Dear President Biden, Vice President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,
February 2021 marked the 70th anniversary since my father, Efrain Agosto, Sr., left his birthplace, the Island of Puerto Rico, seeking work in New York City. He was part of a major wave of Puerto Ricans that left the Island in the post-World War II period. By summertime, after finding a job and a place to live, my mother, Emerita Agosto Perez, joined him. My sisters and I have been able to forge successful professional and personal lives thanks to the sacrifices of our parents.
As we look toward the southern border today, where other families seek relief from social and economic crises in their home countries, I am hopeful for a renewed effort on the part of your administration to do better for them. The previous administration refused to do better, instead exasperating the situation with inhumane policies of family separation and abrogation of international refugee laws and practices. We can do better, even as some congressional forces resist change and refuse to acknowledge the historic contributions of immigrants to the social and economic fabric of our nation.
“We have the resources and values … to serve with compassion and excellence those who suffer around the world”
To enact better immigration policy, we must think deeper. As the New Testament writer, the Apostle Paul, insisted: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Letter to the Philippians 4:8). Would that your administration and members of Congress think long and hard, putting aside partisan differences and xenophobia, to arrive at fair, honorable, and just actions on behalf of the suffering families coming to the border seeking solace and justice, life and well-being.
We have the resources and values in this nation, even amid a pandemic, to serve with compassion and excellence those who suffer around the world, including our nearest neighbors. They in turn will help us build better. My parents thought so and did so. We should too.
Thank you for thinking deeply and justly in this fateful season and working tirelessly toward excellence in government service.
Efrain Agosto, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament Studies
New York Theological Seminary