Separating Families as a Deterrent to Breaking the Law is Inhumane
I tucked my children in their beds last night, with no fear for their safety or their separation from me. They fell asleep peacefully, warm and confident that their dad and I would both be there when they woke in the morning. Meanwhile, a mere 350 miles from my home, hundreds of children, many of them infants and toddlers, slept in wire enclosures in a border processing facility in McAllen, Texas. Their parents, who love their children as much as I love mine, were gone, unable to hold and comfort them as they fell asleep on concrete floors under foil “space blankets”. I imagine my own children in this situation, how confused and scared they would be, and I want to vomit.
How is this happening in America? How are we letting it continue?
Any decent human being with a conscience should be outraged and sickened by the treatment of these families by our government. By definition, this is torture. I am especially saddened by the apathy or defense of this policy by Christians. I’ve seen many professed Christ followers justify the separation of infants and toddlers from their parents because those parents are “breaking the law”. The Jesus I follow would not have sided with enforcers of an inhumane law over the physical, mental, and emotional well being of families.
Ironically, most of the families separated at the border are not breaking the law. They are legitimately seeking asylum from horrendous violence in their countries of origin. Imagine the impossible dilemma these families face: staying in their home countries and waiting to be brutally murdered or have their children trafficked into slavery, or fleeing to the United States border with a glimmer of hope for a new, safer life. It’s disheartening to watch those who take summer mission trips to these countries to “love on the people” refuse to offer that love when those same people flee to the United States for protection. It’s frustrating to see those fight diligently against sex trafficking in their comfortable, suburban neighborhoods, yet turn a blind eye to families fleeing this same atrocity in other countries. This is the very definition of cognitive dissonance and privilege.
The horrors of family separation at the border isn’t a new problem, and the atrocities of these practices can’t be blamed completely on the Trump administration. However, there has been a dramatic increase since the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy went into effect last month. This policy uses family separation as a deterrent to undocumented immigrants from trying to cross into the United States. This same administration claims to be Pro-Life and Pro-Family. What a joke. Research is clear: when children suffer trauma in this way, there are both short and long-term physical and mental effects. The trauma even changes the structure of the brain irreparably. Children’s heath and emotional well-being should not be used as a pawn to deter their parents from trying to enter the United States.
I will challenge those who are firm believers in immigration law enforcement that even those families attempting to cross the border illegally deserve basic human dignity. Separating young children from their parents is cruel, inhumane, and devoid of any dignity. And it’s certainly not pro-life.
I am certainly not arguing for open borders. A society cannot function or thrive without laws. The United States needs reasonable immigration laws with reasonable penalties for those who break those laws. But when the law allows and encourages enforcers to treat other human beings like animals, ripping children from their parents as punishment, the law is evil, and must be abolished.
Jesus never said to blindly accept and follow the law. Remember the adulterous woman that he stopped from being stoned to death in John Chapter 8? According to the law, that woman should have died that day. She broke the law, and the penalty for her crime was stoning. Had Jesus sided with the law, the woman’s broken, bloodied body would have been carried away as deterrent to adultery. Instead, Jesus showed mercy and challenged the Pharisees with, Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.
Although I feel desperately heartbroken and mostly hopeless about these atrocities happening so close to my comfortable, privileged life, there are steps all of us can take for change:
- Speak out. Challenge friends and family who support morally reprehensible policies against families in the name of “obeying the law”. I promise, you won’t die.
- Call your representatives. Separating children from their parents is not a partisan issue and we can’t just “pick a side”. This is an election year-make it clear to your representatives, regardless of their party affiliation, that failure to act on behalf of these families is complicity and could cost them their jobs.
- Donate to organizations who are funding legal representation for these children and helping reunite them with their parents, such as Glennon Doyle’s Together Rising.
A mother seeking asylum from violence or crossing the border illegally loves her children as much as I love mine. My children are no more deserving of safety, security and a warm bed to sleep in than hers. The policy of forcibly separating children from their parents is not making America great, it’s evil. Jesus wouldn’t stand for it, and neither will I.
I am all for responsible immigration laws. But this is so horribly sad and as one who has worked in the field of social work, with children who have been separated from their bio-families, this will have life long adverse consequences on these children, that they will have to work hard, and possibly a lifetime, to overcome. You are right that trauma can literally change the structure of the brain. It can be re-wired, but again, that goes back to tons of mental health work and healing for the re-wiring to occur (and assumes they will be in a place to pursue such healing).