My heart is heavy with the brokenness of the world tonight.
Tonight my family sleeps under one roof, with full bellies and soft blankets. Tonight my children’s memories are of books and snuggles at bedtime, an afternoon swimming with their grandparents, a morning of music and crafts at church. Tonight I have no reason to worry about where I will find food to feed them in the morning, or whether I can let them play outside safely, or whether the water they drink will make them sick. Tonight I can sleep with the confidence that nothing is likely to break in upon the refuge of love I have built around them.
But I know that thousands of families cannot say the same. As my children say, “once upon a time, this beautiful life was not beautiful anymore.” And I know that my country is complicit in the pain of these families, causing the destruction of beauty instead of offering mercy and hope, and that too many of my brothers and sisters in faith are watching in silence and rationalizing their tolerance with the Bible.
I am not a policy expert, but I believe that any law that violates the moral law of God is illegitimate, as the catechism says: “Authority is exercised legitimately only when it seeks the common good of the group concerned and if it employs morally licit means to attain it. If rulers were to enact unjust laws or take measures contrary to the moral order, such arrangements would not be binding in conscience. In sure a case, ‘authority breaks down completely and results in shameful abuse'” (paragraph 1903). Even if we were only to consider the common good of the citizenry of the United States, excluding that of illegal immigrants and asylum-seekers, and even if we were to agree that closed borders were the best way to achieve that good, the means that the government has currently chosen to employ are of doubtful moral status. To say it another way, while order and lawfulness are good for the stability and peace of society, they are not higher than the sacredness of the family and the dignity of the human person. If we must detain and deport these families, let us at least do so without the added and unnecessary trauma of forcibly separating children from their parents.
I know many Americans are uncomfortable with this policy, but see no alternatives. Is there a way our immigration system could house families together while waiting for court appointments or deportation? Is there a way our justice system could process families as a unit instead of placing adults and children on separate legal tracks and timelines which complicate reunification even further? Is there a way we could streamline our legal immigration process to make immigration more affordable and accessible for the blue collar workers our economy relies upon but who are undervalued in the current consideration for legal immigration? Is there a way we could at least provide counsel for people we are prosecuting in our legal system – to give them the guarantees of our nation as we attempt to hold them accountable to the laws of our nation? With so many intelligent and experienced individuals involved in immigration policy, I’m sure some of them could think creatively and compassionately enough to develop a more humane plan than the current policy put in place by our government.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, please do not remain silent and inactive because you think this is the only political option or because you believe that the word of God commands us to submit to all authority as to God Himself. Asking a person to obey an unjust law because of Romans 13 is like asking a woman to submit to a violent husband because of Ephesians 5: it forces a person into oppression because of the sin of another, and condones the oppression in the name of God – the God who identifies Himself with the hungry, the outcast, the prisoner, the homeless, and the least of society, no less (see Matthew 25). Government is intended to be God’s tool for establishing peace and order in society, as the husband is intended to be God’s instrument of sacrificial love within the family, and both entities forfeit their authority insofar as they renege upon their God-given purpose by forsaking His laws.
Poverty is not new, and unfortunately it is also not new that the greatest heartache and pain seems to fall upon those who are already vulnerable and oppressed. But that does not allow our nation to contribute (intentionally and avoidably) to that pain, nor does it permit us as individuals to turn our face away from those who are suffering even more as result of broken policies and systemic failures. To quote Pope Francis, “Christians should cooperate willingly and wholeheartedly in establishing an international order that includes a genuine respect for all freedoms and amicable brotherhood between all. This is all the more pressing since the greater part of the world is still suffering from so much poverty that it is as if Christ Himself were crying out in these poor to beg the charity of the disciples.” (Gaudium et Spes 88, emphasis mine). Listen, He who gave His life for us is calling us to compassion, to action, to imitate Him in self-giving love for the vulnerable and the oppressed. We are certainly not able to help everyone to the fullest extent, because our resources are human and therefore limited, but at the very least we can choose to treat everyone with respect and mercy instead of taking away what little they have left (even their very families) because we disapprove of the way they sought freedom and happiness for themselves and the people they loved.
Tonight, I mourn because there is so little I can do in this situation. I mourn because no matter how much I write, it has almost no chance of bringing about change. Peace and compassion here rest in the hands of the government, the people who are filling the position God intended for the the establishment of the common good – the people who have currently chosen to pursue instead their own gain by harsh and immoral means. I mourn because I see my nation abandoning God’s ways to seek after idolatrous ends. I mourn because my community is broken into fragments and paralyzed by fears and hatreds, and because it has the power to spread that brokenness and hate throughout the world. And tonight, I pray: for healing and reunification for families torn apart, for forgiveness and repentance for our leaders, for a new path forward for our nation and the immigrants who are seeking hope here. Will you lament and pray with me?