Opinion

Love thy neighbor: NC Council of Churches stands with immigrant families

Rachel Baker is the Immigration Advocacy Program coordinator for the NC Council of Churches.
Rachel Baker is the Immigration Advocacy Program coordinator for the NC Council of Churches.

When President Trump took office, he signed an executive order drastically expanding who the federal government considered a priority for deportation. Since then immigrant families across the nation have experienced heartache: “What will happen to my family?” “How will I survive in a country I’ve never known?”

Questions like these fill the minds of parents and children alike. What’s most striking about the kind of deportations we are seeing is the inability of government officials to distinguish between immigrants who’ve integrated into American life and the “bad hombres” the president often references.

The North Carolina Council of Churches is proud to provide resources to congregations and faith leaders that are considering sanctuary. We launched the N.C. Sanctuary Coalition hoping to protect people who fear aggressive actions taken by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) – but we shouldn’t have to. We should be able to trust the president and Congress to protect immigrants with no criminal history.

Throughout scripture, God calls us to protect those on the margins of life: the widow, the orphan, the stranger among us. The Great Commandment instructs us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Isn’t it our responsibility to love these people who have come to our country with hope for a better future for their family? I believe God calls us to do so.

A March report from the Center for Law and Social Policy details the devastating effect President Trump’s immigration rhetoric has on children under the age of 8. North Carolina was one of six states selected for the case study. The report documents unbelievable stress put on parents because of the possibility of deportation and family separation. As a result, children are becoming withdrawn, regressing in developmental milestones, receiving less access to nutrition and generally living in a constant state of fear their parents won’t be home when they return from school.

The stories of anxiety are tangible, small children took to pen and paper to outline their distress. One particularly upsetting account detailed in the report reads, “One little boy was writing down what he knew how to cook – peanut butter sandwiches and cheese sandwiches – in order to reassure his frightened 5-year-old sister that they would be OK if their parents were deported.” This young boy is just one consequence of our government’s overzealousness in deporting undocumented immigrants.

To temper the fear in the immigrant community and ensure that families remain together, we need President Trump and our representatives in Congress to realign ICE’s priorities and get them under control. We should be using our limited law enforcement resources to go after real criminals, not people who’ve lived in America as our neighbors, colleagues, and even fellow church members, with no criminal records.

If members of Congress and the Trump Administration can remember to truly love their neighbors as themselves, they’ll come to realize the unimaginable pain they’ve inflicted on so many. Until then, the N.C. Council of Churches will continue to provide resources to faith communities considering offering sanctuary and assistance to those in the immigrant community who need it. We stand in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of people who are living in our state peaceably and productively and are now threatened by these inhumane actions.

Rachel Baker is the Immigration Advocacy Program coordinator for the N.C. Council of Churches.

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