Families Belong Together (reflections on Trump’s inhumane immigration policies)

I was asked to speak about the immigration crisis at today’s Poor People’s Campaign action in Springfield. Here are my remarks:

This past week, the Attorney General of the United States of America quoted the Bible to justify the cruel and inhumane treatment of immigrants and refugees.

So I have a few other passages of scripture I’d like to share, if he has the ears to hear them.

From Leviticus 19: “When the alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself”

From Deut. 10: “For the Lord your God…loves the aliens, providing them food and clothing. You shall also love the alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt.”

Jeremiah 22 says to do no wrong or violence to the alien.

Ezekiel 47 says the aliens shall be to you as citizens

Zechariah 7 tells us not oppress the alien.

In Matthew 25 Jesus says “…I was a stranger and you welcomed me.”

It’s not that the Bible has to be the sourcebook for civic society (we don’t live in a theocracy). But if it’s going to be wielded as a weapon by powerful people in the land, then let’s pay attention to how it’s used.

Jeff Sessions appears to have a really short-sighted view of history. In his naïveté, he chose to quote the same passage slaveholders used to justify slavery and that segregationists used to justify segregation.

Would Sessions use the same verse to say that Harriett Tubman was in the wrong for helping free slaves?

What about other heroes who protested the unjust laws of the land? Was Rosa Parks in the wrong? Martin Luther King Jr?

Jesus was a refugee as a child, fleeing violence. Should he have been separated from Mary and Joseph?

In ways that are destructive to our collective humanity, and an insult to our capacity for the collective moral good, our nation’s current immigration policies — especially as they are enacted along our southern border (which is telling in and of itself) — are rooted in violence, intimidation, extreme militarism, and the desire to inflict trauma on the lives of vulnerable human beings.

Normalization for these extreme policies was hardened by the arresting and imprisoning and deportation of longtime immigrants with no record. It was normalized and is now stepped up. This administration makes incremental steps toward a state that is more reflective of totalitarianism than democracy.

We’re led to believe that these cruel and inhumane options are the only options available, which is an absolutely manipulative attempt to deceive the American populace.

These inhumane policies are also unconscionably used as a bargaining chip by administrative officials to advance other nefarious ends. This method of governance — using vulnerable human beings as a political bargaining chip — reflects a sheer depravity of the soul.

And we will not stand for it.


As the Freedom Rider and minister William Sloane Coffin put it: “The trouble with saying, ‘The only thing that the other side understands is force’ is that you have to behave as if the only thing you understand is force.”

Former First Lady Laura Bush said this practice “is eerily reminiscent of the Japanese American internment camps of World War II, now considered to have been one of the most shameful episodes in U.S. history. We know that this treatment inflicts trauma.”

Yet we are still doing it.

Some may say these policies are a deterrent. But the only thing they deter us from is the opportunity to be a decent and humane society, to live into the best of what it means to be Americans.

People try to make excuses for why such cruel and inhumane policies are in place.

As one scholar observes, “all of that avoids confronting the simple fact of what is happening: agents of the government are stealing away the children of immigrants, making no effort to keep track of them or guarantee their safe return, and sticking them in ad hoc camps. That is what is happening.

‘But it’s Obama’s fault, because he made the policy.’ Fine, but this is what your guy is doing now.

‘He’s just following the law.’ He has a majority in both houses of Congress — he could change the law if he wanted to.

‘It’s all part of a negotiating strategy to get a better immigration policy.’ Yes, but it’s ruining lives, probably irrevocably, in the meantime.

‘It’s their own fault for breaking the law.’ This was never a consequence of breaking that law before.” [see link in comments]

We are the only country that does this — and it’s not even against the law to seek asylum in the United States.

President Trump claims he’s enacting a zero-tolerance policy. Well, we have some zero tolerance demands of our own:

We will not stand for calling human beings animals. We will not stand for inflicting untold trauma on precious children by separating them from their parents. We will not stand for putting these precious children into cages. We will not stand for inhumane laws. We will not stand for convoluted excuses and constant lies that try to shirk responsibility and create false realities. We will not stand for policies that bring out the worst in our country, instead of the best.

We will not stand up for President Trump as we would stand up for an authoritarian dictator. But you better believe we will stand up to his administration! And we will do so in the name of democracy, in the name of the common good, in the name of basic decency and human rights.

We will stand for justice, we will stand for dignity, we will stand for the beloved community, we will stand for the most vulnerable among us, and we will not rest until justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness flows like an ever-flowing stream.

I hope to see you Wednesday at 11am for the “Families Belong Together” demonstration at Senator Blunt’s office, where we will peacefully stand for humane immigration reforms.

Thank you.

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