Families Who Cross the Border Together Won’t Stay Together Under ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy

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Family unity is among the biggest factors for American evangelicals advocating for immigration reform; it comes up in almost every statement, prayer, and open letter rallying believers around the cause.

And it continues to prove a major concern, as the government’s recent crackdown on border-crossings requires authorities to split up parents and children who illegally enter the country together.

Despite the pleas from top evangelical leaders—including some of President Donald Trump’s advisers—to protect the family unit, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this week that all adults caught by Border Patrol would be prosecuted as criminals while their children would be separated and treated as if they entered the US as unaccompanied minors.

“I have put in place a ‘zero tolerance’ policy for illegal entry on our Southwest border. If you cross this border unlawfully, then we will prosecute you. It’s that simple,” he said on Monday in San Diego, where a caravan of migrants, many of them mothers and children, had arrived a week before.

“If you are smuggling a child, then we will prosecute you and that child will be separated from you as required by law.”

Though families seeking asylum had previously been allowed to stay together, under the new policy, adults are to be detained while they apply and await review, while their children could spend years in shelter care in the US, The Hill reported.

“If law requires this, it must be changed,” tweeted Robert P. George, a Catholic, legal scholar, and the former chairman of the US Commission on International Religious Freedom. “Sometimes it’s necessary to separate children from parents. But where it’s not necessary to do that, it’s necessary not to do it. Find another way.”

Last week, as news of the government’s proposed restrictions circulated, World Relief—the humanitarian arm of the National Association of Evangelicals—reiterated the importance of family unity in a statement to CT:

World Relief urges our decision makers to continue to allow those fleeing violence and persecution to claim asylum in the United States. The way we treat asylum-seekers is proof that we can be a nation of laws and a nation of grace.

The US government should do everything in its power to keep arriving families together, not separate them.

The new zero-tolerance policy frustrates Christian advocates for migrants and adds to what National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC) president Sam Rodriguez sees as a series of policies that force immigrant families apart.

“What we currently have are laws that encourage the dissolution of the family before immigrants leave their country of origin or likewise threaten to tear them apart once they are here illegally,” said Rodriguez (who also serves as a CT board member).

“An example of the former [is] when struggling families send their underage children to cross the border assuming they’ll successfully be granted asylum because of their age. A parent who wants the best for their child might do that thinking they’ve done something positive, but we just inadvertently incentivized a family to break apart.”

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Source: Christianity Today