It’s almost Father’s Day, and my government has detained nearly 1,500 undocumented immigrant children — many forcibly separated from their parents at the border.
In an ugly and twisted use of language, the former Walmart where the children are being held has been dubbed Casa Padre — or father house. As a father, I am appalled, because I realize that fatherhood is often marked by tough decisions and tough circumstances.
That’s why I understand the heartbreaking choices undocumented immigrants must make when their children are facing danger. When you live in a place where violence is a way of life, corruption makes justice impossible, and death is waiting impatiently to pounce, you have two choices as a parent.
You can raise your children in a place where you know they’ll die, or you can risk the trip to a place where they might survive. Even if the law says you shouldn’t. Even if they call you a criminal. Even if there is the chance that you might be separated from your children. If your babies have even the slightest chance of living to adulthood, the trip is a risk worth taking.
But there’s another side of this issue that I don’t understand. I don’t understand the Trump administration using children as pawns in a political game. A game in which border agents are instructed to separate children from their parents, to snatch babies from their mothers’ arms, to split families apart like their hearts can’t break, like their lives don’t matter.
More troubling, though, is Attorney General Jeff Sessions trying to use the Bible to justify taking children from their parents. I don’t understand Sarah Huckabee Sanders saying Sessions is right, since the Bible instructs us to obey the law.
“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13, to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes,” Sessions told a group of law enforcement officers during a speech in Fort Wayne, Indiana. “Orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves. Consistent and fair application of the law is in itself a good and moral thing, and that protects the weak and protects the lawful.”
As a Christian, and as a black man, I am painfully aware of the fact that the same Bible passage was used to justify slavery. In truth, biblical passages can and have been misused to uphold all manner of evil, and so have laws. That’s because laws can be unjust. Laws can be unevenly applied. Laws can be used to justify the unthinkable. That happened in the Bible, and it’s happening now.
That’s why the Bible I read goes beyond telling us to obey laws. It also instructs us in Psalms 82 to “defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.” It tells us, in short, to fight for justice, to stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. Quite simply, it instructs us to love.
Taking children from their parents isn’t love. Especially when those parents chose in utter desperation to do whatever they could to give their children another breath. Watching this administration descend into the kind of barbarity that would make them take people’s children is a return to a history that none of us should want to revisit.
Quoting the Bible all the while, America snatched babies from slaves on the auction block. America snatched babies from Native Americans on reservations. America snatched babies from the mentally disabled. Now, America snatches babies from undocumented immigrants.
It was wrong in the past, it’s wrong in the present, and if Jeff Sessions truly believes in the God he likes to quote, then he must believe in the power of fatherhood.
Fatherhood is modeled after that God. It is fatherhood that tells me to protect and provide for my children, to love and nurture my children, to be present in the lives of my children.
So this Father’s Day, if I don’t stand up against this wrong, I would fail to uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed, and I would fail my children as a father.
In moments like these, when the very essence of family and faith is on the line, true fathers go beyond defending their own right to be fathers to their own children. They defend the next man’s right to be a father to his own.
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