Today I went to a hearing held by the House Homeland Security Committee where Secretary Kristjen Nielsen was speaking. After the hearing, I went outside with a coalition of groups to call her – and our whole nation – to repentance for how we have treated immigrants. Below is an edited version of my remarks.
My God teaches that love casts out all fear. My God has created all people and all families in the divine image. I believe that God stands with the mother crossing the desert with her baby. That mother and her child seeking safe harbor are precious to me because they are precious to God. And they should be precious and dignified in the eyes of our government.
7-year-old Jakelin Caal and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo were precious to God, but we let them die in custody of US Customs and Border patrol this past December. And God will judge our nation if we do not repent of the Trump administration’s cruel child separation policy and repent of the unnecessary trauma and pain caused by the termination DACA and Temporary Protected Status for millions of immigrants. We are talking about families, people with dreams and dignity, people who give our communities life and give our nation promise.
Last summer, I travelled with a delegation of women of faith down to the U.S.-Mexico border. As we visited a respite center, run by Catholic sisters, I met a nine-year-old boy. He told me he had fled Honduras because his father had been murdered. When I asked what he hoped for, he said simply “I wish that we were welcome here.”
I wish we were welcome here. What a simple thing. I wish our government, from President Trump to Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen to ICE Agents welcomed these children and their parents with the dignity befitting children of God.
On that same journey to the border, I stood in a courtroom in Brownsville, TX, and watched a father sentenced to a lifetime of exile from his four children and a sick parent simply because he sought a better life for his family.
This is what our racist, wicked immigration system does: it persecutes parents for doing what anyone would do to protect the ones we love the most.
“This is what our racist, wicked immigration system does: it persecutes parents for doing what anyone would do to protect the ones we love the most.”
Congress must recognize the human dignity of immigrants like these families who have been broken by unjust policies. Secretary Nielsen and everyone responsible for the zero-tolerance policy that ripped families apart and permanently traumatized children must be held accountable. We will not rest until all children still separated from their parents are reunited.
As a nation we need to repent from our sinful mistreatment of immigrants, which is rooted in racism and white supremacy. Repentance means taking a long look at where we have gone wrong and turning around to commit ourselves to making it right.
We can and must do more than simply mend what has been torn apart. Generations of immigrants have come to this nation in search of a better life: a safe place to raise children, where opportunity is a reality, and freedom is more than just a word on a page, and opportunity is a reality. We need laws that are worthy of the American dream, that honor our values of love and dignity and family. We need a clean bill that gives a pathway to citizenship for our immigrant neighbors and families. And we demand accountability for those who tore them apart.
To be part of our movement calling for justice, join us here.