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Seeing Christ in the faces of migrants

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA Outreach Coordinator Kim Miller.
Friday, October 22, 2010

by Kim Miller
Jesuit Refugee Service/USA

Away in the desert no crib for his bed, the little boy Jesus lays down his sweet head. Maria who cries looks down where he lay, for Customs Enforcement has sent them away.

Growing up in Southern California just 100 miles north of the border where thousands of immigrants are deported each year, these words reflect the modern day version of the "Away in the Manger" I so often sang. Yet for eight-year-old me, the child Jesus represented neatly wrapped presents and familial celebrations, not the vulnerable migrant’s plight:

No crib for His bed. No room at the Inn.  "You’re not welcomed here."

Christ’s humble entrance into this world as an "illegal alien" mirrors the often overlooked struggles of millions of immigrants continually turned away from every inn and "in" to acceptance and legal status (or at the very least, recognition of their human dignity) in this country. As the immigration debates rage on and experts spout their opinions on the economic and national security implications of migration, I find myself concerned with an aspect often overlooked: the humanitarian implications of choosing whether or not to recognize the “stranger’s” infinite worth.

In working as the Outreach Coordinator for Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, I often hear about families ripped from their homes and placed in Federal Immigration Detention Centers (prisons often lacking basic necessities like edible food and adequate healthcare) or dropped off at the Mexican border hundreds of miles from home. These are the realities of immigration debates, and they have prompted concerned individuals and organizations like ours to stop overlooking the "strangers" struggles. JRS works with the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Mexico to offer meals, clothing, spiritual care, and medical care for deported migrants prior to their journey. But more than that, our programs strive to accompany vulnerable migrants in their time of need – to recognize and walk with the vulnerable migrant, Christ Himself, present in each of their faces and stories.

As I enter this year's holiday season, I find myself already humming that familiar Christmas tune, still excited for the jovial celebrations that lie ahead. But now more than ever, I am equally reminded of the young Jesuses and Marias seeking room in our Inns and in our hearts. 

Kim joined Jesuit Refugee Service/USA in August 2010 as the Outreach Coordinator. Kim received her degree in Marketing and Broadcast Studies from Gonzaga University and is currently serving her second year as a Jesuit Volunteer. Kim hopes to inform students and parish members nationwide about the Jesuit Refugee Service mission and programs and empower them to take action on the issues affecting refugees and forced migrants. If your school or parish is interested in learning more about Jesuit Refugee Service/USA, please contact Kim.