Opinion

A nation that actually values families doesn’t tear them apart at the border needlessly

The sounds and sights of young immigrants and their families being forcibly separated at the border is a gut-wrenching human tragedy.

It has not been fixed by President Donald Trump’s executive order. None of the 2,300 children who have been separated from their mothers and fathers have been reunited and the federal government has none of the resources – money, people and facilities – in hand that would even come close to returning a reasonable sense of order and sanity.

The California congressional delegation needs to take the lead in re-establishing the humane and fair treatment of immigrant children and their families.

The current administration has orchestrated this catastrophe, unmoved by the howling human cost. But the weight of bi-partisan responsibility also rests on the members of Congress who have allowed decades of indifference to fester needlessly.

The scenes of young infants yanked from their mothers’ arms are yet another lamentation of a sorrowful litany prolonged by legislative lethargy.

Members of Congress need to act with deliberate speed to stop this campaign of terror being forced upon families at the border. Children and young people should not be held hostage to wrangling partisans hoping to extract the dubious objective of “the wall.”

Neither side of the aisle should conscience negotiating over children. Political calculation with an eye to November in this situation is shameful.

The California congressional delegation needs to take the lead in re-establishing the humane and fair treatment of immigrant children and their families. Administrative remedies such as Temporary Protective Status (TPS) for certain migrants and DACA were meant as temporary Band-Aids for a broken immigration system. Offering a modicum of legal accommodation to vulnerable refugees and migrants, they’ve instead unfortunately anesthetized elected officials to human pain.

These “temporary” administrative fixes gave lawmakers a reprieve from the responsibility of crafting a comprehensive immigration reform that would remedy the plight of immigrant families and restore the defining message, inscribed on the Statue of Liberty, of America’s true greatness. That the current administration has foolishly and callously exercised its executive prerogative was predictable, but the rescinding of these programs has become unbearable to witness.

Congress (and the president) should listen to the cries of children rather than the pulse of the polls.

At the heart of the matter is the fundamentally civilized principle supporting the unity of the family. Rhetoric as well as regulatory and legislative proposals now attempt to subvert this principle, demeaning human dignity by prioritizing workers over families.

Whether we speak of abortion or deportation, American society edges ever closer to the “throw-away society” repudiated by the Holy Father, Pope Francis. Our failure to deal with the challenges and opportunities of forging an effective, humane immigration system betrays our history as an immigrant nation.

The slanderous and incendiary polemics used to portray asylum seekers maligns the core conviction all Americans hold for the virtue of families. The disdain of asylum seekers hardens the nation’s soul.

Members of Congress need to stop evading their duty and fix the broken immigration system. This means:

1) Create a legal pathway for immigrant children, the Dreamers.

2) Find a way to provide permanent residency to people and families who have lived too long in TPS limbo.

3) Honor, protect and support families as an essential part of the due process of law.

Further steps for a comprehensive and humane reform of the immigration system will require hard work and difficult debate. But the welfare of children and families should be non-negotiable.

The Rev. Jaime Soto is bishop of the Diocese of Sacramento. He can be contacted at bishopsoto@scd.org.

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