We Must Reunite All Immigrant Families; We Must Never Forcibly Separate Immigrant Children From Their Families Again
As I write this note to all of you, we are one day away from the time that the court-ordered reunification of all immigrant children forcibly separated from their parents over the past several months must be completed. It seems unlikely that the federal government will meet this deadline. A recent court order has stopped our government from deporting parents who have been forcibly separated from their children – apparently a hundred or so of these deportations have already occurred. How those parents are ever to be reunited with their children remains a mystery.
The forcible separation of immigrant families was stopped by President Trump several weeks ago. Estimates of the number of children who were separated from their families before this range from 2000 to 5000 (the government will not tell us the number, and so estimates range widely). About 150 of these children are under the age of five. We are not told where the children are being kept, although it is clear that some of them are being kept in cells in detention camps.
Jesus taught about God and the emerging Kingdom of God during his earthly ministry. He lived a life that gives us the best example we have about who God is and what God’s hopes for humanity are. Jesus spent little time on public policy. Rather, he spent almost all of his time focused on the lives of individuals; teaching them and bringing them to physical, spiritual, and social health. Through his life, Jesus showed the concern that God has for each individual human.
God also showed this concern to the Nation of Israel through the prophets, over thousands of years. As Abraham Heschel says in his book The Prophets, “The sorts of crimes and even the amount of delinquency that fill the prophets of Israel with dismay do not go beyond that which we regard as normal…To us a single act of injustice – cheating in business, exploitation of the poor – is slight; to the prophets, a disaster. To us injustice is injurious to the welfare of the people; to the prophets it is a deathblow to existence: to us, an episode; to them, a catastrophe, a threat to the world” (p. 4).
One of the strengths of St. Paul’s parish is that, although we may disagree on public policy at times, we are all able to come together to worship and thank the God who is concerned for every human being – the God who sees injustice to any Child of God as a disaster. We may have disagreements about our nation’s immigration policy. However, we gather together at the altar rail each week for our communal Eucharistic meal, and thank the God who makes our meal possible and who hopes that every human can be gathered together after his or her earthly life into an eternal life in God’s presence.
As is true for many of us, I see the many sides to our nation’s debate on immigration. I understand that thoughtful people differ on the direction that our nation’s policy should take. I remain astounded at the complete inability of members of Congress to even begin to do anything about our nation’s immigration policy.
As is also true for us, I believe, my heart breaks when I think of that 3-year-old taken from her mother’s arms and placed in foster care many states away; I weep when I think of that 7-year-old taken from the side of his father and sleeping in a cell in a detention camp hundreds of miles away. Jesus weeps about this also. And God notices: “The Lord has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds” (Amos 8:7).
What we have come to know about God, through the life of Jesus and through Scripture, tells us that God grieves for those individual Children of God – toddlers, children, adolescents, adults – separated at our border. We must reunite all these families. We must never separate families like this again.
Go with God,