By Chinta Strausberg
While bowing to pressure and reversing his zero-tolerance border policy, on Wednesday Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and a number of immigrant advocacy groups called on Congress to pass a law that would prevent separating families at the border.
President Donald Trump, who admitted it bothered him that the children were separated from their parents, but he didn’t want to appear “weak,” reversed his “zero tolerance” immigration policy, reluctantly bowed to mounting national public pressure. He signed an executive order ending this controversial policy.
Trump was sharply criticized by Jackson and his supporters for trying to force Congress to pass a $25 billion bill to pay for his wall separating the U.S. from Mexico and of allegedly using the children as “pawns.”
Joining Jackson were: Fr. Michael L. Pfleger pastor of St. Sabina; Pastor Ray Berryhill, Resurrection Life Church International; Rev. Joann Montes, an advocate for immigrants and director of Expressions of Glory Ministry at Berryhill’s church; State Sen. Kwame Raoul (D-13); Emma Lozano, pastor of Lincoln United Methodist Church and her husband, Rev. Walter “Slim” Coleman; Atty. Steven Monroy from the Mexican American Legal Defense Educational Fund (MALDEF); Olivier Kamanzi, president of Africa Global Chamber of Commerce and chairman/ CEO of the African Infrastructure Investment Group; Rev. Cassius Rudolph and Rev. Janette Wilson from Rainbow/PUSH; Rev. Martin Santellano, Impact Church (Glenwood); and Cherita Logan, district manager for Cong. Danny K. Davis (D-7) and others.
Jackson said because of the opposition by the faith community and the public, Trump is in the process of issuing an executive order to end separating the children from their parents.
“They locked them up in cages. Now, we are going to have internment camps for the entire family. It’s a step down on the humanity scale. The whole world is watching,” said Jackson.
Trump’s crackdown on immigration didn’t sit too well with this group especially Pfleger who called it racist. “The only reason Trump did this is because he’s gearing up for the November elections. He’s appealing to his racist base, and unfortunately, they are growing.
“It is really hypercritical to me that this administration and the Republican Party that prides itself on family values is promoting the tearing apart of families and inhumane conditions to families that is going on around this country not just on the border, but around the country and right here in this state,” Pfleger said.
Pfleger went on to say, “It is outrageous and unacceptable to me that a president spends more time and energy telling us to respect a flag the he does humane beings in this country. It’s not about a piece of material. It’s about the people whose lives are on line who have struggled, bled and died about that flag. Stop protecting the material and start respecting human life,” Pfleger said.
“I am outraged that Jeff ‘Jim Crow’ Sessions used the same scripture his ancestors used to enslave slaves in this country, and now he is using it for his own time to enslave people around this country and particularly at the border. I say to Mr. Sessions and Mr. Trump and the whole administration, ‘Do not pimp, do not hijack my bible. Speak the truth and let it set you free,’” Pfleger stated.
Raoul, the son of Haitian immigrants, called Trump’s immigration policies “racist.” He recalled the time when Trump called Haiti, the home of Raoul’s parents, an “a…hole.”
“That type of rhetoric is unacceptable, but rhetoric turned into action is more unacceptable. It’s one thing to say you prefer immigrants from Norway over immigrants from countries of color, but it’s another thing to put that in action that rips apart families.” He added, “We are a nation of immigrants, and we need to show love to all.”
Representing Davis, Logan said, “Zero tolerance is irresponsible. Ripping apart is irresponsible and inhumane.”
Montes said holding more than 2,000 children in cage-like spaces is “inhumane, unjust and does not reflect the principles and values taught in scripture let alone the values of this nation. This is not how we treat our own.”
Santellano said he has members from many countries. “I ask myself are we in America. Let’s all come together then this can stop.”
Also representing the League of United Latin Citizens, Lozano said, “We’re in a moral movement” and referred to nursing children being snatched away from the breast of their mothers as being “outrageous.” She urged activists to keep the pressure on.
Saying this is just the beginning, Lozano said some of the parents have already been deported. She asked, “How are we going to reunify these children with those parents?” She added that some of the children in Pampers who will have to go to court. “Who is going to represent them? This is just the beginning.
“We need to understand that the human rights violations in the world today is right here in the USA,” she said. “We have U.S. citizens, spouses who have husbands being deported with U.S. citizen children. Raids are going on all over the city of Chicago, in the suburbs and the country. Children are left home crying. It looks like it is a whitening of the country and just to keep this white supremacist base of Trump alive for the upcoming election.
Monroy said the Trump administration is “on a daily basis and on a sale that is horrific to grasp, terrorizing toddlers. It is traumatizing children, debasing family values and assaulting the love of parents, all in the name of a grotesque ‘zero tolerance’ that demeans every person involved.”
Taking a swipe at Trump, Monroy added, “The administration pretends to defend these unconscionable actions as policy, but routinely separating parents and children is not, and cannot ever be, legitimate public policy. It is immorality. It is cruelty. It is illegality. It is perhaps one of the starkest modern embodiments of inhumanity.”
Monroy called Trump’s zero tolerance policy despicable and repugnant” and said MALDEF is “working to challenge this unprecedented assault on families through the legal system,” he said admitting the process of change is slow and more work is to be done.
Saying leaders must be held accountable, Monroy said MALDEF called upon U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to resign. “His implementation of a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to convict and punish parents for taking risk to avoid unimaginable violence being visited upon their children is mindless, lawless and insupportable.
“Sessions does not know the law or care what it is. He is incompetent and inhumane and has no place leading the Justice Department.”
Monroy said MALDEF called upon congress to restrain the Trump administration from “continuing its atrocious policy.”
“With the feckless Donald Trump unable to demonstrate leadership because of his insatiable fetish for white nationalism and its adherents, the Congress must act swiftly to lead,” said Monroy.
Monroy told reporters, “Leadership means a clean termination of the inhumane policy. Inhumanity is not a political bargaining chip, or a horse to be traded for a wall or increased enforcement by a corrupt law enforcement agency. Inhumanity is a cancer to be excised cleanly and completely.”
Berryhill, who pastors a church of 40 different nationalities, said Trump’s immigration crackdown “is nothing new” and said it is important that everyone remains united in this fight for justice.