How cruel is the American soul in this historic moment? How can we let the separation of migrant children from their mothers and fathers continue? What would have happened if Jesus had been separated from his parents Mary and Joseph after they were commanded by God to flee to Egypt to escape political genocide? What if the infant Jesus were sent to the U.S. as a refugee in 2019, instead of Egypt?
13 When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”
14 So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, 15 where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: "Out of Egypt I called my son.” Matthew 2: 13-15
What follows is a brief overview of migrant family separations in the United States since July 1, 2017. It's a winding and harrowing history, but worth the effort to understand:
January 2018. "Shithole Countries."
Meeting with President Trump and Congressional leaders to discuss protections for immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal.
"Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?", Trump is reported to have declared. It is also alleged that Trump went on to tout immigration to the U.S. from countries like Norway.
April 2018. Trump administration "Zero Tolerance Policy."
Criminal prosecution for all migrants who crossed the border without papers and presented themselves to ICE to request asylum according to national and international law.
Adults were sent to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and put in detention facilities. Migrant children were separated from their parents and sent to the Department of Health and Human Services. Chaos ensued because ICE and HHS were not given forewarning of policy. Policy designed to punish families who were legally entitled to request asylum according to national and international law.
The enforcement of the policy led to the separation of an estimated 2,700 children from their parents. Parents deported to Latin America and children placed in U.S. foster care.
June 2018. Kids in Cages.
Disturbing images of migrant children in cages stun the world. Responding to outrage, on June 20, Trump signs executive order ending family separations, but continues "Zero Tolerance" policy. Federal judge orders that US immigration agents can no longer separate parents and children. 30 days to reunite families. Order applies to parents with children in custody on June 26, 2018. As of October 2018, 245 children under court order remained separated from their parents.
March 1, 2019. Legal advocate Al Otro Lado, together with clergy coalition led by Rev. Alexia Salvatierra (Evangelical Lutheran Church & Matthew 25/Mateo 25 Movement) and Rev. Sandy Ovalle (Sojourners Immigration), present 29 parents at Calexico port of entry to be reunified with children. Despite judicial order, border patrol first states that it lacks "capacity" to immediately process 29 parents. BP requests that parents get in line to enter the U.S. as part of illegal "notebook" policy. After clergy intervention and legal advocacy, 29 families are granted access to U.S. to begin reunification process with their children. Several days later, ICE separates some husbands and wives, and reunification process is delayed. As of today, most parents have not been reunited with their children, nor released into homes of sponsor families.
March 8, 2019. Expansion of reunification order. Protestations by Trump administration.
It is learned that potentially thousands of other children had been separated from their parents prior to June 2018. Same federal judge expands reunification order to include parents who were separated from their children since July 1, 2017. Trump administration argues against expanded reunification, stating that it would be difficult to identify families who had been separated, these children are longer in their custody, and that children in foster care would be emotionally harmed if they were removed from their current homes.
Lord, please grant us the compassion of the Egypt which welcomed you and your family, and which granted you refuge from death and political persecution. Lord, sanctify our nation from the racism which has marred our immigration history and led us to conform to the previous pattern of the Egypt and Pharaoh who enslaved your people and scapegoated them as a perceived ethnic threat in a potential time of war. Lord, as Egypt repented, may we also do the same. I ask that you would forgive me, and heal me, of the racism and prejudice which still mars my sou. Jesus, Lead us in national healing, and draw us closer to You and your vision of the Beloved Community. Thank You that your Beloved Community leaves no one out, and does not stay silent in the face of racial injustice which hinders the communion of all. In Jesus Name. Amen.