The Commercial Appeal Editorial Board / David Waters
The United States of America is currently holding 2,000 children hostage at the Mexican border. How else to describe it?
In recent weeks, federal officials have taken 2,000 children forcibly or deceptively from their mothers and fathers who were arrested for trying to enter the U.S. unlawfully.
U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the federal government is separating children from their parents to discourage other parents from traveling to the United States illegally.
“If you don’t want your child separated, then don’t bring them across the border illegally. It’s not our fault that somebody does that,” Sessions explained last month.
Last week he used New Testament Scripture to justify it.
“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,” President Donald Trump’s chief scribe said.
There are so many things wrong with that sentence we don’t know where to begin.
First, this is the United States of America, not the United Fundamentalists of America.
The government is not in charge of the church, and the church is not in charge of the government — no matter how badly either misappropriates law or Scripture.
Second, this is the United States of America, not the Confederate States of America.
We pledge liberty and justice for all, not just for white male citizens in positions of power and privilege.
“Romans 13 has not only been used in the past to encourage compliance with the fugitive slave law, requiring the return of runaway slaves to their bondage, but Romans 13 was also used to obtain the compliance of the Christian Church in Europe during World War II,” Ricardo B. Graham, a Seventh-Day Adventist leader, pointed out Sunday. “The abuse of Scripture to justify inflicting harm on children is truly a heinous sin.”
Sessions referred to Romans 13:1: “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.”
But, as countless others have pointed out, Paul goes on to write in Romans 13:8: “Whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” And in Romans 13:9: “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
There is nothing good or loving or moral about separating children from their mothers and fathers who are merely seeking to protect their children and themselves from harm.
Trump, who runs all of the federal agencies that separate and detain migrant families, blamed someone else, of course. “I hate the children being taken away,” Trump said Friday. “The Democrats have to change their law — that’s their law.”
There is no law that requires children to be taken from their parents if they cross the border unlawfully.
Previous administrations “established by God,” including the Obama administration, made exceptions for those traveling with minor children when prosecuting immigrants for illegal entry.
The “zero-tolerance” policy was established and is being enforced by the Trump administration.
Deliberately hurting children to punish their parents is immoral and unjust. Americans should have zero tolerance for it.