The idea of taking children away from the parents strikes against the core values of any person that’s ever been in a family. It feels wrong, counterintuitive and amoral. When the Trump administration decided to start prosecuting adults trying to enter the U.S. illegally, the natural consequence was to separate them from their children, who would not be prosecuted. Thus, there was a rationale for the policy, but it got overrun with opposition from across the political spectrum. Those opposing this policy including the First Lady Melania Trump—and all the other living First Ladies. It also included a wide swath of the Christian community. Pope Francis tweeted on June 20: “We encounter Jesus in those who are poor, rejected or refugees. Do not let fear get in the way of welcoming our neighbor in need.”
Francis also expressed solidarity with the U.S Conference of Bishops stance on this issue which was even more strident. At the U.S. Bishop’s Conference in June, which was also attended by Bishop Francis Kalabat, leading American clerics slammed the Trump administration. Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of the Houston Texas Diocese was able to speak from authority both as the current head of the Bishop’s conference but also because he hails from a border state. He compared the asylum requests of those fleeing harsh condition in Central and South America to abortion. “At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life.” DiNardo continued regarding Attorney General Sessions’ pronouncement of ‘zero tolerance’ that “the decision negates decades of precedent that have provided protection to women fleeing domestic violence.” Tucson, Arizona Bishop Edward Weisenburger went a step further calling on “canonical penalties” for Catholics involved in implementing these polices. In other words, taking steps like preventing people from participating in sacraments because of their involvement in an immoral practice.
“Canonical penalties are there in place to heal,” Weisenburger said. “And therefore, for the salvation of these people’s souls, maybe it’s time for us to look at these [penalties].” Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, New Jersey, who I interviewed for the Chaldean News several months ago, proposed that a delegation of Bishops visit the border areas. And Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston, a close confidant of the Pope’s, also weighed in. “Immigration policy is a moral question that cannot be separated from decisions of right and wrong, of justice and injustice. It is about respecting and reverencing the dignity of the human person,” O’Malley said. But it wasn’t just the Catholic Church leadership. The Southern Baptist Convention also called on the Trump administration to develop a pathway to legal status for those fleeing poverty and despair “with an emphasis on protecting family unity.” The United Methodist Church followed suit and squarely took on one of their own, Attorney General Sessions who is Methodist. Their conference passed a resolution calling on the Justice Department to “immediately discontinue separating children from their families due to the zero-tolerance policy.” Christian denominations and their congregations span the political spectrum are anything but monolithic. But on this issue, there has been near uniformity of opposition. The core of the Christian message is to love another. On the issue of separating immigrant children form their parents, it’s hard to dissemble this teaching any other way. Thus, Christians stand united. It seems Trump, a Christian himself, did get the message.
Michael Sarafa is Co-publisher of the Chaldean News.