No, Separating Families is not Mandated by the Law—or the Bible

At the McAllen Detention Center in Texas, children are detained in cages. (Photo: RGV-FCB/Center for Border Protection via New York Magazine)

Keeping families together is a pretty basic value—that is, unless you’re President Trump.

The Trump administration has launched its latest attack on families- only this time, it’s not through an insidious bill or demeaning words.  Trump’s new “zero-tolerance policy,” in which all migrants who are caught entering the United States without documentation are to be prosecuted, now includes separating children from their parents.

President Trump has consistently showcased his lack of understanding of— and his lack of a desire to understand— immigrants and their struggles.  From a travel ban to his insults toward Mexicans, he acts on stereotypes and biases rather than facts and empathy.

Though Trump and Sarah Huckabee Sanders want to blame Democrats for not coming to the table to close “loopholes” that apparently allow these outrageous acts, there is no law mandating that families be separated.  Additionally, Senate Democrats have introduced legislation banning separating families at the border.

In defense of this policy, Jeff Sessions resorted to citing the Bible as a justification for separating families.  Sanders backed this statement during a press briefing, saying that it is “biblical to enforce the law.”

Horrifying stories abound.  One mother spoke of how officials took her daughter while she was breastfeeding her.  A father committed suicide after border patrol separated him from his wife and child.  And there are so many more stories that have yet to be told, stories from the children’s perspectives as well.  And let’s not forget that the current administration lost 1,475 migrant children– is that in the Bible too?  It raises the broader issue of whether we can even trust the administration not to botch their own flawed policy.  

Imagine the grief of a parent separated from a child they only took such a risk to protect.  Imagine the confusion and pain of a child suddenly and traumatically taken from their parents, their only tether to what they know in an unfamiliar place.

The Trump administration has once again demonstrated a lack of empathy for the difficult decisions immigrant families must make, and now is pursuing a policy of deterrence so cruel it tears loved ones from each others’ arms.  Even as Trump claims to support families, he does not apply the same value to migrant families.

This is a matter of reproductive justice.  Migrant parents- both mothers and fathers- have a right to remain with their children even if caught crossing at the border.  Children should be able to remain with their parents while it is determined whether they qualify for asylum.  Moreover, every person in the United States— including undocumented migrants— enjoys constitutional protections due to the fifth amendment.

As I scrolled through Facebook on Father’s Day, seeing hundreds of father appreciation posts alongside stories of families being torn apart, I felt disgusted at the disparity between the two phenomena.  Which version of America are we?  The kind that places value on familial love and relationships, or the kind that tears families apart with no regard for the fallout?

We must protect and value the lives of undocumented immigrants and recognize their rights as human beings and as persons within the United States.  We must keep families together and remind the Trump administration what we want the United States to represent— a country that welcomes immigrants.