Not Without My Child
By Nikki Toyama-Szeto
My family's immigration journey included a significant period time when my mother was separated from her mother—my grandmother was an American citizen of Japanese descent, returning to work in the US. But those were different times. A journey across the ocean took three weeks by ship.
Earlier in May, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a zero tolerance policy, and increased the government's commitment to impose criminal penalties for folks trying to enter the country without documentation. In the past, this was considered a civil matter. By viewing this as a criminal matter, one of implications is that children will be removed from their parents.
To use the separation of children from their parents as a deterrent is to weaponize children. It is inhumane.
To use the separation of children from their parents as a deterrent is to weaponize children. It is inhumane. And while our law enforcement is trying to uphold laws, and strengthen them, I don't know if our lawmakers realize that when they compromise moral credibility, they erode the public's confidence in the very laws they are trying to uphold. The public's confidence in a legal system, that is consistently applied and fairly adjudicated, is essential to our rule of law.
But beyond that, as a mother, I cannot help but look at my own two children. As all children, the children crossing the border have value—they are made in the image of God. And to see our leaders make choices that render children even more vulnerable to a system that is overcrowded, overwhelmed, ill-equipped, and already unsuited for the care of children, is to invite danger.
So as a leader, as a mother, and as an American citizen, I want to stand and say, #notwithoutmychild.
Marlena Graves and Michelle Warren are mobilizing a movement of Christian women from all across the country to stand together on behalf of these vulnerable children. Will you join us? Please consider signing the letter below.
The Honorable Kirstjen M. Nielsen
Secretary of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C. 20528
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, D.C. 20530-0001
Dear Secretary Nielsen & Attorney General Sessions,
As Christian women and mothers, we have been shocked to learn about children being separated from their parents at the border.
This "zero tolerance" parent/child separation policy that your departments have recently put into place is morally reprehensible. We vehemently and unequivocally oppose the legally sanctioned separation of children from families who seek entrance into the United States and call for the immediate reversal of this decision.
We believe this policy and practice is profoundly antithetical to the pro-life and pro-family commitments we as Christians uphold and is horrifyingly cruel and inhumane. Unless a parent endangers a child through abuse or neglect, the government must not forcibly separate families. Doing so makes vulnerable children more subject to harm.
As Christians who uphold family values, we cannot remain silent. As mothers who understand the deep emotional and psychological needs of children, we must hold you accountable for your decisions.
We recognize that immigration policy is a polarizing issue. We know that our leaders, communities, and churches debate the complexities of immigration legislation. But as we work alongside our elected officials to support needed legislative change, we together—regardless of political party—condemn your decision to separate families. This practice is an inexcusably heartless method of deterrence for those coming to our country in search of a better life and is an unjust overreach of your authority.
We do not condone violating the immigration laws of our country, but we also recognize that desperation causes people to respond in desperate ways. Moreover, to punitively divide families is completely unnecessary and inflicts lasting psychological trauma on children.
As mothers, the flourishing of our children occupies our daily thoughts and prayers. We know that mothers and fathers who are immigrants love their children every bit as much as much as we love ours, and that the government's destruction of families is devastating and morally unjustifiable.
As Christians who honor the Bible, we reject as immoral and unjust any law or law enforcement that terrorizes and harms innocent and vulnerable children.
The current immigration system is broken, and we need to do what we can to collectively form a more just system. We must immediately end this new parent/child separation policy put into effect by your offices and stop punishing children by separating them from their parents.
We are calling on you both to work together to reunite these children with their families immediately. Punitive, harmful measures such as separating children from their parents are not acceptable, nor do they reflect the Christian and American value of the importance of family.
Nikki Toyama-Szeto is Executive Director of Evangelicals for Social Action.