Family separation shows how far we are from a just immigration policy

(CNS photo/Leah Millis, Reuters)

How much suffering and outrage will it take to change the terms of the immigration debate? The past week of tragic stories of family separations at our border—an inhumane and unnecessary method of deterrence freely chosen by the Trump administration—has begun to provide an answer.

How much pain, cruelty and chaos is the administration willing to impose in order to appeal to President Trump’s base? At least as much pain as children wailing when they are taken from their parents. At least as much cruelty as parents being told their children are going to be bathed when they in fact are being taken away. At least as much chaos as 2,300 children taken from their families with no credible plan or apparent concern for reuniting them.

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How much moral and political opposition needs to be mounted until the administration finally admits—as it apparently has begun to with the signing of an executive order—that it has gone too far? At least as much as both the Catholic bishops and the Southern Baptist Convention denouncing family separations as immoral and unbiblical. At least as much as lawmakers from both parties calling clearly for a change in course. And for all this, not yet enough. Officials from the administration, with Mr. Trump personally leading the charge, have continued to describe their actions as mandated by law—a bald lie—in order to use the tragedy they have manufactured as leverage for their legislative demands.

How much moral and political opposition needs to be mounted until the administration finally admits—as it apparently has begun to with the signing of an executive order—that it has gone too far?

Moral and political pressure on the Trump administration must be maintained. Since launching his presidential campaign with racist slurs against Mexican immigrants, Mr. Trump has masterfully manipulated fear of immigrants to build his own power while eroding respect for their human dignity. Appealing to nativist sentiments seems to be his primary goal, even more than a border wall, which likely will not work.

The executive order merely replaces the cruelty of family separation with the cruelty of family detention. The cause of both policies is the Trump administration’s “zero-tolerance” policy to prosecute every person crossing into the United States without authorization. The fact is there is no humane or just way to enforce unjust laws. If the American people will not abide using children to threaten immigrants—or if even that threat proves insufficient balanced against the violence and poverty immigrants face in their home countries—what assault on human dignity will be next? It will not be enough to reject and repent of these extraordinary assaults on the integrity of the family unless the United States also reckons with the fact that our immigration policy needs radical change, not just better border security.

While three-fifths of the country disapproves of Mr. Trump’s handling of immigration overall, and even greater numbers reject his family separation policy, a small majority of Republican voters support both. The United States is being held hostage to the immoral and unachievable political goals of immigration extremists who have rejected attempts at compromise. As a senator, Attorney General Jeff Sessions led the opposition that doomed the last serious congressional attempt at immigration reform, assisted by his communications director, Stephen Miller, who is now Mr. Trump’s domestic policy advisor and the chief architect of his immigration strategy. No progress on immigration can be achieved if the administration requires that the majority of the country simply capitulates to their demands.

Border security, while necessary, is not an absolute good, as Catholic social teaching recognizes. Its pursuit must be balanced with the need for just methods of enforcement and even more with the basic right of people to migrate in order to sustain their own lives and those of their families. It is both a moral and a practical impossibility to seal our southern border, when life in the United States is so much safer than in the violence- and poverty-plagued countries the immigrants are fleeing. Any realizable proposal to secure the border must start by expanding, rather than reducing, the flow of legal, regulated immigration from Latin America to something commensurate with the actual demand. It must recognize the need to offer asylum to those fleeing not only political persecution but domestic abuse and gang violence. It must be the kind of comprehensive approach pursued by the Reagan administration during the last major successful reform in 1986, including a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants already peacefully living and working in the United States. Otherwise, the country will simply be priming the pump for the next crisis.

In order to achieve anything better, the energy of opposition to the Trump administration’s family separation policy must be maintained past this immediate moment of crisis.

The U.S. bishops have already criticized the new immigration bill proposed by the House Republican leadership along these lines. But in order to achieve anything better, the energy of opposition to the Trump administration’s family separation policy must be maintained past this immediate moment of crisis.

The searing images of children being removed from their parents and held in cages in immigration detention centers have roused the conscience of the country. The consistent and explicit witness given by many religious leaders seems to have finally made it clear to the public that the God of the Bible stands unambiguously on the side of the “stranger in the land.” Catholics and all Americans should continue to press their political leaders to make their stand there as well and evaluate what direct actions they might be able to take, considering their unique circumstances and abilities, to aid those suffering because of these policies. The bishops should continue their prophetic leadership on this issue, including trips to the border and detention facilities. Officials working in the Trump administration and those responsible for carrying out policies designed to stoke fear of immigrants should carefully examine their consciences and discern whether their resignations would achieve more good than their continued work within the system.

How much prayer and protest will it take to achieve a more just immigration policy for the United States? At least this much. For the sake of our brothers and sisters on our borders, we can do no less.

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J Cosgrove
1 year 3 months ago

How much prayer and protest will it take to achieve a more just immigration policy for the United States?

What is the true story? Is the outrage a legitimate one? Obama put kids in football field sized cages and wrapped them in aluminum foil and no one said boo. The editors are advocating for open borders and the end of the United States as it has existed for the last 240 years. They should say that. What is the editor's immigration policy?

J Cosgrove
1 year 3 months ago

A quote that sums it up - "So, let’s get this straight. President Trump decided to prosecute all immigrants who cross the border illegally. The U.S. government would not prosecute children, so they were held separately from their parents. Democrats complain that families are being separated. Now, Trump reversed course, saying that children will be detained with their parents. So Democrats … complain that families will be kept together.”

This is about votes in an election and has nothing to do with children.

Christopher Lochner
1 year 3 months ago

I pray for all people of good will and reasonable conscience (not those who pray and discern over an issue and find, surprise, surprise, they're right yet once again!) who properly discern the desires of the Father in Heaven and to discuss solutions to this terrible issue. The problem is, this excludes at least some of the self serving bishops. We should be wary of the control of Rome as related to affairs of the world as this tends not to be from Christ but from man. After all, there is a huge difference in obedience to teachings of the Church on religious dogma and the current state of church as nothing more than another PAC readily using Christ and the faithful to leverage their demands.

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 year 3 months ago

Editors
It is telling that the words "sophistry" and "casuistry" are so frequently linked to The word Jesuit.
Hire a decent lawyer to read the Court Cases first hand. The equation is very simple: If the Federal Government enforces the law as written then the 9th Circuit in Flores vs Lynch states unequivocally that when the accompanying parent of a minor child is charged under the law then the minor must be"released"...viz separated.. without delay. Please note this particular case under the Flores Consent Decree was brought in 2015 against the Obama Administration to effectively close its Family Detention Centers and it was finalized by the 9th Circuit on July 5, 2016.

You keeping quoting sources which fail to note that what followed the closing of those Obama family facilities was an Obama Policy of NOT enforcing the law as written by trying to create a civil deportation suits so that parent and child when caught illegally crossing the border would be "Caught and Released" to return for a hearing. Surely you have heard of that program, but apparently never knew how or why it was put in place.
Less than 10% of those who were "caught and released" ever appeared for their deportation hearing!
Your Editorial presentation is on its face intellectually dishonest in the extreme. It is compounded by references to pictures of kids behind chain link fences many of which were actually taken in 2014. Even then those pictures were unfair to the Obama Administration when taken because those facilities were the process and transfer facilities not permanent withholding facilities.

Just where were the Editors in 2014-2016 when all of this last went down?
The ACLU has already announced it will go to Court to overturn the Trump Executive Order. Federal Judge Dolly Gee and the 9th Circuit will once again have the last word on this matter and based on their Flores vs Lynch decision we will be back to same position very quickly.
Your entire argument is based upon the predicate that the current immigration law is unjust. Fair enough. Change the law!
But you cannot expect the people who were elected to enforce the law (and took an oath to enforce the law) to decide if they don't like a law or think it unjust that they simply won't enforce it!! That is exactly what you are proposing/demanding. The 9th Circuit in Flores vs Lynch took pains to point out that it's command to release minors was not a command to release the parents. It also took pains to state that this must be fixed by Congress.

I recollect the old Jesuit advice at exam time "Pray like no amount of study will do, and study like no amount of prayer will do" The Editors seem to be very good at the "prayer side "of this equation but it's about time they tackle the "study side" with the same gusto.....And with some sense of intellectual honesty!

rose-ellen caminer
1 year 3 months ago

The policy of catch and release is a de facto policy of open borders for people coming over the border. That people eligible to be deported will obey a court order to come before a judge after being let into the interior of country, is absurd. Trump got elected by people who felt they were being played by open border politicians implementing catch and release. People who believe that we should have a free flow of people from Central America and or Mexico, should be up front about this and try to legislate honestly for it. Now that Trump has pushed back on this catch and release policy, people who were good with it should now be calling for granting Permanent Protective Status to people from these Central American countries and or Mexico. Like we did for people fleeing Cuba's Castro . Or perhaps even advocating to make these Central American countries, territories, like we have Puerto Rico, so we could potentially effect the conditions on the ground fueling the violence, or calling for some treaty like exists in the EU that allows the free flow of people between countries, to work and to settle.

William Bannon
1 year 3 months ago

The historical questions are never addressed. Why have so many Catholic cultures failed?....such that they are seeking a largely Protestant one...the usa? Chile is the only Latin American country that is considered “ developed” by the World Bank. Wherever Spain went...there you will find the chaos...including the Phillipines. Catholicism is avoiding this part of the refugee problem. Why did the Spain/ Catholicism nexus fail to produce successful countries? Surprisingly even Trump won’t confront the Church on these questions....but he is thinking it whenever the Popes chirps in with the Bishops on his cruelty. Isn’t it cruel to produce dysfunctional countries in the first place?....and then blame the later reaction like Trump against the chaos you took part in to some degree.
Read Romanus Pontifex by Pope Nicholas V ( endorsed by three succeeding Popes ).... “ We [therefore] weighing all and singular the premises with due meditation, and noting that since we had formerly by other letters of ours granted among other things free and ample faculty to the aforesaid King Alfonso -- to invade, search out, capture, vanquish, and subdue all Saracens and pagans whatsoever, and other enemies of Christ wheresoever placed, and the kingdoms, dukedoms, principalities, dominions, possessions, and all movable and immovable goods whatsoever held and possessed by them and to reduce their persons to perpetual slavery, and to apply and appropriate to himself and his successors the kingdoms, dukedoms, counties, principalities, dominions, possessions, and goods, and to convert them to his and their use and profit -- “
Yes.....a Pope in 1454 began the dysfunction that became country after country south of us. Paul III opposed those four Popes in 1537 in these words.... “ notwithstanding whatever may have been or may be said to the contrary, the said Indians and all other people who may later be discovered by Christians, are by no means to be deprived of their liberty or the possession of their property,“...Sublimus Dei. But he did not put Portugal or Spain under interdict and withdrew the threat of that penalty under pressure. Often the Popes considered the financial retribution such countries could bring against the Church.

rose-ellen caminer
1 year 3 months ago

The Protestant cultures are the capitalist imperialist powers that have exploited the third world. The Catholic countries do not have this Protestant work ethic that believe that if you are rich you must be good ,mindset. The Catholic countries have a more laid back joie de vivre cultures. Spain was functioning perfectly well but being badgered by the English pirates much like the Somalian pirates of recent years. Once Spain had enough, they set out to destroy England, and they would have if it hadn't been for a storm in the English channel that destroyed the Spanish Armada. England would be totally insignificant today but for that storm.Call that an act of God if you must. The Monroe doctrine kept Latin America dependent on us economically.

William Bannon
1 year 3 months ago

Actually no....everything can be traced to the hacienda system which can be traced to the papal document you skirted...go here....https://www.worldatlas.com/articles/what-is-the-hacienda-system.html

rose-ellen caminer
1 year 3 months ago

They could have benefited from a little Napoleonesque intervention to end the European feudal system and bring liberal ideas of liberty and equality to Latin America. the monroe doctrine would not allow foreign interventions. Then there's supply and demand; americans are a nation of drug addicts.

E.Patrick Mosman
1 year 3 months ago

Perhaps the editors should inform themselves
and all of the pro-illegal immigrant, anti-Trump mobs should study the historical actions of a past President and Secretary of State in
Border Politics and the Use and Abuse of History
By Victor Davis Hanson June 19 2018
"In 2014, during a similar rush, both Barack Obama (“Do not send your children to the borders. If they do make it, they’ll get sent back.”) and Hillary Clinton (“We have to send a clear message, just because your child gets across the border, that doesn’t mean the child gets to stay. So, we don’t want to send a message that is contrary to our laws or will encourage more children to make that dangerous journey.”) warned — again to current media silence — would-be asylum seekers not to use children as levers to enter the U.S." Also pictures taken in 2014 of Obama's immigrant children's interment camps,ignored or hidden by the administration and the subservient media are now available. at the:
dailycaller /2018/06/19/photos-obama-immigration-detention-facilities
How is it possible that what was obviously acceptable treatment of immigrant children "un-newworthy" four years ago is now used to attack the President? Where were all these Catholic organizations then who now protest too much?

All this faux outrage and non-stop media coverage was absent then as the progressive reporters and TV talking heads were in awe of the man who was going to stop the oceans from rising so,of course, he could stop children from entering America.
And where were the editors of America Magazine?
Looking forward to seeing a full expose of Obama's actions.

Sandi Sinor
1 year 3 months ago

I have lost count of the number of people here who are conflating two different situations. The Obama administration dealt with the influx of UNACCOMPANIED minors (mostly teenagers) by putting them in internment camps. That is VERY different from arresting people who are trying to gain asylum for themselves and their young children. That is VERY different from taking VERY young children, including babies, from their parents to an undisclosed location. It is brutal for the parents, but it is absolutely devastating for innocent young children whose emotional well-being is closely tied to being WITH their parents. They have no idea what is going on. They are terrified. It is a cruel policy to use innocent young children as weapons, as hostages to a dysfunctional political process with the aim being getting a multi-billion dollar wall that will do little or nothing to stop the entrance of drugs and criminals into this country. Sessions also decided to do away with the traditional grounds for seeking asylum - fleeing danger. That is the reason so many make the very hard trip north. THey are trying to protect their families against the violence in their home countries. They are people who are poor, and totally without power. They cannot just "change" the problems in their country. The best they can do is try to save their kids. So what happens - their chidlren - their babies and toddlers and young children are taken away from them, to God only knows where because most of the sites are not identified. They are being kept secret by this government.
Many are trying to deflect from the evil that is being done by this administration. They are still looking to blame anyone but the person and the administration that is doing these things NOW - not two years ago, not four years ago, not ten years ago. It is THIS president and his administration and a spineless Congress that is inflicting cruelty and pain on innocent young kids. You may not think it right that parents tried to get their teenagers into the US illegally - to get them away from drug gangs who will literally execute them if they don't join up. The legal issues can be worked out. But there is a HUGE difference in how Obama acted with unaccompanied minors who were mostly teenagers, capable of understanding what was at stake, including the risk of arrest in the US, and taking babies and toddlers and young children away from parents who just want to try to get asylum. Instead of spending billions on an absurd wall that even most Republicans in Congress know will be a waste of money, why not spend some of those billions on dramatically increasing the numbers of judges empowered to judge asylum cases. The backlog is enormous. Why not expand the staffs at the consulates and embassies in countries that so many seek to escape, so that visa and asylum requests can be processed in an orderly and sensible manner, and reduce the wait times from years to months.
Jesus gave some pretty clear instructions as to how we were to treat the stranger - welcome them and love them. Nothing about holding babies and toddlers hostage to Caesar's political goals.

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 year 3 months ago

Sandi
Your statement about the Obama Administration is misleading and wrong in its position that Accompanied Minors were not an issue. Once again you need to read Flores vs Lynch 9th Cir July 2016.......the precise issue was ACCOMPANIED MINORS BEING DETAINED WITH THEIR PARENTS IN FAMILY DETENTION CENTERS.. The Court specifically held that contrary to the Obama Administration position Accompanied Minors were covered by the Flores Settlement and could not be detained. The Obama Aministration was required to release the minors.

You are absolutely correct that Congress must fix this....see again Flores vs Lynch which held that since Congress had not acted as the original Consent Decree required the Court would continue to enforce the terms of the Consent Decree and required the Obama Administration to separate the minors from their parents.

Ken Chang
1 year 3 months ago

If separating the children from their parents is the problem, then send the 10,000 children that have crossed without their parents be sent 'back' to their parents in the country that they came, so that they can be together as a family. And the other 2,000 children that came with their parents, can be sent back with their parents, to their own country. The separation problem is solved.

Randal Agostini
1 year 3 months ago

America- The Jesuit review. So readers should know what this publication stands for. Is it based upon Catholic dogma, the truth, the word of God? Or is it a political organ, where the ends justify the means?
Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's.
Liberals are always beating the compassionate drum, but their hands are behind their backs and it is high time that the hypocrisy is exposed. America and Americans want to be a compassionate place and people, but we want to be as fair and as just as it is possible for human beings to be. Lawlessness is not a good platform on which to build anything and I suggest that "The Jesuit Review" should consider practicing some humility rather than trying to beat a dishonest drum.

Bill Mazzella
1 year 3 months ago

Time to call Trump what he is. A Mussolini and Hitler revisited. Taking advantage of a white nation who feels threatened and preying on their fears. This is an immoral, totally narcissistic person leading our country. He is a demagogue who believes, like Hitler, that if you say it often enough people will believe it. This is the man who keeps a copy of Hitler's book on his night table. Horrific. Like Hitler, Mussolini, and Bonaparte he will have a bad ending. How many of us will be complicit in enabling him??

Michael Barberi
1 year 3 months ago

Bill
It is this kind of rhetoric, ad hominem arguments, that turn people away from your thoughts. You are playing the same game that politicians play which is the problem. Time to stop the polarization and ridiculous arguments, like calling Trump a Mussolini and Hilter. Both parties and past Presidents are responsible for the immigration mess. If you think 'open borders' are the answer, you are misleading yourself.

ABU TOM
1 year 3 months ago

THE JESUITS HAVE MORE TO WORRY ABOUT THAN DONALD TRUMP. THEY SHOULD BE LOOKING AT THE DESTRUCTION OF CATHOLIC EDUCATION BY COMMUNIST POWERS WHO HAVE NO GOD. ANTONIO GRAMSCHI TACTICS TAKING DOWN THE CHURCH SUCESSFULLY. THE GOLDEN AGE OF CATHOLICISM DIED IN THE 60'S. WE DID IT TO OURSELVES AND JESUITS ARE BAD EXAMPLES OF A RELIGIOUS SWORN TO GOD. 92% OF THE USA WAS CHRISTIAN IN THE 60'S NOW IT IS 68%. ALL THESE IMIGRANTS COMING INILLEGALLY COME FROM COMMUNIST COUNTRIES. YES THEY ARE CATHOLICS BUT THAT CAN EASILY BE REMOVED. WHEN A CARDINAL BLESSES A RESTUARANT FOR A FREE $600,00 MEAL THAT IS NOT TOO CATHOLIC. JESUITS STAY AWAY FROM THE COMMUNISTS.
SPIRIT OF AMERICA PARTY RADIO SHOW.

Charles Erlinger
1 year 3 months ago

A careful study of history can certainly go a long way toward understanding the present, but it is useless to justify the present. The moral challenge concerns the next choice we make, not the last.

Kevin Murphy
1 year 3 months ago

Perhaps if America and the Left hadn't bashed Trump from the moment he was elected they'd have some integrity when there was a real miscarriage of justice. This did go on under Obama but nothing was said. Also, we know the Editors won't be happy until the borders are open.

Kevin Murphy
1 year 3 months ago

For another viewpoint, read Rod Dreher's piece, keeping in mind he is not a Trump supporter. http://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/immigration-catch-and-release-liberals/

Stuart Meisenzahl
1 year 3 months ago

Editors
Have you written an Editorial calling on Congress to revise the immigration laws to achieve what you consider a "just law"?
Have you contacted Senator Schumer to reprove him for refusing to allow the Democrats in the Senate vote on any immigration changes....Including a "clean bill" which addresses the issue of family separation directly without any other changes?
Have you rebuked Senators Schumer and Gillibrand for refusing to cooperate in any fashion on fixing these issues?
Have you actually read "Flores vs Lynch" , 9th Cir, July 2016 or are you still relying on third party sources for what it says.?

No Court can order the Executive Branch not to enforce the law.
The Executive Branch is not entitled to use "prosecutorial discretion" to exempt any class of people from the application of the immigration law -See Texas vs The United States, 5th Circuit, November 2015 striking down as unconstitutional The Obama Deferred Action For Parents of Americans order.
TheExecutive Branch swears an oath to enforce the laws as written.
Given these predicates! then EXACTLY WHAT DO THE EDITORS PROPOSE BE DONE under all of those circumstances?

As an addendum: on Tuesday June 26, 2018 a District Ct ( Judge Sabraw) in the 9th Circuit ordered the Trump administration to keep the detained families together..... thereby making the Trump Executive Order the Court's own order! This should get interesting because that, at least facially, is a direct contradiction of the 9Th Circuit decision requiring children of detained parents to be released, viz "separated" ..See "Flores vs Lynch".
The Trump Administration has now modified its recent submission to Judge Dolly Gee requesting modification of Flores to assert that she is now required to modify her original "separation order" of 2015 because this new decision by Judge Sabraw which compels family detention. The only "in between " these two positions is to order the Administration not to enforce the law. ...a position which will never survive final Appellate/Supreme Court review!
I believe the Editors have already opined in this Editorial that Family Detention is unacceptable as "unjust" and yet a Judge has just ordered it!!!! "They grind exceeding small"... So what do the Editors propose as a solution?

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