nativity scene

Dennis Jarvis (CC-BY-SA)

People are putting Jesus in a cage in immigration-themed nativity scenes

From a couple in Texas to a parish in Massachusetts, people are using nativity scenes to make a statement


Samira Sadeque


Posted on Dec 24, 2018   Updated on May 20, 2021, 10:47 pm CDT

Amid the spirit and excitement of Christmas, a Texas couple is doing their best to keep children separated at the U.S.-Mexico border on everyone’s radar.

In what appears to be an ode to the thousands of children who were separated this summer, Kate Naranjo in Austin built a nativity scene outside her home with Jesus in a cage, which has “ICE” (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) written on the wall.

“Each year we try to bring a little levity but also some seriousness to the holiday season,” Kate Naranjo told Fox7Austin.

The nativity scene usually shows Jesus in a manger, a reflection of the story of his birth. But this couple isn’t the only one making this statement. On the first Sunday of December, a church in Oklahoma put a fence around their 20-year-old nativity scene, to send the message: “The Holy Family Was A Migrant Family.”

The pastor of the Fellowship Congregational Church in Tulsa told CNN that he was drawing parallels between the very similar stories of current migrants seeking safety and the story of Jesus’s birth.

“Though it is not a direct comparison, the details in Matthew’s Gospel … can be used to consider the people fleeing to our country seeking shelter from oppression and violence,” Chris Moore told CNN.

Meanwhile, St. Susanna’s Parish in Dedham, Massachusetts has put baby Jesus in a cage, and the three wise men closed off by a wall, a reflection of the caravan of migrants coming from Honduras.

“Jesus was about taking care of one another. This is not the way to take care of one another,” Pastor Stephen Josoma told CBS Boston.

Outside Naranjos’ home in Austin, a huge board, designed as a parchment scroll, stands next to the scene. It reads: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” a quote from the Statue of Liberty, another source of division in the immigration debate. 

“We are making a statement because during this holiday season no matter what country you live in, no matter what your ethnicity is, you should be with your family at this time and unfortunately our country in recent history has decided to separate families,” Naranjo told Fox7Austin.

For her, this isn’t the first time making a statement. Last year, the couple portrayed President Donald Trump as the Grinch.

“If you know your history and you know the story of the nativity scene then you don’t see this as political because this is a reflection of Jesus’s story— he was a refugee,” said Naranjo.

An Indianapolis church started the trend back in July, when the horror of child-separation was just unfolding, but a caged nativity scene still remains relevant many months later. 

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*First Published: Dec 24, 2018, 10:05 am CST