June 18, 2018
Opening Quote: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”
People of Love, it is time we ask each other "How are our children today?"
While I was in graduate school, I was blessed to become friends with students from Nigeria, Cameroon and Kenya. These friends taught me the importance of greeting your friends and acquaintances. One essential part of the greeting was asking this question: "How are our children today?" When I asked why this question was part of the greeting, I was told, "Because when the children are well, we will know our friend is well. If the children are not well, then we will know our friend is not well." Claiming our friend's children as our own underlines the understanding that ALL children are our responsibility, whether they are part of our immediate family or not.
Over the past six weeks, 1,995 children have been separated from their parents due to the new "zero tolerance" immigration and customs enforcement policies set by the US Department of Justice. Horrifying stories and pictures have been streaming to news sources and social media sites from detention centers where sobbing children are housed in cages separated from their equally distraught mothers and fathers. Justification for these policies have included denying the existence of these practices, falsely blaming others, and grossly misusing biblical sources to "uphold the law." The pretext of these arguments is that a tougher stance on illegal immigration protects US citizens, economy and prevents further terrorist attacks.
In other words, the immoral separation of children from parents at our borders is being done for YOUR BENEFIT.
The truth is that there is NO LAW and NO JUSTIFICATION that supports the inevitable soul trauma and wide devastation that happens when our children are forcibly separated from their loved ones. Unfortunately, our truth also includes this fact: separating families has been a practice in our country since we were a collection of colonies. We legally separated families at slave auction markets, we forcibly removed native children from their homes, we did it in Japanese internment camps during World War 2, and we are doing it again now. We must stop repeating our mistakes!
People of Justice, Our Children ARE NOT WELL. Our country has a despicable history of abusing our children in favor of achieving an American fantasy of "American Exceptionalism." When we mistreat vulnerable children and families for the sake of a fantasy, we are not exceptional; we become our worst nightmare. Dr. King's dream included the hopes that his children and OUR children would have equitable access to acceptance and love on the basis of their humanity and their possibility. To do anything less than this is to tacitly approve violence against all of our children.
We must be better than this. Therefore,
The MLK Institute for Nonviolence urges the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions to abandon the "zero tolerance" immigration and customs enforcement policy that has led to the separation of families while they are detained and await immigration proceedings. These policies and practices do not represent us and directly oppose our work to advance racial equity in all our communities with an ethic of nonviolence. When we abuse children from other countries, we demonstrate to the global community our deficiencies in compassion and respect for the most vulnerable among us.
The MLK Institute for Nonviolence urges Senators to cosponsor S.3036, the "Keep Families Together Act." This bill will ensure families remain together as they pass through our immigration system. We do not agree with the broken immigration system as it stands now, but we know every passing hour children are without their parents in a distressing environment creates further emotional and mental harm.
For further information on the big picture of immigration detention, you can look here. For information on what to do immediately, you can look here and keep up with us on Facebook for updates and local actions.
People of Courage, ask each other "How are Our Children Today?" When you hear the answer, be willing to respond with responsibility and love. The children deserve our love.
In Solidarity with you,
Rev. Doris K. Dalton Executive Director, MLK Institute for Nonviolence