An open letter to the Georgia congressional delegation:
Grace to you and peace.
I write to ask that you investigate human rights abuses playing out on our Southern border. Under the supervision of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and President Donald Trump, young children are being forcibly removed from their parents’ loving care. There is no legal basis for such wanton cruelty. As the Washington Post reports, “Nothing required the Trump administration to separate children from their families until Sessions’s zero-tolerance policy made it a practical necessity.”
It’s unfathomable to think that this horrendous policy could possibly be more cruel than separating families, and yet it is: when their parents are deported, these children are not immediately reunited with them. This is a true shame upon our nation, harkening back to our most sinful days of selling off the children of enslaved Africans and removing Native American children from their homes.
In this dark era, the administration has even removed children from parents seeking asylum. Asylum seekers are not here illegally; rather, they are specifically seeking legal status as provided for by domestic and international law. I ask you to take a moment and consider what this means: a mother fleeing gang violence or domestic abuse in order to protect her children is greeted at our border and immediately forced to surrender the very children she is trying to save.
Somehow, this awful reality gets worse. Given over to the “protective” custody of Health and Human Services, 1,475 unaccompanied children were lost last year. There is reason to believe many of these children are at risk of being trafficked. This situation should horrify anyone who claims the title “Pro-Life” or espouses “Family Values.” Unbelievably, HHS has said that it is not their responsibility to find these children. But despite this horrifying track record, the Administration is moving forward with a policy that will separate more scared and defenseless children from their families and send them into the arms of an inept agency.
Imagine the looks of terror as this family realizes the country that bills itself as a safe haven for the huddled masses is, in reality, a prison cell. Picture the tears in the child’s eyes. Feel their parent’s heart break as if you were watching armed guards take away your own children.
Chief of Staff John Kelly referred to the policy of separating families as a “tough deterrent.” In a healthy democracy and a moral society, human rights violations should never be used as a deterrent. To argue otherwise is to turn our back on our founding principles.
We can do better. We must do better.
There exists a bipartisan consensus that our immigration system is broken. Until it is fixed, we must take every precaution to not inflict further harm upon those who come here seeking a better and safer life for their families. We must take immediate action to undo the damage already done.
I ask you to launch a full congressional investigation into the disappearance of these 1,475 unaccompanied children, find the kids, and hold the responsible parties to account.
Furthermore, I ask you to take action to stop the unethical separation of families and immediately reunite immigrant children with their parents. There are other, far more humane ways to process undocumented immigrants as they come to our country – approaches which maintain a baseline of human dignity and respects the intrinsic value of keeping families together.
Finally, take measures to stop the illegal action of arresting asylum seekers who present themselves at designated ports of entry.
You have the power and responsibility of oversight. Exercise it. Congress can pass legislation to fix these problems. Take it up and vote for it. Put pressure on the congressional leadership to get this done.
If we are a nation built on the idea that all people are created equal and endowed with inalienable rights, if we want to live up to our loftiest ideals, then it is of paramount importance that we treat all persons with respect and dignity.
The Rev. Andrew M. Lewis+
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