Last week many members of our congregation expressed their grief and anger at the reports of immigrant families being separated at the border and incarcerated. Our feelings were exacerbated by attempts on the part of senior government officials to justify the policy as being “Biblical”. As we continue to pray for all immigrants and particularly for children separated from their loved ones, the new network of Episcopal dioceses in California has published this statement.
When large numbers of people cross borders to flee persecution, war, and disaster, they are considered refugees in the world’s eyes, and many nations build refugee camps or absorb migrating people, helping families to resettle and educating the children. In the United States, our tendency has been to treat migrants as criminals violating our international boundaries, especially at our border with Mexico.
In the past two weeks, the Department of Justice has taken the deeply troubling step of separating migrant children from their parents at border crossings and putting those children in detention facilities. This policy is intended to horrify and deter migrants. Approximately 2,000 children have been taken from their parents in the past two weeks and put in detention centers, including in San Diego.
As Christians in the Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement, we are appalled by this practice of separating children from their parents. This cruel and inhumane treatment can cause long-lasting physical and emotional injury to children, according to the American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association.
In addition, it is morally indefensible. In Hebrew and Christian Holy Scriptures, we are enjoined again and again to love the resident aliens and strangers and treat them as our own, to extend hospitality, and to share our resources with them, for we recognize that all that we have is a gift from God. We also are charged with paying special attention to the most vulnerable in our community.
Children are some of the most vulnerable members of society, and they need their families’ love as well as our care and attention. We Episcopalians join with many other people of good will across the United States in asking the government to return migrant children to their parents immediately and to allow migrants to process asylum claims or to united migrant children with family members in the United States.
Finally, we call upon Congress and our Administration to overhaul our immigration system to relieve the suffering of all those who have been harmed by our policies.
The Episcopal Public Policy Network of California