United States (MNN) – Attorney General Jeff Sessions defended the “zero-tolerance” policy which splits migrant families at the U.S. and Mexico border by quoting Romans 13. The chapter instructs people to be subject to their government.
He is receiving mixed responses. Some have supported his message, while others are criticizing him.
Bethany Christian Services’ Chris Palusky shares the ministry does not agree the Bible says it’s alright to split up families and they’re reflecting that in their work.
“Bethany is advocating hard, like let those families stay together as they’re going through the process. So, we’re not advocating, we’re not trying to get into politics of open borders or anything like that. We’re just saying let families stay together as they go through this process,” Palusky says.
Families have been fleeing their homes in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras due to desperate situations of violence and gang-related threats.
“We’ve heard instances where if a family didn’t pay a gang protection money, then they would take their daughter and put that daughter into prostitution, or if they tried to stop a gang from trying to take one of their kids to be recruited into a gang, a family member would be killed.”
Palusky also says people who haven’t complied with gangs have been executed in front of their children.
The journey fleeing their countries and going to the U.S. border to request asylum is not much easier. On the journey, girls have been raped and men have been beaten and robbed.
Parents have tried to keep their kids safe along the journey so that they may request asylum from the U.S., but now, once they reach the border, their families are being separated as a deterrent policy.
“Asking for asylum no longer allows you to be released or that asylum request considered and then released into the community while your case proceeds through immigration court,” Bethany’s Dona Abbott says.
Families used to be allowed to stay together as their case for asylum was reviewed.
Now, children as young as 18-months-old have been separated from their parents.
Families for Children
“Bethany believes that family was created by God to protect, care for children, to bring them up right, to train them and thus, Bethany believes that children belong in their family and or a family environment,” Abbott says.
While children are being separated from their parents, Bethany still sees the impact and importance of children being embraced by a family unit instead of being put into overcrowded detention centers.
They’re finding foster families who will bring children in, and care and provide for them.
“We’re saying again, family is key to everything even if it’s not their blood family. A foster family is much better than being put into a detention center with hundreds if not thousands of other people,” Palusky says.
Bethany is further working with policymakers to find a solution to the border problem.
They hope to keep families together once again as their cases are reviewed and preferably not in detention centers.
Working with Policymakers
“We know the immigration system in the United States is complex, difficult, and in many times, just difficult and it’s hard for families to know how to get through that process,” Abbott says.
“We’re looking to inform policymakers on how immigration reform can happen that supports and strengthens families and cares for them during this difficult time in their families’ life.”
Abbott says Bethany hopes to advocate with policymakers to see how they can also help address organized crimes in these families’ home countries. If there is a way to combat against it, families would no longer be forced to flee.
Palusky adds, “If we could take the investment that reactively working with right now to having people come across the border and invested that in countries for better governance, better training of police, giving people security, we would not only hinder or slow down the flow of people, we’d also help to build up these countries to be good business partners for the United States.”
Living out Matthew 25
Rather than separating families, Palusky says we should live out Matthew 25 and serve the least of these.
“For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me… And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”
Be a mentor or foster family to children who have been separated from their families, and contact your representatives to speak up for families.
Pray for wisdom of leaders and policymakers as well as the safety of those fleeing their countries. And, pray families would be reunited soon.