Immigration Reform: We Cannot Stem Lawlessness by Sacrificing Children

Nicole Headshot in blue shirt

Nicole D. Hayes, Founder, Voices Against the Grain

“Papi! Papi!” “Mommy! I want to go with mommy!” Grief and anger panged me as if these children were known to me. More than 2,300 children have been separated from their parents by law enforcement in illegal border crossings. The wails from the mouths of little ones we’ve viewed this week in news coverage punches to the gut and rips at the heart. Knowing God’s love for children, He cannot be pleased at their suffering.

Many of us have prayed for ministering angels to minister to these children and their parents. Years and years of data show the psychological impact that could be lifelong, even if the children are reunited with their parents. From this June 20, 2018 Wall Street Journal article, “The Effects of Parental Separation on Children,”  biological stress responses are activated in a child separated from their caregiver. The symptoms exhibited could include elevated blood pressure and heart rate, anger, depression, social behavioral disturbances, among others. “If the biological response is continuously engaged, it begins to cause “wear and tear” on the child’s body,” according to Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics there are “lifelong consequences of extended exposure to serious stress, a condition sometimes called toxic stress. Current research indicates that chronic stress puts people at increased risk of psychiatric disorders and other health problems.”

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This is unacceptable.

The process for the reunification of separated parents and children is unclear. A policy that was cobbled together in a fashion with little to no regard for the human toll, has many wondering if reunification is even possible. As journalist and CNN political commentator, Errol Louis, poignantly said, “You go to the dry cleaners, they give you a ticket for your clothes. You leave your shoes at the bowling alley, they give you a ticket. They take your children and there’s nothing…no receipt, no bracelet, no tracking method, nothing.”

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This is unacceptable. This is not a win for anyone. There is no art to this deal.

Many of those crossing our borders illegally are seeking asylum from devastating brutality and violence, and simply a better life. Not all of these people are deviants and dangers to the community. Yes, these are illegal crossings. Yes, we are a nation of laws and must justly and fairly enact the laws. We are also a nation of people, of immigrants created in God’s image.

Dear friends have shared with me their personal stories of immigration and separation for a time from their mom or dad and the trauma felt of that experience. Their emotional reaction to that childhood trauma is still palpable. I’ve heard the stories of children whose behavior in the classroom drastically deteriorated from kindergarten to first grade when their father was deported within that time. I know the hard work of friends in social work who help immigrants deal with various traumas, day in and day out.

America has a long and shameful history of separating, locking up and incarcerating people, particularly our black and brown. We have no misgivings about their age, even if they are toddlers wearing diapers. Those who do the incarcerating benefit heftily: contractors of the detention facilities are being paid millions by our federal government, some more than $40 million. Here’s an article on contractor-run shelters in the Washington, D.C. region that are banking lucrative contracts to house migrant children.

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There’s also Juan Sanchez, CEO of Southwest Key nonprofit who runs 26 immigrant shelters across the country who was paid nearly $1.5 million in salary — a salary double than what he was paid the previous year. I can tell you as someone who completed their Master of Public Administration in nonprofit and faith-based management, this salary is waaay out of line in administrative costs (with just his salary alone) over program costs. Southwest Key is a smaller nonprofit in comparison to the multi-billion dollar American Red Cross with vast responsibilities whose CEO, Gail McGovern earns $600,000 in annual salary.

The Problem (only one?) with Government 

We are deceived and will be disappointed if we think our government will behave right. We cannot expect a callous, removed, impersonal, bureaucratic and cumbersome government to act personally toward what’s happening on the ground. It is simply not designed to do so. It’s role is to enforce the laws. To be frank, we the Church and the world became comfortable when government created programs to help others so we could move on with our lives — not realizing the world of difference we would awake to right now when we assumed that government would act godly and just. There is no substitute for godliness. This is one of the heartbreaks and false comforts of progress without godliness. The government, masters of implementing and evaluating systems, processes, regulations and laws, but unskilled in matters of compassion.

The truth is this: in our government’s attempt to curb the insidious activity of criminals (human and drug traffickers) from infesting our soil, they have made insidious decisions to where families have been torn apart and perhaps irreversible damage done. We cannot stem lawlessness by sacrificing children. Human trafficking, child smuggling, drug trafficking, those wanted for arrest, I get it. We are a nation of laws and laws need to be enforced justly and fairly. We are also a nation of people.

Our Role as Christ’s Ambassadors, as Dual Citizens

I’ve made it a point to remain apolitical on our ministry platforms. My main reason for doing so is to prepare us for God’s Kingdom which is permanent and perfect over the temporary and very imperfect system to which we are geographically subjected. But this issue required a response.

No matter your political leanings, we know that families together is God’s design. Satan loves nothing more than to promote ideologies that seek to distort, divide and destroy God’s design.

Indeed, our nation’s broken immigration system has long needed fixing. Our immigration system is not sustainable in its current state. It is a complex issue and the very complexities are why previous administrations have left it to future administrations to fix.

Some Christians are divided over the issue. But as Richard Land, president of the Southern Evangelical Seminary, said on the dual citizenship of Christians: “As citizens of the U.S., we have an obligation to support the government and the government’s laws for conscience sake. As citizens of the Lord’s heavenly Kingdom, we also have a divine mandate to act redemptively and compassionately toward those who are in need.”

As Christians, we should be especially compelled to advocate for those who are caught in the margins — who lack a certain status and thereby more vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment.

© Copyright 2012 CorbisCorporationAs Christ’s Ambassadors, we have been called out from the world to not behave as the world does. In a decaying world that has lost its way, this separation should not make us abstain from bringing light to darkness. This is and always will be our role. To engage so others can see the hands and feet of Christ at work amid insidious, skeptical and unjust situations. If we love God, we will love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). We have an opportunity to demonstrate His love in this issue and many others.

While God certainly has many purposes at work, it’s undeniable the squeeze placed upon our nation and world that has brought many more to their knees, praise God. The situations are being used as instruments to expose on a larger scale the depths of our immorality and prejudices and long-held indifference about it, giving us a real good look at ourselves. The situations are also turning us back to God. As a dear brother reminded several of us in prayer meeting this week, our God is and always has been in control! No matter how things look, His purposes WILL BE ACCOMPLISHED! God cannot fail! (Thank you, Dracy)

As a dear sister reminded me, God is at work even in our suffering. We see this depicted in the lives of those throughout the Bible, and we have experienced His Presence in our trials. The news will not depict this but trust that God is a very present help in our situations. Be encouraged. Take heart for He has overcome the world (John 16:33). We need to act like we believe this even amid vast injustice. Concerned as we all are about these children’s future, I am entrusting them to our very present God who holds their future.

Immigration child separation 7 we belong

Many wonder how history and others will remember them. If you’re looking for a mission field, or looking to leave a legacy, start here: May we strive to become a united Body of Christ that hears, shares in and is compelled to relieve the suffering of others, to be a refuge for others. Will we be who we say we are? Yield to however the Holy Spirit leads you to do this and do it without hesitation.

20I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:20-21 #NoRegrets #BoldLiving

May our living be bold.

Our actions do not need to be gigantic but inaction is unsatisfactory.

May we also keep lifted in prayer the parents and children, the social workers and health care community, the faith community, legal community and many others who will be called upon to help rebuild these fractured lives. We pray for their strength where fatigue is certain. We pray for provision and abundance of resources to carry out their efforts.

Love, prayers and blessings,

Nicole

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