Imagine the person you love most being taken from you. Your spouse, your parent, your sibling, shipped off with little warning. Or imagine having grown up in the United States and being deported to a country in which you have no friends or family, no prospects for work. You don’t even speak the language.
For scores of people, these scenarios are not imaginary. Every day, about 1,000 people are deported from the United States. Devastated spouses and children, families torn apart by U.S. immigration policy, are left to pick up the pieces. This week, dozens of people affected by the U.S. deportation policy are marching the Trail to End Deportations. Their trek began at the Phoenix office of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office and ends at the Eloy Detention Center, drawing attention to the immoral practice of mass deportation.
“We walk to Eloy as part of the National Day of Action against Deportations because we need to make our suffering known, and also our power,” the marchers wrote in a recent statement. “Eloy is known as one of the worst detention centers in the country: two people committed suicide there in the last year and solitary confinement is a regular punishment for trying to exercise your rights inside.”
“We will not wait any longer to reunite our families,” the marchers added. “We will do everything we can to reunite them, putting our bodies on the line as many times as we need to bring our sons, daughters, husbands, wives home.”
As a faith leader, I join the marchers’ call to President Obama: Use the authority of your office to stop mass deportation. The mass deportation system transgresses foundational American values. One program, Operation Streamline, rushes dozens of people at a time through deportation proceedings without basic understandings of their rights. When we willingly surrender such important values as due process and justice, can we any longer be called the land of the free?
The call for fair treatment and compassion is echoed in the pages of the Bible: “When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:33-34) This verse was quoted by Jesus, who also taught his followers to love their neighbors as themselves.
The message is clear, and comes from our neighbors, our faith traditions and the values on which we built the United States of America: End this broken system that inflicts terrible suffering. It is tearing apart families, orphaning U.S. citizen children and exploiting migrant workers. The time to end the mass deportations is now.
Signed, Rev. Andy Burnette, Senior Minister, Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Rev. Erin Tamayo
Grand Canyon Presbytery
The Rev. Eric O. Ledermann
University Presbyterian Church, Tempe
Rev. Patti Aurand, Sr. Pastor
Shepherd of the Hills Congregational United Church of Christmas
Rev. James Pennington, Senior Pastor of First Congregational United Church of Christ, Phoenix, AZ
Rev. Stephen Govett from Asbury United Methodist Church, Phoenix, AZ