If you’re on social media at ALL these days or consuming any kind of television or radio news, it’s impossible not to hear about the uproar over the Department of Homeland Security’s “zero tolerance” policy on illegal immigration. Under this policy, anyone entering the country illegally, even those who are seeking asylum her and have tried to enter legally but been sent away, are arrested. This has resulted in literally thousands of small children being separated from their parents in a strange land.
I’m not making this up or exaggerating; the government itself announced this past Friday that 1,995 children were separated from 1,940 adults at the U.S.-Mexico border between April 19 and May 31. Reuters reports that “Once children are separated, they are treated as unaccompanied minors under the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, which houses them in government facilities, puts them in temporary foster care, or releases them to adult sponsors in the United States.”
Anyone who studies child development will tell you that a traumatic separation like this will have disastrous consequences on these children for their whole lives. They are being separated so that their parents can be federally prosecuted for trying to enter the country illegally; I am confounded as to why we’d rather use the tax dollars of American citizens to feed and clothe these people in jail when many of them just want to live a productive, hard-working, safe life here in a safe country.
Last night, former First Lady Laura Bush penned a heart-wrenching opinion piece for the Washington Post in which she decried this policy of family separation.
Her narrative was heartfelt, full of compassion, and a wee bit scathing, too. She said,
“On Sunday, a day we as a nation set aside to honor fathers and the bonds of family, I was among the millions of Americans who watched images of children who have been torn from their parents. In the six weeks between April 19 and May 31, the Department of Homeland Security has sent nearly 2,000 children to mass detention centers or foster care. More than 100 of these children are younger than 4 years old. The reason for these separations is a zero-tolerance policy for their parents, who are accused of illegally crossing our borders.
I live in a border state. I appreciate the need to enforce and protect our international boundaries, but this zero-tolerance policy is cruel. It is immoral. And it breaks my heart.”
Mrs. Bush, who notes that she DOES live in a border state and that she understands that the need for immigration reform is real, also makes it clear that she believes the government is going about it in a very, very wrong way, and cites another huge government “homeland security” mistake with lasting repercussions from World War 2.
“Our government should not be in the business of warehousing children in converted box stores or making plans to place them in tent cities in the desert outside of El Paso. These images are eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We also know that this treatment inflicts trauma; interned Japanese have been two times as likely to suffer cardiovascular disease or die prematurely than those who were not interned.”
I fully encourage you to read Mrs. Bush’s entire piece, which is well thought-out and factual. She cites professionals who have been inside the detention centers where this children are being held. Whether malice is intended in this incarceration process or not does not matter. Damage is being done, and traumatic wounds are being inflicted.
And now let me interject my own opinion here, as unpopular as it may be. I am an American, yes, and a proud and THANKFUL one. I understand that I dodged about a thousand bullets when I was born in Dayton, Ohio, USA. The privileges and freedoms I have here are life-giving and life-saving.
But first and foremost, I am a Christian. I follow the Bible and the teachings of Christ which tell me time and time again to put OTHERS before myself. To lay down MY life… I will extend that to MY privileges, MY comfort, MY citizenship. Christ commands us to be selfless, and shouting about how “these illegal immigrants are getting what they deserve for breaking the law” is anything but. At the very least, we could call for detainment centers where families can live TOGETHER until their cases are prosecuted.
At the very least, we could act COMPASSIONATE and have EMPATHY for those who are fleeing countries filled with horrors that we could not even imagine.
The other day Attorney General Jeff Sessions cited scripture about obeying the law as a justification for this cruel policy…yet the Bible speaks many times about how to treat immigrants as well.
33 “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. 34 The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. Leviticus 19:33-34 NIV
18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners,for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Deuteronomy 10:18-19
I could go on and on…should we obey the laws of our land? Of course, as long as they are not immoral. Should we obey God’s commands? ALWAYS. What American Christians need to take to heart is this: American laws and God’s laws are not the same, and patriotism NEVER trumps Christianity.
Thank you, Laura Bush, for speaking out on behalf of these children, and these families. They are truly “the least of these” and it saddens me that our country is using enforcing the law in such a way as to make their situations worse.
I will leave you with some more parting words from our former First Lady. She’s not asking for lawbreakers to be excused, she’s simply asking this: “In 2018, can we not as a nation find a kinder, more compassionate and more moral answer to this current crisis? I, for one, believe we can.”