Moms make families, congregations and nation work
Sunday, May 13, 2018
At the heart of all faiths is the shared belief that family is sacred. We value the sanctity of the family and believe that the government should act to bring families together, not keep them apart. As a person of faith, I see the current climate in America around immigration policy as backsliding into a shameful history of fear and discrimination that we don’t want to revisit.
Political pundits and politicians are fabricating campaigns that claim immigrants are nefariously funneling unlimited extended family members over our borders. This “chain migration,” as they are calling it, does not exist. Current U.S. immigration law allows U.S. citizens to sponsor only their children, parents, siblings and a spouse; green card holders have even fewer visa options. By manipulating fear of “the other” we are ignoring the biblical mandate to welcome the stranger and treating legal immigration as something to vengefully and viciously defend against, rather than celebrating the many ways that immigrants enrich our communities.
In the process, mothers and children are being separated by a number of appalling proposals under this administration. Indeed, just days ago Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that his department will separate children from their parents exercising their lawful right to seek asylum at the border.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement has recently made it standard practice to detain pregnant women and put their unborn babies at considerable risk. An immigration detention center, especially given the lack of prenatal care, inappropriate nutrition, and harsh conditions, is no place for a pregnant mother or a developing baby at their most vulnerable time.
Temporary Protected Status meant to protect people already here in the U.S. when catastrophe’s like earthquakes, hurricanes and conflict afflict their country, is being dismantled. Right now, thousands of mothers, some who have lived in the U.S. for decades, are being suddenly and forcibly separated from their U.S.-born children and sent back to countries they’ve not lived in for decades.
Even daily errands have become high-stakes as mothers are being targeted taking their kids to the doctor or dropping them off at school. In the past month, over 40 people have been arrested in ICE raids across North Carolina. ICE is hauling away mothers in broad daylight as their crying children stand by, helpless.
Moreover, President Trump and his administration have engaged in systematic attacks against refugees, and the impacts of these attacks are being felt in our community. North Carolina, which is among the top 10 states for resettled refugees, has seen its numbers of refugees resettled here drastically decline. The number of people that the Interfaith Refugee Ministry, an affiliate of the Episcopal Migration Ministries, of which my church is a part, has resettled is half the number of people we expected to this year.
Trump's historically low refugee cap, multiple refugee bans, and attempts to halt family reunification are hurting our families, our congregations, and our communities. Our capacity as a nation to welcome refugees — a core tenet across faith traditions — is being threatened.
Denying entry or deporting mothers denies families, the driver of successful integration and contribution to American communities. We must support refugee resettlement, oppose the refugee bans and arbitrary deportations, and stand against any unjust policies that needlessly harm and cruelly separate families, neighbors and friends.
Most agree that the U.S. immigration system is broken; we do not all agree on how it is to be fixed. But people of faith know that solutions rest in policies that keep families together, not those that tear families apart. What needs fixing are backlogged systems that keep families separated, sometimes for decades; policies that escalate deportations that rip families apart and tear mothers from children, leaving a scar across a generation of young people.
As children of God who believe in the sacredness and integrity of the family, today is the day we pay tribute to moms. I pray that our representative in Congress, Walter Jones, whose own biography on his website proclaims he “strongly believes in the strength of faith and family” recognizes this truth and protects all families by opposing immigration policies that harm and separate mothers from their children.
Rev. Bob Hudak is the rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Greenville, NC. He serves on the Governing Board of the NC Council of Churches and is the Ecumenical and Interfaith Officer for the Episcopal Diocese of East Carolina.