to McMaster and many in the nation, the problem is that Biden’s policies are too lenient. It is true that Biden has not allowed the quick removal and expulsion of minors, which was practiced under Trump, but this is because to deport minors to often horrific conditions and possible kidnapping is a human rights violation and against any legitimate ethical framework.

However, this alone does not explain the large surge of unaccompanied minors. Perhaps the more substantial issue is how Biden has continued with Title 42, a program that restricts those seeking asylum in the name of stopping the spread of COVID-19, which now is little more than an excuse to not open back up the borders to migrants. This has caused many families to make heart-wrenching decisions to send their children illegally across the Rio Grande River after they have been deported or stopped from entering.

Families are forced to pay cartel members to have their children cross the river. If they try to cross without paying, they can be killed. Of course, this restrictive system bolsters the cartels even more. The problem is not that the Biden administration is too lenient but that it is continuing to be overly restrictive. 

Creating anxiety about immigration is a worn-out tactic used by those who want to create fear of the other to gain political clout. Unfortunately, McMaster is playing politics. It’s easy pickings when society as a whole has hardened hearts toward immigrants and is feeding that narrative under the guise of “protect and care for our own.” We are hoping as a society we can move beyond this simplistic thinking.

We will never forget one of the last nights we were in the border camp that the people were praying they would finally have the chance to cross the Rio Grande, which they compared to the Jordan River. Just as God delivered the children of Israel, he would deliver them.

This past year has shown us it is due time for Americans to reevaluate their stances on caring for the orphan, widow, sojourner and oppressed. We believe this is a wakeup call for churches especially in the Bible Belt to recall the scriptures of caring for our neighbor and the need of supporting the foster care system while still embracing immigrant children. It’s time to reimagine what caring for sojourners and asylum seekers looks and sounds like. 

McMaster’s executive order is another compassionless political move that fuels cowardly convictions, which are roots of biased, discriminatory and xenophobic mindsets to which any of us can succumb if we do not actively work against it. We hope that our state government will evaluate DSS and foster care in our state with the true intent of caring for South Carolinian families and children; a stop order on embracing others isn’t necessary. Partnerships, not partisanship, will raise humanity as the tide, which raises all ships.

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