(NBC) – A Southern California church is displaying a nativity scene depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as a family separated at the U.S.-Mexico border.
A photo posted Saturday on Facebook by a senior minister at Claremont United Methodist Church, east of Los Angeles, showed the Holy Family inside three chain link cells topped with razor wire.
In a statement posted by the minister, Karen Clark Ristine, the church said that after fleeing a tyrant king, Jesus, Mary and Joseph became “the most well-known refugee family in the world.”
“What if this family sought refuge in our country today?” the church said. “Imagine Joseph and Mary separated at the border and Jesus no older than two taken from his mother and placed behind the fences of a Border Patrol detention center.”
Inside the church, the family is reunited in a separate nativity scene, the statement said.
Ristine could not be reached for comment Sunday.
Thousands of children, many of them from Central America, were separated from their families at the United States’ southern border after the Trump administration began criminally prosecuting every adult who entered the country illegally.
In response to a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, immigration authorities said in October that 5,400 children had been separated from their families beginning in July 2017.
Earlier this year, the administration launched a new effort aimed at keeping asylum seekers in Mexico while they await court proceedings in the United States.
Last week, the nonprofit group Human Rights First said it had documented 636 reports of rape, kidnapping, torture and other violent crimes against migrants who have been returned to Mexico under the program.