The Senate recently passed S.744 the Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act. This was a historic and momentous step towards addressing our current immigration system. But while we focus on the passage of such legislation, we need to remember the day-to-day consequences of our country’s immigration policies. We must remember that the separation of families is still occurring. That as a result of flawed and punitive immigration enforcement policies, more than 1,100 mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters will be deported every single day thereby affecting the mental and physical health of nearly 5 million American children whose parents are undocumented. Today, families will continue to be separated and the fabric of our communities forever impacted by the loss of yet another one of our brothers and sisters.
Children are often the unintended victims of our flawed immigration system. Some children may be too young to comprehend the complex immigration system that has led to the deportation of a family member but they certainly feel the pain of having to live without the love and care of someone dear to them. They are the ones who have to live without the people with whom they are supposed share all their precious childhood moments. All the tears, the smiles, the playful hugs and kisses, all of these are unfairly taken away from them. At such tender ages they must face the reality that their parents, and they themselves, are often criminalized for not being born in this country. At such tender ages, they are forced to deal with the heartbreak, pain, and anger that result from a system that often punishes the most vulnerable—the ones whose voices we often forget to listen to.
It is for them that we must advocate. Because you cannot disentangle their health, well being, and happiness from the well being of our communities and of our country as a whole. As Christians we value and respect the sanctity of human life, the right of families to remain together, and the right of children to live free of uncertainty and fear, free of terror and harm.
But what can we do?
We can begin by educating ourselves on the impact that family separations have on our communities as a whole. You can read a report here. The report details the physical, psychological, and economic consequences of family separations.
Learn about the issues affecting our immigrant communities including the increased number of deportations. A few weeks ago, a delegation of researchers from Mexico’s northern border visited Washington D.C. to share findings on human rights violations in U.S. detention centers and along the U.S./Mexico border. Their report details an increase in the number of family separations due to interior enforcement programs like Secure Communities and 287g. These programs have contributed to the unprecedented number of deportations under President Obama and many groups have called for their termination.
Most importantly, NOW is the time to make sure that our voices are heard! It is important that we lift up our voices and advocate for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s public witness on immigration which calls for legislation that respects the dignity of all children of god and that follows the priorities of our General Assembly policy. The faith community has worked tirelessly to pass a bill in the Senate. It is not perfect but we can still work to ensure that we obtain laws reflective of our values and principles as Christians.
The House has yet to put forth a comprehensive bill. Several piecemeal bills have been introduced to the House Judiciary Committee but they will negatively affect our immigrant communities. Now is the time to amplify our voices and let them know that action is needed, and that it is needed now!