EDITORIAL: Our Bible’s not big on tearing up families
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A father who was separated from his wife and child after they requested asylum in the United States last month killed himself while in custody.
The man from Honduras “lost it” at the U.S. southern border, according to the Washington Post, when told that his child would be taken from him. He refused to let go of his boy. Agents pried the child away.
The next morning, the man was found dead in his cell. He had killed himself.
This is what happens when a nation — our nation — loses its moral bearings. This is what happens when families are torn apart by an attorney general who hides behind the Bible to justify cruelty in the name of the law.
Tragedy after tragedy is unfolding along the border because of a decision by President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to prosecute undocumented immigrants as criminals. As a matter of law, it is unnecessary, and as a matter of morality, it has to stop.
Why are Trump and Sessions tearing families apart? To scare other poor souls yearning to flee violence and poverty in Central American from even thinking about seeking refuge in the United States. Stay where you are and die if you must, Trump and Sessions are saying, or we’ll make life hell for you over here.
Confused children are being crowded into government-contracted shelters. A former staffer at one shelter, in Arizona, told the Los Angeles Times that the place was becoming more “prison-like.” Kids are trying to run away. They are fighting back in anger. They are becoming suicidal.
But it’s all good with the Bible, right?
“Illegal entry into the United States is a crime,” our sanctimonious attorney general said Thursday in Fort Wayne, Indiana, defending the indefensible. “I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained them for the purpose of order.”
And we would cite to you, Mr. Attorney General, the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the merciful.”
Nowhere in any great religion’s teachings is it right to rip innocent children from the arms of parents, especially when those parents’ only real offense is to dare for a better life for their children.
This time, we want to believe, the American people finally will tell the Trump administration it has gone too far. Even Republicans in Congress who usually see, hear and speak no evil about this administration are beginning to object, if only to save their hides in the November elections. We’re talking about, for example, Rep. Peter Roskam of Wheaton.
“I stand with residents of the 6th District and urge the Department of Justice and Homeland Security to reverse the zero tolerance policy that removes children from their parents at the border,” he said in a statement.
Not that this has anything to do with anything, but Roskam in November faces a tough challenge from Democrat Sean Casten.
In the House, unfortunately, right-wing hard-liners control the immigration debate. And they will forever tear up families and do nothing to create a safe legal space for the so-called Dreamers, those younger undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. For them, families and Dreamers are nothing more than pawns in a game to build Trump’s stupid wall and shut America’s borders to almost all desperate refugees.
A proposed bill by Republican U.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte of Virginia calls for the construction of Trump’s wall, an end to family-based migration as well as the diversity visa program. Dreamers would be granted nothing better than a three-year renewable legal status.
They would remain, that is to say, second-class residents in the only country they have ever really known.
That bill will never pass, but nobody ever thought it would. It’s a show bill, its entire purpose to give conservative hard-liners something to boast about back home.
A second proposed bill, still unfinished, is being touted as more “moderate,” but it, too, is unlikely to pass. It would create a path to citizenship for Dreamers in exchange for $25 billion for the president’s wall, and it would drastically curtail legal immigration.
Democrats won’t go for that one. They’re understandably tired of the Republicans holding Dreamers hostage to right-wing extremism. But the right-wing extremists won’t go for it, either. They’ll call it — horrors — amnesty.
House leaders said Thursday a provision would be included to end separation of families at the border, but the administration can reverse course without it.
The cruelty grows even worse. Sessions has ruled that victims of domestic violence and gang violence no longer will qualify for asylum, the very reasons many Central Americans make the dangerous trek to the U.S.
Desperate families. Dreamers. Abused women.
In Trump’s and Sessions’ America, they can all go away.
Tell us again, Mr. Sessions, what Bible you’re reading.
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