Less than a week ago, I wrote to you all through social media, our blogs, and shared via our weekly e-news my concerns about the new immigration policies being put into place by the Trump administration. As I noted then, the legal framework of our immigration policy had been established years ago and upheld by administrations of different parties. As such this immigration law was not a partisan issue, but a policy concern. Unfortunately, this reality became the subject of much confusion and, as often happens in our divisive political culture, the politics of blame and reiterating parts of the story that support a previously held position took over.
The reality is that despite the claims by some that nothing had changed, changes had happened. Enforcement procedures and policies including the separation of children from their parents, regardless of the circumstance of their arrival at our border, were different and more extreme than under any previous president, regardless of party. While the laws were the same, immediate separation of children from parents upon arrival, including refugees and those seeking asylum, had changed. I joined our Presiding Bishop, the Rev. Elizabeth Eaton, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Services (LIRS), and many others in rejecting this change in policy.
Today, President Trump, by executive order, acknowledged the changes that had been made by rescinding those changes regarding separating children from their families. We are grateful that he heard the outcry of people of faith across denominational and cultural borders. It is heartening politicians of both parties, including Governor Greg Abbot of Texas, called out this policy as misguided and heart rending. However, there is much left in place, particularly in the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers that is concerning.
What is left to be seen is if anything substantive will change in our legal framework for immigration. That is, as the President rightly says, the work of Congress and we have a right to expect our congressional representatives to do something to fix our broken system. We must provide human rights and dignity particularly for those seeking safety from violence and danger.
The ELCA has been, and continues to be, a strong advocate for refugees and immigrants. The AMMPARO strategy was passed at our 2016 Churchwide Assembly and provides resources and guidance for how our communities can be aware, welcoming, and just in our relationships to immigrants, particularly children.
Thousands of children continue to be detained apart from their parents tonight. The executive order provides no strategy for reuniting them to their families. So while we pray for these children, we also are called to work. I encourage you to contact your local governmental officials and demand substantive and just action on immigration. Please educate yourself and your community on the realities of immigration, particularly using the resources of LIRS. Most of all, reject the rhetoric of division, implicit racial and economic bias, and dehumanization of these people seeking to come to our nation for whatever reason. We believe human beings are made in the image of God regardless of national origin or earthly citizenship. They deserve respect and due process. I pray, and will do my duty as a citizen to advocate, for a bi-partisan and just solution to our immigration laws. Please join me in this work.