According to Jeff Glor of CBS Evening News, over the last five weeks, 2,300 children have been separated from their parents at the United States border. Men and women crossing the border are being detained, separated into large holding pens; the children are sent elsewhere. Unaccompanied alien children are held for 72 hours and then placed in one of a hundred shelters.
CNN’s latest poll reveals two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the Trump administration’s practice of separating undocumented immigrant children from their families and holding them in government facilities on U.S. borders. 28% of Americans approve. Regardless of the origin of this separation policy (Trump claims it originates with the Democrats), it is within President Trump’s power to sign legislation ending the policy. However, he and his supporters do not want to change a thing. Trump’s base passionately supports him and believes he is saving America; seizing children, they profess, is justified. After all, immigrants are using their children to play on American sympathy and gain access to the United States, and they must be stopped.
“The United States will not be a migrant camp and it will not be a refugee holding facility. It won’t be,” President Trump said. “We want safety and we want security for our country.”
Bravo to that! Trump will get no argument from me there, but we part ways when it comes to separating families. Doing so, Trump claims, is the best way to discourage immigrants from coming to our country illegally, the logic being if immigrants expect their children to be taken from them when they get here, they will rethink their plans to cross the border. That makes sense, I suppose, in a twisted, cruel way. Not so, according to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who defended the no tolerance/separation policy by quoting a passage from the Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Romans “to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders supported Sessions. “It’s very biblical to enforce the law,” she said.
Are they right? Is it biblical to enforce the law? Has God ordained the government for the purpose of order? Is it biblical, then, to take children from their parents, to penalize innocent children for their parents’ real or imagined transgressions?
Father James Martin, SJ, says it is not. On MSNBC, Father Martin stated, “It is not biblical to treat migrants and refugees like animals. It is not biblical to take children away from their parents. It is not biblical to ignore the needs of the stranger. It is not biblical to enforce unjust laws. Do not use the Bible to justify sin.”
Trump critics agree and regard the immigrant separation policy as child abuse. Former first ladies Laura Bush, Michelle Obama, and Hillary Clinton have spoken out against Trump’s policy. “Separating families,” Mrs. Clinton recently said, “is not mandated by law. This is an outright lie.” Of course, Trump supporters will never agree with anything Hillary Clinton says, but why, I wonder, are they not listening to our current First Lady, Melania Trump?
“We need to be a country that follows all laws,” Mrs. Trump said, “but also a country that governs with heart.”
Easier said than done when our President seems hard-hearted and he and his followers regard immigrants as animals to be penned. The 28% of Americans who support this separation policy should ask themselves: would they be the one to take a child away from his/her family? Would they lie to a mother or a father, tell them their child is going to the showers and not bring the child back? Would their hearts remain unbroken when they heard the cries of the children? And most importantly, would Jesus take a child away from its mother and father?
Bottom line: we need to secure our borders, but there has to be a gentler, kinder way to do so.