As a clergy person, a person of faith, and now a mother of a young child I am outraged and heartbroken at the senseless humanitarian crisis unfolding at the US border, only miles away from our home in Los Angeles. I have zero tolerance for injustice. Zero tolerance for the US government’s cruelty to children and the violence of family separation. Zero tolerance for the criminalization of immigrants and asylum seekers.
As of last Wednesday the Office of Refugee Resettlement is reporting 11,351 children are being held in more than 100 “shelters” across 17 states. These children are being held without information about where their parents are or when they will be released or reunited with their families. There has been extreme secrecy around the location and operations of the detention centers. Southwest Key Programs is the nonprofit which runs the 27 biggest detention centers including the one in El Cajon holding over 1000 kids. The Southwest Key detention centers are completely unequipped to cope with the cascading crisis as thousands of children flood through their doors without the capacity to attend to their cases or offer the care these traumatized children need. Clergy, social workers and even lawmakers are being turned away. This is not how we treat vulnerable children in our care, nor how we treat families seeking protection.
Exactly which law denies compassionate visit and witness to the most vulnerable people among us? When Jeff Sessions smugly quoted the Bible in defense of unjust “law and order” policies, did he not continue to read Paul’s letter to the Romans? “Love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.”
At Neighborhood Church loving our neighbors is how we fulfill our deepest religious commitment. In the spirit of justice, we also stand with other people of faith in resisting unjust laws which violate human dignity. In times like these it’s easy to feel powerless in the face of such grave injustice, but our faith teaches us that it is precisely in times like these when we must muster our courage, compassion and conviction to use our power in whatever way we can.
Now is the time for us to voice our outrage to those who have the power to change these laws with one phone call—President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Now is the time for us to call on our lawmakers who have the power to implement an immediate policy change through Congress. Now is the time for us to donate to organizations who are on the ground doing the work like Raices, the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services (RAICES) is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that promotes justice by providing free and low-cost legal services to underserved immigrant children, families and refugees in Central and South Texas. RAICES is the largest immigration non-profit in Texas with offices in Austin, Corpus, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio. I have been heartened to see so many people donating online. We will be donating our Sunday church offering to this worthy cause.
And now is the time to reach out to those directly affected. Yesterday I reached out to a local mother of two who has a personal connection to the Southwest Key executive leadership. She has used that connection to ask Southwest Key leadership what can those of us do to directly reach the children in these impenetrable detention centers. She was given the answer that they would welcome the delivery of small stuffed animals and handwritten messages of love, especially artwork from other children.
Calling it “Operation Comfort,” local folks will be filling a bus and delivering letters and stuffed animals to the children in the El Cajon Southwest Key detention center Monday, and the Brownsville detention center in the coming days. If you would like to participate, bring a note of love in Spanish or English or stuffed animal by the church this week, or come Sunday to join us to create messages of love and support for the thousands of children in US government custody.
In our church care package, I’ll be including a note to be delivered to Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Key programs, letting him know how he is complicit in this grave injustice and demanding that he stand up to the Trump administration’s unjust policies. I’ll call on him to immediately change their policies of separating siblings, to implement better training for their employees to deal with trauma, and that demand they allow visits from clergy, medical professionals and social workers who could help provide the much needed emotional and spiritual support for these traumatized children.
Finally, now is the time to join in public witness opportunities to make your voice heard publicly and witness with others who share our outrage, grief and faith that this humanitarian crisis must end immediately. Huge protests are being organized for June 30th. Tomorrow, Liv and I will be joining a local Families Belong Together interfaith public witness action tomorrow morning with staff members and local clergy. I hope some will be able to join us and please message me for details.
Friends, our faith is made for times like these. Don’t let fear or frustration turn you away from using your every power to turn this tide of injustice. Let’s fulfill our deepest religious commitment to our immigrant neighbors by putting our love into action.