Valley reacts to family separations at border While Trump team says it's the law, others say it's un-American

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Terre Haute , June 18, 2018 | comments
“As a father of four children, I believe the separation of illegal immigrant families at the border is heartbreaking, and I am against it,” U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Newburgh, said Monday in a statement. “We are a sovereign nation of laws, and it is the duty of the executive branch to enforce those laws. However, we are also a nation of compassion.”
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Some Wabash Valley residents are speaking out about the separation of immigrant families at the U.S. border.

“I wake up and listen to the news and I don’t even feel like I’m living in the USA,” said Theresa Ortega, a Terre Haute business owner and Indiana State University staff member who is co-adviser of the university’s Hispanic Latino Alliance.

“It goes against all the teachings of Christian, Jewish and Muslim religions – and possibly other faiths that I’m not aware of,” said Sister Barbara Battista, a physician assistant with the Sisters of Providence. “It is unconscionable that our country is separating children from their parents.”

 
 

Battista, who has protested the rounding up of undocumented aliens who have lived in the U.S. for years, says rhetoric from the Trump administration only makes the matter worse.

While Attorney General Jeff Sessions famously cited scripture to justify separating children from their parents, there is nothing in Judaeo-Christian or Islamic traditions “that would allow for the total disrespect of the lives of families and … vulnerable children,” she said.

Ortega, who was born in the U.S. to a Venezuelan father and American mother, lived for several years in the South American nation now in its seventh year of economic and political crisis. 

The Department of Homeland Security says on its website it does not have a “blanket policy” of separating families. A “myth vs. fact” page says adults and minors will be separated only under certain conditions, including when an adult is referred for criminal prosecution.

From October to February, the department says, cases of adults and children fraudulently posing as family units increased 315 percent.

The Associated Press reports nearly 2,000 children have been taken from their parents since Attorney General Jeff Sessions directed on May 7 that all cases of illegal entry into the United States be referred for prosecution.

President Trump has repeatedly blamed a law passed by Democrats as justification for separating families, but Democrats and others say that’s not true, that nothing in U.S. law compels the family separations at the scale now taking place. 

Some GOP concern

Some Republicans in Congress have begun to speak out about the practice.

“As a father of four children, I believe the separation of illegal immigrant families at the border is heartbreaking, and I am against it,” U.S. Rep. Larry Bucshon, R-Newburgh, said Monday in a statement. “We are a sovereign nation of laws, and it is the duty of the executive branch to enforce those laws. However, we are also a nation of compassion.”

Sen. Todd Young issued a statement saying, “It is a moral imperative to ensure the safety and well-being of children, and the government must make sure to reunite families expeditiously.”

Bucshon called for the passage of legislation to “fix our nation’s broken immigration system and truly secure our borders.”

Young said, “We must solve this humanitarian and national security problem once and for all – as I have voted to do.”

Impact on kids

Linda Behrendt, a certified family life educator at Indiana State, said there are many issues that contribute to traumatic experience for children.

 
 

“There’s a language barrier, perhaps, and, depending on age, they don’t process how there are laws,” she said. “They’re looking at whether they did something wrong that they’re being separated from their parents.

“They don’t have the cognitive capacity to process what’s going on. They’re in a strange place; now they’re in a big holding place with people that they don’t know.”

Josh Powers, who helped develop the Coalition of Terre Haute Neighbors, a refugee support group, said, “I just can’t imagine for a second how devastating it would be to have one’s children separated from you at such a vulnerable moment in their lives.”

The coalition includes members from St. Benedict Catholic Church and Central Presbyterian Church.

Having taken part in support events for immigrants in Indianapolis, Powers said he has seen “how extraordinarily important” the nuclear family is to them.

“They’ve come to us from situations of enormous stress and fear,” he said. “To add to that fear, as opposed to find ways to assuage it, particularly if there’s an opportunity to become a contributing member of American society, this is not the way to start out.”

Battista said a small group from several Wabash Valley organizations is planning a rally to protest the policy on July 1 at a location to be determined.

During another sad chapter in U.S. history, the World War II era internment of Japanese-Americans, “at least we kept the families together,” she said.

TriBune Star
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