An administration known for its heartless cruelty towards the most vulnerable has hit a new low. The separation of immigrant children from their parents at our borders violates a bond so sacred that the historical precedents for this brutality were set by slave dealers and Nazis. (See Nicholas Kristof’s column: Trump Wasn’t First to Separate Families, but Policy Was Still Evil). Although Trump changed his horrible order over a week ago, we must press the question:
How many children have been returned?
Pediatric research shows that each day spent without a parent after a traumatic separation increases the child’s level of adverse childhood experiences. As Chris Palusky, CEO of Bethany Christian Services says, “The youngest children are shell-shocked — crying themselves to sleep. Then they wake up from their naps and again they’re crying for their mom, asking: ‘Where’s my dad?’ They absolutely need their parents right now.” For more saddening information, see Senator Elizabeth Warren’s report from the McAllen, TX Customs and Border Protection processing center, epicenter of Trump’s so-called “zero-tolerance” policy.
Lest we all despair, we must also focus on the glimmers of light, such as:
- US District Judge Dana Sabraw of San Diego ordering all the children returned within 30 days, 14 days for those under 5.
- Rachel Maddow’s eloquent tears when attempting to report the news, some of the most honest reporting on an almost inconceivable subject.
- Forty faith leaders (Christian, Buddhist, Jewish) and hundreds of others, who marched to the Otay Mesa detention center near San Diego and called out through megaphones to immigrants inside: “No estas solo” (“You are not alone”). Addressing the crowd from the back of a flatbed truck, Bishop Robert McElroy said, “I grieve because I think …that if Mary and Joseph and Jesus had come to our border last week as refugees, the child Jesus would have been ripped from [Mary’s] arms and put in a cage.”
- The United Methodist Church, who censured their member Jeff Sessions for child abuse.
- Microsoft employees who refused to work on any government contracts that would aid the effort to separate families and imprison refugees whose only crime was trying to protect their own and their children’s lives in dangerously violent countries, as any of us would do.
- Airline employees who refused to fly the children thousands of miles from their parents. Now the airlines have a fine opportunity to boost their own PR: Fly the children back immediately, at no cost.
- All who march June 30 in Families Belong Together rallies around the country.
- The little boy in a cage who held out hope: “I’ll see my dad tomorrow.”
We want to respond to the poignant statement with, “You will!” but doubt the government thought ahead about how to accomplish the reunions. Nonetheless, the gospel calls us to believe that “nothing is impossible for God.” US technical and medical savvy is unsurpassed. Facebook made a fortune connecting people—they might see the abysmal lack of information as an intriguing challenge.
And let’s start talking about reparations. For the trauma they’ve endured, the separated families should be offered immediate, unquestioned asylum. Many of us have donated to organizations like Catholic Charities Rio Grande and the Kino Border Initiative. Finally, let’s wrap the parents and children in prayer, on which every synagogue, mosque and church—both groups and individuals– should focus immediately. The Buddhist tonglen takes in their sorrow, fear and anxiety with an inhaled breath, then exhales peace, joy and security. Let’s also pray that this painful crisis in North American history be resolved quickly. We’re waiting and watching the news for the photos of reunions.
Look for the June 29 Soul Seeing column in National Catholic Reporter: “Jew, Christian, Muslim: See the Beloved Everywhere” by Kathy Coffey,