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LETTER TO ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS: ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SEPARATING FAMILIES

15 July 2018 No Comment

LETTER TO ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS AND SECRETARY NIELSEN
ZERO TOLERANCE FOR SEPARATING FAMILIES

Rabbi Michael Whitman

Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Nielsen,

On behalf of the 26 undersigned national Jewish organizations and institutions, we write to express our strong opposition to the recently expanded “zero-tolerance” policy that includes separating children from their migrant parents when they cross the border. This policy undermines the values of our nation and jeopardizes the safety and well-being of thousands of people.

As Jews, we understand the plight of being an immigrant fleeing violence and oppression. We believe that the United States is a nation of immigrants and how we treat the stranger reflects on the moral values and ideals of this nation.
Many of these migrant families are seeking asylum in the United States to escape violence in Central America. Taking children away from their families is unconscionable. Such practices inflict unnecessary trauma on parents and children, many of whom have already suffered traumatic experiences. This added trauma negatively impacts physical and mental health, including increasing the risk of early death.

Separating families is a cruel punishment for children and families simply seeking a better life and exacerbates existing challenges in our immigration system. It adds to the backlog of deportation cases and legal challenges in federal courts, places thousands more immigrants in detention facilities and shelters, endangers the lives of more children, and instills additional fear in people seeking safety in our country. In addition, those seeking asylum or other legal protection face numerous obstacles to making a claim, especially from detention. Separating family members at the border would force families into two or more immigration cases instead of a single case for each family, harming their ability to present a successful case.

Our Jewish faith demands of us concern for the stranger in our midst. Our own people’s history as “strangers” reminds us of the many struggles faced by immigrants today and compels our commitment to an immigration system in this country that is compassionate and just. We urge you to immediately rescind the “zero tolerance” policy and uphold the values of family unity and justice on which our nation was built.

SIGNED BY THE RABBINICAL COUNCIL OF AMERICA OF WHICH RABBI MICHAEL WHITMAN IS VICE-PRESIDENT. It expresses the force of Jewish values against this terrible policy. In recent days, it has become evident that the facts were even worse than initially feared. Over 100 children under 5 were forcibly taken from their families. And even with a court order, only half have since been returned. While another 3000 children remain forcibly separated from their families. And it now appears the record keeping was so shoddy, government officials can’t even connect children to their rightful parents! Immigration is a large, complex topic, with room for legitimate differences of opinion. But every moral person must be able to agree never to intentionally harm children as a way of implementing policy.

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