Rev. Jennifer Butler: Why I’m  Going to the Border

 

Children need their families. As a mom, my worst nightmare is losing my son. I would go to any lengths to protect him.

A Pentagon spokesperson said that the U.S. is preparing to shelter as many as 20,000 migrant children on four American military bases. Images come to mind of Japanese internment camps in World War II. Of our turning Jews back by the boatloads to Nazi Germany.

Religious women are mad as hell. So we are heading to the border today on a solidarity and fact-finding mission to McAllen, Texas. I’ll be reporting  here daily so be sure to check in.

My faith compels me to act. Jesus told us that whatever we do to the least of these we do to him. Scripture tells us repeatedly we are to treat immigrants with compassion for we were all once migrants and sojourners. I am not an American first. I am a Christian first.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is trying to weaponize a holy text in the name of sin and evil. Let’s be clear. The fulfillment of the law in the Bible is love of neighbor.

Trump partially capitulated to our moral outcry last week but this country is still in a moral crisis. The plight of over 2,000 children separated from parents is up in the air. The Attorney General’s “Zero Tolerance” policy remains in effect. Under this policy, whole families can now be imprisoned. Trump’s Executive Order keeps children with their families but claims the right to imprison them indefinitely. This is outrageous. Families belong in communities, not in cages.

Prior to Zero Tolerance, families were allowed to stay in communities with relatives until their claim for asylum was heard. We need to return to that policy. Keep families together and out of prisons. Reunify the children shipped across this country far from loved ones.

McAllen is  home to many wonderful folks, including the mayor who opposes what Trump is doing, and Sister Norma Pimentel who runs the Catholic Charities Respite Center for migrants.  It’s also one of the busiest entry points for immigrants, and home to one of the largest detention centers in the country.

The voices echoing in my ear from news reports and border ministry partners compel me to take action.

“I can’t go back. If I go back, he will kill us,” said the woman fleeing domestic violence with her son. Trump recently rescinded human rights protections for women fleeing domestic violence.

Another mother fled gang wars in her village that killed her relatives. She feared gangs would take her son. Now the U.S. government threatens to take her son. She faces a “Sophie’s choice.” Death by gangs who would force him to kill others or death through forced separation. But the latter choice gives him a chance to live.

Last week, 500 morally outraged women gathered in front of U.S. Customs and Border Protection offices in Washington, D.C. as border agents gathered for a conference. We delivered a petition of over 7,000 religious women demanding they stop separating families, reunite the children with parents, and keep families in communities, not cages. Our voices rattled the windows and hopefully reached some hearts. . Trump reversed the policy of separating families but that is not enough. These families are still in limbo and clearly the administration plans more harm to them.

What else can you do?

  1. Check in this week as I report in on this blog from the ground in McAllen.

  2. Call your member of Congress. I can’t stress how much calls make a difference. . Even ten calls can cause a shift in their perspective.

  3. Tell these stories in your congregation. Share, preach and teach on God’s mercy and grace. Many Christians in particular are stuck in a legalistic framework that Jesus contested. Work to soften their hearts.

  4. Give to legal services and border ministries (your denomination has these but here are some in case you want direction.)

  5. Vote. . If you really care, don’t vote for people who champion these immoral and cruel policies. Make this your top issue.

Our moral voice is critical at this moment. Above all, yes even above the law, we are called to see the image of God in each and every human being. Our government is dehumanizing people in this country. It’s up to each of us to help others see the image of God in immigrant families who flee persecution.


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