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California nativity scene depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as caged family separated at border

The Hill logo The Hill 12/9/2019 Aris Folley
a person in a cage: California nativity scene depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as caged family separated at border © Claremont United Methodist Church/ Karen Clark Ristine California nativity scene depicts Jesus, Mary and Joseph as caged family separated at border

A church in California is capturing widespread attention online after a photo emerged of its new nativity scene, which depicts the Holy Family in cages to symbolize migrant families that were separated at the southern border under the Trump administration.

In a photo posted to Facebook by Karen Clark Ristine, who NBC News identified as a senior minister at the Claremont United Methodist Church, figures depicting Jesus, Mary and Joseph could be seen placed in cages in the nativity scene.

Ristine described the Holy Family as "the most well-known refugee family in the world" in the post on Saturday.

"Shortly after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary were forced to flee with their young son from Nazareth to Egypt to escape King Herod, a tyrant. They feared persecution and death," she wrote, asking: "What if this family sought refuge in our country today?"

"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," she continued, adding, "In the Claremont United Methodist Church nativity scene this Christmas, the Holy Family takes the place of the thousands of nameless families separated at our borders."

Ristine said the Holy Family "is reunited" in another nativity scene inside the church.

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Her post, which went up on Saturday night, has racked up more than 17,000 shares and nearly 6,000 reactions as of Sunday night.

However, Ristine's church is not the first to condemn migrant family separations under the Trump administration. A Massachusetts church similarly used its nativity scene to take aim at family separations that resulted from the Trump administration's controversial "zero tolerance" policy one year ago.

The "zero-tolerance" policy that was implemented under the Trump administration last year led to the separations of hundreds of migrant families at the southern border. Trump signed an executive order ending the policy just a few months after it was first adopted along the border amid sharp bipartisan backlash and much public opposition.

However, a number of critics have said that migrant families have continued to be separated at the border despite the executive order ending the policy. Back in October, the American Civil Liberties Union alleged that over 5,400 children in total had been separated from their families under the Trump administration since July 2017, according to NBC News.

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